Bruce Arena Blasts New MLS Discovery Signing Process

Over the past few seasons, Major League Soccer has received transfer money on players leaving the league to play overseas as well as paid transfer fees to obtain new acquisitions in hopes of improving the quality of play in the league. MLS also charged 100 million expansion fees for Orlando FC and NY City FC to join the league this season. Despite being the most financially stable the league has ever been in its 20 year existence, it is still not without its issues.bruce arena

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and US National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann have squabbled over what is best for US National team players as well as the MLS schedule not always accommodating international dates for its players.

The most recent MLS issue has come from one of its most successful coaches. Former US National team coach Bruce Arena has won five MLS Cups and three MLS coach of the year honors, but he is never to shy to speak up when he disagrees with an issue.

Despite signing Sebastian Lletget from West Ham United to join his LA Galaxy team for which he is head coach and general manager, Arena is not happy the Galaxy had to pay $50,000 to the New England Revolution. As the Galaxy finalized plans to sign Lletget, the MLS placed a discovery claim on him when league lists were reset after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified.  Hence, the Galaxy having to pay $50,000 to acquire Lletget who is a former U.S. youth international.

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America Daily shared how the new MLS Discovery Signing Process works compared to its previous structure.

“MLS’s Discovery Process is intended to keep players from outside MLS seeking to enter MLS from negotiating with every club and driving up his asking price. Rights to a player are not determined by the club that offers the most money or best deal but the order in which they have filed a Discover claim to a player. Previously, teams could file claims on 12 players. Now, they can file claims on seven players — a move to cut down on the filing of frivolous claims — but they may add or remove players on the list at any time. The mechanisms for settling competing claims have been codified. Now, the team that holds the priority to a player has the option of making a reasonable offer for the player or receive $50,000 in allocation money as compensation if another team comes forward with an offer.”

Arena’s issue with the Discovery Signing Process is that some teams have used it as a way to block other teams from acquiring a player. He calls the new process a “sped-up blackmail job where you get the player, but eventually, you have to pay money for it.”

Lletget trained with the Galaxy during their preseason trip in Ireland who were given permission by West Ham as they evaluated whether to sign him. This is why Arena takes issue with the MLS Discovery Signing Process.

Said Arena:

“Discovery lists should be that you’re pursuing a player and have interest in a player. You’re discovering them because you want to sign them. That should be the mechanism but through the years, teams in the league have attempted to use the rule as much as possible to hold back players from other teams.”

According to Arena, signing a player you discover should be quite simple.

“When you get enough people that understand how to do these things in real life then eventually you’ll convince people. We should, in my view, be able to sign players that are outside the league. You discover them, you sign them. It shouldn’t be an issue.”

I have to agree with Arena on this. Why should the Galaxy have to pay $50,000 for the rights to sign a player they trained and evaluated? If it weren’t for the MLS Discovery Signing Process, the Galaxy would not be out $50,000 in addition to Lletget’s salary. The Galaxy have won three MLS Cups with Arena at the helm, and it looks like teams will do what they can to make signing discovery players a long, tedious process.

While the revised MLS Discovery Signing Process is better than the old one that virtually allowed teams to block signing a player just because they could, the new process must be revised. Garber must work with his league advisers and representatives from teams throughout the league to improve this flawed system.

And that’s as I see it!

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