Soccer Business Bits: New DP Rules, Champions League Group Stage & More

Reports are flying around the soccer media about upcoming revisions to Major League Soccer’s Designated Player rule.  The league is expected to announce changes to the rule on Tuesday that will permit teams some salary budget relief for younger designated players.  The DP initiative has continued to evolve since David Beckham first signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy.  Teams can now add up to three such players while absorbing a salary budget hit well below the players’ wage.  According to reports breaking Monday afternoon, the league will now change the rule to encourage teams to purchase younger players typically beyond the reach of MLS teams.  The expected change will lessen the salary budget hit (now $325,000) for bringing in such players.

Fox Soccer is about to continue its ongoing coverage of the CONCACAF Champions League. The coverage takes on new meaning given the recent signing of the Versus/MLS deal and diminishing role Fox soccer will have with MLS.   As we said last Summer, Fox pours significant resources into televising an event that has yet to interest a significant portion of American Soccer Fans.  Games from Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago do not grab the imaginations of fans focused on European soccer and the MLS regular season.  The stands are typically empty for these games (whether in the US or abroad) and field conditions are typically terrible   While ratings are tough to come by, it is almost certain that far less than 100k people (and likely less than 50k) tune in to watch the CONCACAF Champions League matches.

Despite these challenges, Fox Soccer has made a devoted and dedicated effort to broadcast these matches from all reaches of the region.   Fox Soccer’s coverage may not be ideal, but it is important.  If the tournament wasn’t televised, it would fade into obscurity and irrelevance.  Improved camera work and commentary are inexpensive enhancements that will come with time.  Until then, celebrate Fox’s broadcasts of the Champions League.

One final note.  Kudos to ESPN for promoting MLS through its EPL broadcasts.  Ian Darke and ESPN’s production crew have made multiple references to MLS during the opening weekend of soccer across the pond.  It is this kind of cross promotion that is expected to be the hallmark of the MLS/NBC deal and it is a positive for the league to see the same promotion from ESPN.