The big news of the weekend, of course, was not found on any of the scoreboards in Major League Soccer.
It was found in the top office Friday night, as the league levied stiff penalties against Inter Miami after it was adjudged to have manipulated the league’s salary cap rules and had the equivalent of five designated players on its roster, two over the league maximum of three.
In case you weren’t paying attention, here’s what the league’s investigation found:
— It discovered that Blaise Matudi’s contract, which includes a marketing agreement, should have classified him as a DP;
— Discovered that former player Andres Reyes should also have been classified as a DP;
— Discovered underreporting of several other players’ contracts
As a result, the league fined Inter Miami $2 million for breaching the rules, fined team investor/operator Jorge Mas $250,000, and also took away $2.2 million in allocation money which will go into effect for the 2022 and 2023 seasons and should have an impact on Miami’s ability to sign new players.
In a statement, commissioner Don Garber said, “The integrity of our rules is sacrosanct, and it is a fundamental principle of our league that our clubs are responsible for adhering to all league regulations. Our rules will not be compromised. These sanctions reflect the severity of Inter Miami’s violations, should encourage complete cooperation by all parties in future investigations and will serve as a deterrent for clubs from violating roster rules.”
That’s all well and good, and sure, rules are put in place for a reason. The league was right to fine Inter Miami as well as Mas for his role in everything; Mas — who once famously said the Revolution were close to building a soccer-specific stadium close to Boston Garden, and still hasn’t apologized for putting Revolution supporters into a tizzy over it — approves everything related to contracts and should make sure that everything is by the by in terms of falling under league rules, and was therefore fined.
But what if — and it’s not the first time I’ve written something like this — Inter and Mas are incredibly forward thinking and see the future of where things should be going in terms of salary and DP limits? Two years ago, we wrote on our former employer’s site (the soccer content has been since deleted) that at some point, Major League Soccer, if it wants to compete with Liga MX for continental trophies, will need to expand the salary cap and, in essence, allow for more DP’s than they do now. The example we saw and had written about was that one Mexican club had the equivalent of eight MLS DP’s and a payroll of $28 million. With the way the rules are constructed — and bargained by the Player’s Association — now, most MLS clubs would need to double their payroll in order to pull within a few million of the top Mexican sides.
And sure, salaries are going up. The average base salary for a senior roster player is nearly $400,000, with the senior minimum just north of $81,000. That’s great. But if you want to compete with the best, a club needs to spend. And if you want to compete with the best leagues like Garber wants, you really need to crack open the pocketbook and spend, spend, spend.
That won’t, of course, happen until 2025-26 at the earliest. That’s when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. And unless the league — now operating on its own when it comes to marketing, given that US Soccer has split from Soccer United Marketing — receives a rather favorable sum of money in the next television contract — the current $75 million deal expires in 2022 — I don’t expect the owners to go down the road of increasing payroll, especially after a year without fannies in the seats. This experiment called MLS will be 30, 31 years into being when the current CBA expires, but we can foresee the owners being rather tight with the belt, given what happened with the old NASL in the mid-1980’s.
The situation, however funky, was avoidable, of course — if the rules were followed. I’m not arguing that didn’t happen. Yet I don’t think anyone who is a fan of this league should cast stones at Inter Miami. They don’t want to be the Fusion: In the club’s statement, Mas said, “Inter Miami is an ambitious club with big aspirations. We believe our fanbase, market and ownership group propel us to be one of North America’s most-followed fútbol teams in the world. We are committed to supporting our team and building a roster we are proud of.”
That doesn’t sound like Mas is someone of a small mind. That is thinking that should be — eventually — embraced, and should be considered thinking which should help MLS become one of the greater leagues and destinations for players across the world.
OK, let’s whip it around.
Montreal came up with a 1-nil win at Chicago thanks to second-half sub Mason Toye’s 87th-minute tally; the Red Bulls knocked off Orlando City, 2-1, after Caden Clark and Cristian Casseres both scored; Columbus put in two first-half goals before Ayo Akinola pulled one back for Toronto as the Crew beat the Reds, 2-1; Hany Muhktar scored two goals three minutes apart in the dying embers to give Nashville a 2-2 draw at Atlanta United; Ismael Tajouri-Schradi scored in second-half stoppage time to give NYCFC a 2-1 win over LAFC on national TV; the Galaxy received an own goal by San Jose’s Tanner Beason to nick a 1-nil win over the Quakes; Ola Kamara scored twice to give DC United a 3-nil win over Inter Miami; Sporting Kansas City posted a 3-2 win over Houston; Colorado won its third straight on the trot with a 3-nil win over FC Dallas; and Minnesota United received a late goal from Niko Hansen to steal a point on the road to Real Salt Lake.
On Sunday, Philadelphia moved into second place in the East, three points behind New England, with a 3-nil win against Portland, and Seattle and Austin battled to a scoreless draw, putting the Sounders one point ahead of the Revs in the Supporter’s Shield standings at the FIFA break.
Yes, we’re talking about the Supporter’s Shield at the end of May. Don’t take this from me.
In the NPSL, Valeo FC of Newton and Kingston Stockade battled to a scoreless draw on Saturday; Alec Hughes’ 84th minute goal gave Hartford City a 3-2 win over Boston City FC, but Hartford had two players sent off; Jhonata Batista scored two second-half goals for BCFC, including one in the 90th minute to account for the deficit; Greater Lowell is now 0-4-0 after a 4-nil defeat to New York Shockers and now have a goal difference of -21.
It was a quiet weekend here, hope it was good for you, too. Enjoy your Memorial Day, and take the time to remember the fallen.