FC Dallas isn’t waiting for the rest of the world to recognize MLS as a selling league. Team leaders pledge to win the championship as a selling club.
Soccer analysts don’t think MLS is close to becoming a selling league just yet. Although there’s a measurable amount of that activity. FC Dallas will seek a balance between developing and keeping talent with a focus on becoming a selling team.
That’s the goal, no matter how long the rest of MLS takes.
Selling league means teams focus on cashing in on players’ value just as much as developing talent and acquiring leading veterans.
To get more supporters as quickly as possible, MLS teams used to find it necessary to bring in Designated Players that fans had seen on television or read about in sports stories, like David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
If the aging veterans didn’t quite deliver, even casual fans still knew who they saw on the pitch. But it made it hard to defend MLS against the charge of becoming a retirement league.
While the selling league term sounds harsh if said aloud, that’s not what it really is.
Each time MLS has put potential expansion teams through their paces, they’ve focused on the price of hard assets. What’s the value of their corporate sponsorships? What’s the new stadium deal worth and how will you pay for it?
The last thing on the expansion team’s list is personnel and its value to the operation. So when the expansion club’s fans get to the new MLS pitch, sometimes by mid-season everything’s pretty but the club record.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has talked this focus up for years. He says the league has been buying for so long teams no longer can justify their investments in players and domestic development. He goes so far as to say the old MLS way is unsustainable.
Just last August, this focus got analyzed. MLS looks puny.
In the past two seasons, just six MLS player contracts got sold to top-five leagues in Europe. During the same period, Argentina’s Superliga transferred 19, while Dutch Eredivisie and Brazil’s Serie A each sold 28 contracts.
The analysis suggested adjustments in transfer rules and salary cap might drive more MLS teams to change their focus. But FC Dallas has no plans to wait for that.
Head coach Luchi Gonzalez says no MLS Cup winner subscribed to the selling club model – transferring players from their academy. By his analysis, it’s a model that 97% of teams around the world follow.
So he pledged FC Dallas to be the first club in MLS to make this a model of success for the future.
Structuring club focus in this way forces the organization to grow, develop, and reinvest.
To enter MLS competition, clubs like FC Dallas had to jump through all the asset hoops. Now the greatest asset, their personnel, gets top billing.
And that’s a great thing.