Business of the MLS Combine

orlandoWe are out town today, but the MLS Combine is upon us. We thought it worth re-posting our interview from a couple of years back with Buzz Carrick about the business of the event.  Enjoy the post and the great insights from Mr. Carrick.

It’s time for the MLS combine, when college seniors and Generation Adidas players showcase their wares for MLS coaches and general managers.  While the players receive most of the attention, we thought we would take a look at the business side of the combine.  Buzz Carrick, of ESPNDallas.com, and a veteran of covering MLS combines, was kind enough of to answer a few questions for us about the business of the combine.  Mr. Carrick also covers the draft for ESPN.com and provides detailed analysis of the prospect.  Thanks to Mr. Carrick for his answers.

Footiebusiness.com: In what form are league sponsors typically present?  Is there signage,
apparel and/or personnel from these sponsors at the event?  To the extent
sponsor representatives are in attendance, what role do they play?

Buzz Carrick: The only sponsor I recall ever seeing is adidas.  They have signage on
the field and the team jerseys are all provided by them.  Also the teams are
named after shoes in the adidas soccer line.  I don’t know of any sponsor
representatives.

FB: The players will stay at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale.  Are meals
arranged for players? How about travel?  Are events arranged for down time?
Do sponsors get a certain amount of time with select players? Do the players
have non-field MLS responsibilties, such as interviews with MLSnet.com?

BC: I believe meals are arranged and the league pays for travel.  The players
are required to do some combine type testing, sprints, agility etc.  I think
interviews with any media, including MLSnet, are on a request basis.  There
is a chance to talk to any player post each combine game.  Players are given
time off and there is a rest day after the first two.  The keepers run
through a training/scouting session on the off day.

FB: How has media coverage of the event grown over the years?  How many
media typically attend?  What arrangements are made for media with respect
to player/coach access?  Do team personnel make themselves available to
media during the combine?

BC: Media coverage has gone up a little bit over the years but not by much.
Usually there are between 1 or 2 professional media and 5 or 6 “bloggers” on
their own dime.  There are no specific arrangements for media other than
asking the one MLS PR person around for an interview, or just walking up to
any given player after a game.  There is also no specific method to talk to
MLS coaches.  You can either go through the team PR, or just walk over and
talk to them.  There is a press box with one person for PR who has some
basic materials.  The press can also sit in the stands on the side of the
stadium that is coaches/media only.  The public is limited to the “open”
stands on the other side.

FB: Are the players cognizant of those that have GA contracts versus those
fighting to get noticed?  How does this dynamic play itself out?

BC: Yes the players are aware.  There isn’t really any difference that I can
tell, beyond some players signed to deals in advance not playing quite as
hard later in the combine.  Players who have no deal usually play hard
through all three games.  That’s about the only difference, although I don’t
any would admit it.

extra… one thing you didn’t ask is about agents.  All of them are here, or
at least have handlers and reps.  Most of these players go into the combine
and draft without agents, so the agents are here scouting and trying to land
guys at the same time MLS is.  They are ever-present through almost
everything.

Thanks to Buzz Carrick for providing some great insight into the business of the MLS Combine.

All About Toronto

tv cameraMonday obviously belonged to TFC.  The Reds announced their two big Designated Player signings at an energetic press conference in Toronto.  The money is huge, per the Toronto Star, “TFC more than quadrupled Defoe’s salary, to $8 million a year. Bradley gets an even bigger bump, a six-year, $36 million contract that represents a 600 per cent increase on what he was reported to be earning in Italy.”  Other than revealing that soccer salaries are remarkably low when compared to those of American sports, these numbers suggest that the league and its owners are willing to spend money to bring MLS to the next level.  It also suggests that MLS still needs to significantly overpay to bring big names to the United States and Canada.

There was some suggestion that these signings were somehow related to efforts to increase television ratings in advance of the upcoming television negotiations.  I don’t think that analysis is fair to either the team or the players.  Moreover, given the nature of television ratings, a Canadian team is actually a detriment to good ratings in the US for national broadcasts.  Nevertheless, the new signings should definitely bring some new eyeballs to the screen and will definitely bring additional fans to the game.

The signing drew front page headlines in Canada, with the local sporting press rightly recognizing the importance of the signings.  Coverage on SiriusXMFC was also outstanding, with the hosts taking an array of the informed, passionate and moronic calls that make up traditional sports radio in this country. Of course, these are all great signs for the league.

Monday After

tfcBig weekend for Major League Soccer, with the finalization of the Bradley and Defoe deals and the rumored end game of the coming television deal.  Let’s start with the television deal, where John Ourand (and others) have reported that Fox Sports and ESPN will be the English language partners of MLS starting in 2015.  NBC is reportedly out after three years (successful on the screen, but not with ratings).  While the deal has not been finalized, there are suggestions that it will be for a long term of at least 7 seven years and could be worth $70 million per year, which is more than double the value of the current deal.  The details of the new deal may be announced as early as this week in Philly during the draft and convention.  Obviously, it is difficult to analyze this deal until it is finalized, but the rumors are certainly promising for the future stability of the league.

