By Curtis Reed (The Homegrown Player) - The holiday’s are a time to be thankful for what you have and to make wish lists for things you want to have. There was a lot to be grateful for in MLS this year: the standard of play was improved once again, teams did well in the CONCACAF Champions League, referring improved, and there were a lot of young players to emerge. That said, there are still a lot of things we would like to see MLS do better. Here are just a few:
Turf: Please, PLEASE, stop playing on turf or if you absolutely have to make it the nicest turf possible and replace it every year. The Homegrown Player lives in the Pacific Northwest so he understands that fields can get muddy, but he also knows our dirty little secret that for a good five months out of the year it’s bright and sunny, perfect for playing. The turf fields in Seattle, New England, and Vancouver all have to go. They lead to ugly soccer, cause players to get injured, and force players with injuries to not play (we want to see Thierry Henry!). Portland has the best turf but even as that gets older it breaks down into something that is a travesty.
Salary Cap Increase: The designated player rule has largely been deemed a success. Even if the player being brought in isn’t a Robbie Keane or Clint Dempsey most of the DP’s have improved the quality of play, especially now that teams have figured out what kind of DP’s to bring in. It’s simple, you spend more money you get better quality. Based on that principle MLS should double the salary cap. If they are serious about being a top ten league in the world they need to act like it. Not only would this bring in better foreign players but it would also help keep young talent in MLS and help bring in national team players like a Mixx Diskerud. Yes, teams still aren’t financially there yet but as long as they keep expanding they should in theory have the money to make a modest increase.
Expansion: Speaking of expansion, our wish is that MLS stop after Miami (which we also think is a mistake). The quality of play hasn’t suffered too much with the recent addition of teams but with NYC FC, Orlando City, and Miami all set to come aboard that quality is going to diminish. Because MLS has intuitional parity the more teams there are the more the player pool of good players is going to be stretched. They can probably handle the addition of three teams if they aren’t going to raise the salary cap but they should stop there.
Lower-divisions: The partnership between MLS and USL Pro is fantastic. It’s going to get younger players more games and help MLS reach new markets. Some teams have actively embraced this partnership and seen dividends. Others have been slower. Our wish is that by the end of the 2014 USL Pro season every MLS team either has an affiliation in place or they have firm plans to place their own team in the competition by 2015.
Keep Growing: Our last wish is fairly simple: keep growing. Being a part of MLS’s progression has been fantastic. Even over the last few years there has been tremendous growth. We wish for nothing more than to see the league continue to thrive.