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.

4 Responses

  1. I am always a little surprised that the Champions League is such a tough sell. It seems this tournament is primed for a U.S. v. the world (or our corner of it anyway) type of treatment that inexperienced fans typically flock to every Olympiad. Even non-soccer fans feel patriotism, or at least want the U.S. to be well represented. And this event seems to play into this idea, which serves as an opportunity to grow the game within the U.S.

    Further, if MLS as a league made it a higher priority, they could add content to sell (i.e., games) without expanding the league season or the number of teams; a potential revenue source waiting to be utilized.

    I understand placing the domestic league above all else – but it’s playoffs that win the Cup, and relative to other sports, it’s not that difficult to get into the playoffs. A league-wide push in the Champions League may have benefits that outweigh the costs.

  2. there should be another DP rule, a Discovery rule. I know the term “discovery player” is a designation, so i dont want this to be confused with what I’m writing about. It seems that when a player is discovered by a team then gets vaulted into the “Designated player” status as a result of great play and the international market, that that player should be covered for 3 additional years before having to be logged as a DP w/the league. For instance, Seattle found Montero fair and square and he turned out great with alot of interest from Europe. Seattle should’nt have to be required to put him as a DP to keep him. However, you dont want fraud to occur to avoid Designated player status, such as a team obtaining an obvious great talent for below market value with the promise that he’ll be paid loads of money the following year. If you discover a great talent, you should be able to hold onto him for 4-5 years w/out the fear of salary cap issues, plain and simple

  3. Vic:

    There actually is a discovery rule that gives teams first right to players outside the US….not exactly what you are advocating, but that is out there.

    The salary cap component is a good one…very interesting idea.

  4. I think RSL’s close call in the CCL last go-around awakened interest in the tournament by MLS fans and franchises. Another deep run by an MLS team this season, and that should only increase. It’ll take time, though.

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