Of course the other big news over the last few days involves the voyage to these shores of both Mark Bradley and Jermaine Defoe.  The analysis of how these players will fit into the long tormented TFC side will be left to others, but potentially 9 figure  outlay for these two players bears mention here.  The signing of such prominent players is certainly a welcome development for fans of the league, but MLS is continuing to risk creating the have/have not culture the league has worked so hard to avoid.  We will have more about this issue once the deals are finalized and more details emerged, but TFC has certainly puts its chips on the table for 2014.

One final note.  MLSSoccer.com continues its tradition of outstanding coverage of the combine and draft. However, I am curious to see where you all get your draft coverage.  Drop a line with your favorite combine and draft follows and sites.

The Business of Playing Soccer: Part II of Chat with Carey Talley

us-soccerEarlier in the week, we provided Part I of our chat with Carey Talley, below is the second half of that chat.

FB: Other than the increase in the salary cap, were there changes in the League during your career that made it easier for players financially (e.g. per diem increases, better hotels, etc…)?

CT: Nothing specific comes to mind. But as the league began to establish itself in the market, it seemed like contract values were slowly rising. But that took time and was not an overnight process.

FB: You also had experience with the national team at various levels.  Does US Soccer provide any thoughts to its players about life after soccer?

CT: I don’t recall US Soccer spending much time discussing life after soccer, at least not formally. The information I gathered was because I spoke to some of the veterans who were willing to share various things with me. Being in the national team locker room exposed me to players that I wasn’t always around during the season so I was able to gain insight from a broader pool of people. And this helped me see how the veteran players were approaching their post-soccer life.

FB: Finally, even though your playing career has only recently ended, with the benefit of hindsight, what guidance would you give to players now entering the League about how to plan about their post-career world?

CT: The main thing I would tell the current crop of players is that YOU are a brand. You the player and you the person are a brand. And you are constantly enhancing your brand at each training, match, and off field activity. Everything from your personality, to the way you interact with people and the way you carry yourself on and off the field will dictate whether or not people want to be associated with your brand. And they will decide if and how they want to be there with you when the soccer days are over. So as you approach each day, no matter what you are doing, always be aware that you are building towards the future, for those days when the soccer is over. I would also encourage the players to approach each season as if it is their last one in the league and that it’s never too early to start planning for retirement. There are plenty of guys that make good money but have a tendency to spend more than they earn. I would caution players not to be that guy and to live within their means. Don’t be the sixty thousand dollar millionaire.

Some Thoughts on Camilo

vancouverIt has been a while since I’ve put my lawyer hat on while writing for Footiebusiness, but the saga involving Major League Soccer’s Golden Boot winner deserves a mention.  For those not following, Camilo Sanvezzo, the Brazilian forward who starred for Vancouver last year was recently photographed wearing the jersey of Mexican side Queretaro.  The photo was sent out via Twitter and appeared on the Mexican Club’s official website.  Statements were made indicating that Camilo had signed and was leaving MLS for much bigger money.   To many, Camilo’s departure seemed like a foregone conclusion.

The Whitecaps soon pushed back and made clear statements that they believed that Camilo was under contract. The dispute seemingly stems from the option years set forth in the standard MLS contract agreement.  The agreement includes a traditional two years followed by two individual, team only, option years.  The team exercised the option in November for the 2014 season, but Camilo and his agent disagreed with that Vancouver had the right to exercise any option and that unilateral options are not permissible.

The Vancouver Sun offers the following quote that sheds light on the issue.  “Camilo and his agent — as well as los Gallos Blancos — appear to be challenging the league’s unilateral option policy, which according to Mike Jarosi, a sports lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, is unique to the New York-based league.“In the FIFA world, they don’t look on unilateral options favourably. You can’t do them (in other leagues) but there is a giant exception that has been given to the MLS because MLS rules are the byproduct of U.S. labour law, specifically the collective bargaining process,” said Jarosi, who represents many MLS players.”

So what does it all mean?  In my view, whether FIFA approves or disapproves of these contracts, the agreement is almost certainly valid under US and New York contract law.  It is also likely enforceable under Canadian law.  Obviously, there are other issues at play here, including the appearance of the league to agents and other future stars and ongoing efforts to stay in FIFA’s good graces.  However, this is the Golden Boot winner and this is seemingly a naked play to at least open negotiations with the league to gain his release.

 

The Business of Playing Soccer: Interview with Carey Talley

TalleyThe life of a professional athlete is a mystery to many fans.  We thought it would be interesting to chat with some former MLS stars to find out about life as a player from a business perspective.  Here is part I of our chat with former MLS stalwart Carey Talley.  Mr. Talley made more than 300 MLS appearances and won an MLS Cup with DC United.  Thanks to Carey Talley.

