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MLS is rigged, long live MLS

Being intentionally vague isn't helping the view that MLS is playing with a rigged deck.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

I think the game against LA was a microcosm of the 2014 season. Consistently, inconsistent. For the first 30 minutes, the team fired on all cylinders. Looked like a playoff contender, owned the pitch. Then reality returned, mental errors and defensive lapses occurred and in the end Rapids once up 3-1, lost 4-3. Frustrating and head scratching. Frustrating because Rapids made some changes to make up for what was hurting them during the previous four matches. Love him or hate him, Buddle makes Brown a better attacker. It could be seen over and over again allowing Brown to make plays and opening up the right side with Hairston. Obviously LA made adjustments but after being down 2-0, but Rapids at home should at least been able to secure a point. Head scratching because of the defensive breakdowns. 15 goals allowed in 5 matches and this is the team that has a league high 9 shutouts! Granted Moor wasn't on the pitch but breakdowns continually occur and from veteran players like Wynne. Fortunately the Rapids competition for the last playoff spot also had their troubles this past weekend with both Vancouver and Portland losing. If the Rapids could just find something to hang onto they are still in this. Going into Seattle and finding a point could be just the ticket to start a playoff run. And it would be kind of nice to sign a player to help down the stretch, kind of like the gift New England received.

This article makes it painfully clear that the MLS is playing with a rigged deck. In my opinion, the MLS needs to be a bit more transparent with some of its decisions especially concerning player allocation and designated players. When Clint Dempsey found his way to Seattle and then this weekend Jermaine Jones landed in New England even though Chicago had been the front runner, one has to wonder the tangled web MLS weaves with its allocation procedures and how small market clubs like the Rapids are going to be able to compete when MLS blatantly disregards its own rules. Although on their webpage they do have a disclaimer "Designated Players of a certain threshold - as determined by the League - are not subject to allocation ranking." I like the "determined by the League" clause and at least in New England's defense they acknowledged the oddity of claiming one of the USMNT members in their statement.

Per the Revolution's press release, "Jones, as a designated player of a certain threshold, was not subject to allocation ranking for dispersal to an MLS team. The Revolution and Fire expressed an interest in Jones, and had the available salary budget and a designated player slot to accommodate him. Following a blind draw between the two clubs, Jones was assigned to the Revolution."

Two things strike me as funny, 1) as a DP with a certain threshold not subject to allocation ranking and 2) a blind draw? Is the MLS a fantasy league? Are the shareholders just tossing around player cards? I agree, mostly, with what Maxi Rodriguez says in his article (mentioned above) about the MLS. The MLS is at a critical juncture. With the league growing, the introduction of the New York City Football Club, and an impending labor negotiation, the MLS as we know it could change very rapidly. Will it remember its roots or will it repeat history and burn out like the old NASL? Therefore, the current rigged deck is meant to curb team impulses when it comes to signing large player contracts. In that respect I am okay with the operation, preventing teams from trying to outspend one another.

But as a fan having the league acknowledge that certain clubs, because of their popularity, deserve to have marquee players to bolster the league just stinks. Denver is a great market and while in my opinion there are too many sport options, the Rapids have been making small inroads. Could the addition of a marquee player on the Rapids make a bigger splash? Or does the current plan of developing players in house and complementing them with older veterans make more sense? The issue then becomes how the league changes in the next few years. Can teams be allowed to grow their players and be competitive in that environment? Also how will the MLS promote its league? Will MLS use the NFL model, where theoretically each team has a fighting chance come a new season or will they be more like the MLB model, which allows free spending and pushes smaller market teams to long developmental projects with the hope of tasting the playoffs once in a while?

Transparency should be a cornerstone of the league. If rules are meant to be ignored then those rules should just be eliminated. If the allocation process truly means nothing then dissolve it and put into place something that at least honestly portrays what the expectation is when high level players return to the MLS. I get growing the sport, but systematically insulting certain small market clubs who are also, in their own way, growing the sport as well, makes the league seem like a farce. US Soccer fans have to deal with FIFA as it is, locally we'd appreciate dealing with an organization that is fair and equitable to all its teams.