mlssoccer.com published a piece listing the biggest moves of the offseason thus far. They all show one clear MLS-wide change: the need to spend, even from those who haven’t typically done so.
Like it or not, Major League Soccer is evolving. MLS 3.0, as it is known, is now here, and while commissioner Don Garber was hesitant to admit as much, the league is now a selling one, embracing the benefits that come from wheeling and dealing in the global transfer market.
But with selling also comes buying. This is not just a case of the best talent in MLS relentlessly moving to other teams and leagues, the league slowly depreciating in quality and competiveness. In fact, precisely because of the sales that have been made in recent years, alongside an influx of investment, teams can now spend like they never have before.
It started with new expansion teams and the financial stalwarts of the league. The final four from 2020, Toronto, Atlanta, Seattle and LAFC all rank in the top five of valuable MLS franchises per Forbes. The other in the top five is the LA Galaxy, who qualified for the playoffs and have been the most successful team in the last decade.
But while this elite forms and begins to separate itself from the rest of the league, without wanting to be left behind, other teams are now understanding the change in the machinations of the league and behaving in a way that makes the most of them.
If you hadn’t quite caught this latest evolution of the league, one that leans towards the teams that manage the transfer market with the greatest efficiency and effectiveness being the most successful, just read this piece by Ari Liljenwall of mlssoccer.com.
Liljenwall lists the five biggest signings of the offseason thus far. They are Lucas Zelarayan to the Columbus Crew, Alan Pulido to Sporting KC, Lucas Cavallini to Vancouver, Cristian Espinoza returning to San Jose permanently, and Adam Buksa to New England.
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There is one thing that all these transfers have in common: they are major signings for a team that is not known for major spending. In fact, all bar Buksa have broken their club’s transfer record, with Pulido, Zelarayan and Cavallini all reaching close to $10 million — Espinoza’s fee has not been disclosed while Buksa is thought to have cost closer to $4 million.
Quite how successful these signings will be for their respective teams remains to be seen. Some will justify their value; others will not. But the very fact that these teams are now willing to smash their transfer records in an attempt to keep pace with the elite in MLS is enough to illustrate the one big change that is sweeping throughout the league.
While American sports tend to strive for parity, with salary caps and roster restrictions ironing out the advantages that certain organisations enjoy off the field, global football has always been money-orientated. Those who spend the most, win. And MLS is now coming around to this way also.
That means that teams must spend to catch up. Toronto, Atlanta, the Los Angeles teams, they will keep adding to their teams and spending the cash. It is up to the rest of the league to compete, and this offseason, at the very least, suggests they are willing to try.