 

Footiebusiness.com: You played more than a decade in Major League Soccer.  During that time, did the League or any of your teams provide any guidance or pointers on post-career financial planning?

Carey Talley: Good question. Unfortunately there was not much, if any, formal education provided to the players regarding financial planning. There were occasions where financial advisors were brought in to talk to the players, but that was usually done at the request of one of the players who had a friend in the financial field. These discussions were certainly helpful but occurred infrequently. Looking back I realize now the value of such conversations and I hope the league can take a greater interest in assisting players with this type of forward thinking.

FB: What opportunities were there during your career for players to earn money outside of their regular salaries? Were these options made available by the team?

CT: There were always opportunities to do team appearances on behalf of the club and you could earn an extra $250 for an hour’s worth of work. Also, people in the area were always trying to get you to come out and train their youth teams. There were lots of opportunities to pick up some extra coaching contracts, since many of the ticket guys in the front office were frequently dealing with the youth teams. In most of the teams that I played with, doing youth coaching was actually frowned upon by the coaching staff. And rightfully so, since the coach’s job depended on your ability to play at a maximum level and if you were exhausted because you were coaching then you might be drained at team training, especially during those hot summer days. So yes, there was additional money to be made, but I typically shied away from it most of the time, or at least the coaching opportunities. I figured I had a limited time frame for being a player and that I would have plenty of time after retirement to focus on coaching.

FB: Similarly, what type of sponsorship/commercial opportunities were available to you during your career.

CT: There were plenty of opportunities for endorsements, especially in the smaller markets for which I played such as Kansas City and Salt Lake. I was sponsored by adidas for 11 years and had a great relationship with that organization. Times have changed some since my playing days and it seems like there are even more sponsorship opportunities for players, which helps drive even more name recognition and awareness with the public. This then allows for even more sponsorship opportunities for the players. So it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling cycle, and its great for the current and future generations of players.

Monday After

revs jerseyAfter some quiet times in the American soccer world during the holiday season, things are ready to accelerate over the next few weeks.  The Combine is less than two weeks away and the MLS Superdraft is also around the corner.  The draft is scheduled for a three hour time block on ESPNNews (the days of an hour on one of the bigger networks has come and gone), and the 2014 MLS preseason will soon follow.   Transfer windows are open and American fans are always interested to see what American talent makes the switch across the pond. As always, we will be tracking these moves, the draft and Combine over the coming weeks.

Portuguese soccer star Eusebio passed away over the weekend.  He was a generational player, but his passing is notable in American soccer circles because of his connection to the New England Revolution.  He played in the NASL of the late 1970s.  In 2006, perhaps in an effort to connect with an enormous Portuguese population in New England, the Revs installed a statue of Eusebio at Gillette Stadium.  The decision drew some derision from Revs fans, but did establish a connection with the local Portuguese community.  Unfortunately, the team never cemented the connection by signing a Portuguese star.

Finally, MLSSoccer is running a 20% off the 2014 season price for MLSLive.  The streaming service is increasingly popular and the league is working to try and lock in fans with pricing and great offseason content.

 

 

A Call to Arms

ee1ed3af089323c6.jpgAs we start a new year, we want to make our annual appeal to our readers to offer your thoughts on what content you want to see on Footiebusiness.  Drop a line with the types of stories, interviews and coverage you want to see in 2014.  This is a labor of love, but it works best when the content is what our audience sees.

Every so often, we get inquiries from some of you about opportunities to post on Footiebusiness about soccer business issues.  Over the last 5 years we have published a number of  guest posts on an array of topics and would be happy to post some more.  Whether you are interested in a regular schedule of posts or a one off, please drop us a line.  If there is a particular business topic or City that you believe deserves more focus on our site, please let us know. Whether your focus is news or opinion (or a mix of both), send us an e-mail.

E-mail address is: footiebusiness@gmail.com

The Business of Soccer in 2014

orlandoI hope 2014 is off to a great start for everyone.  The coming year promises to be an exciting time for those interested in the business of the beautiful game.  In the next year we will see significant expansion news in Major League Soccer, the maturation of the relationships between the various domestics leagues and the growth of the newest iteration of Womens’ soccer in the United States.  There will also be negotiations of the next MLS television deal (or deals), the ongoing stadium construction in multiple cities and more efforts by the league to make itself relevant in its markets and in the media.

At the same time, 2014 is a World Cup year, so even non-soccer fans will be looking to Brazil to enjoy the spectacle and drama that is the World’s biggest sporting event.  TV ratings promise to be great, with prime time start times in the United States and ESPN’s last World Cup for at least 12 years.  Domestically, some of the players that capture our attention in Brazil may be destined to arrive in MLS mid-summer, adding extra juice to footie in the USA. In the lead-up to the tournament, there will be tune up matches around the country as the whole nations gets ready for the big event.

Thank you for your readership in 2013 and I hope we have another great year in 2014.  Never hesitate to drop a line with thoughts on the site, the content or potential stories.

Best wishes for 2014.

Ben