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The MLS is now a transfer market destination league, and investing in youth has played a big part in that.


When the summer transfer window closed on the night of August 4, it ended a great period of business for MLS.

Some of the biggest names in the world have moved into the tournament, including Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini arrive LAFC. Then there are famous international names like Hector Herrera participation Houston Dynamoand Federico Bernardeschi participation Toronto FC with compatriots Lorenzo Insignewho signed last winter.

The window also sees younger players from among their main teams join MLS teams, with the former Watford striker Cucho Hernandez participation Columbus Crew – where he has scored five goals in seven appearances – and before Barcelona child prodigy Riqui Puig come by free transfer to LA Galaxy. There is also movement in the other direction, with Chicago Fire Goalie Gabriel Slonina will Chelsea with a transfer fee of 10 million dollars.

“There’s no question that we’ve had a historic and significant increase, not only in terms of player acquisition costs, but in many ways, more importantly, in the transfer revenue we receive. in the past 12 months,” said MLS deputy executive director. -Confident competition and player relationship Todd Durbin. “That’s substantial, and a stark change from not just spending but regarding the transfer fees received.

The numbers reveal the extent to which MLS has become a bigger player in the international market. According to the league, in 2022, MLS paid $175 million in transfer/repurchase fees and for the fourth year in a row, it set a new high for transfer fees paid, double what was paid previously. 5 years. Revenue generated for players leaving in 2022 is around $100 million. This does not include the sale of players such as Brenden Aaronson of Leeds United or Chris Richards of Crystal Palace. And there is a feeling that the number of visitors coming in this window has increased momentum.

“I think the signings of this moment mark a turning point in the history of the league. I really did it,” Columbus president Tim Bezbatchenko told ESPN.

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The window includes the continuation of several trends. The arrival of Chiellini, Bale and Herrera is by no means the first to have grace with MLS. After all, David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Cuauhtemoc Blanco all play in the league. Sebastian GiovincoHis arrival in Toronto in 2015 at the age of 28 heralded an era when many players close to their prime began moving to the MLS.

Recent years have seen a steady stream of South American players eager to use the league as a platform for bigger things, including Miguel Almiron. MLS academy products have gone in the other direction, maybe Tyler Adams or Chris Richards. The difference now is that younger players with significant lineages like Hernandez and Puig are now moving to the MLS, and when the transfer Rayan Raveloson From the Galaxy to AJ Auxerre shows that a move to the league does not necessarily mean the end of a player’s European ambitions.

“These are players who are ahead of their peak, looking to use the league to grow, win titles, increase market value and possibly find stability,” Bezbatchenko said. “Maybe they will go back to Europe, maybe they won’t, but they realize this tournament is a tournament that is getting a lot of attention.”

It’s tempting to think that what happens during the summer window is a sudden surge over the dam. There are a number of unique factors, not least of which is the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Matt Miazgawho moved in FC Cincinnatiand Shaq Moorewho participated? Nashville SC in a $2 million deal, is in that category, and so is Bale.

“I think [the World Cup] leading to some opportunism, when players are looking from Europe or players are thinking about going to a World Cup and how they are best prepared for that,” LAFC co-chairman and GM John Thorrington. “I think that’s in our favor this summer.”

But what happened was also the result of long and sure planning. This is especially true as it relates to the federation’s investment in its academies. For years MLS was caught in a vicious cycle: Teams didn’t really spend that much to build their squads, and the league’s academies still hadn’t really produced the required players. After that, international interest in the academy’s products gradually changed, and the vicious circle became a vicious circle.

“Outward transfers provide a feed for inbound remittances,” says Durbin. “Teams don’t watch [player investment] as an expense, that’s how it has been for many, many years.

“Now you start to get this very important momentum, as the transfer fees you receive go up, giving you the ability to turn around and invest more back into the player, which then allows you to more investment, and then so on. So that momentum is a really, really important one, at least in my opinion. You’re really starting to see us turn the tide. That has to do with that.”

Several changes to the league’s squad rules in 2020 also make it worthwhile for teams to enter the transfer market. There was a time when MLS took 25% of any transfer fee. Now 95% belongs to the team and depending on the player’s classification some of that can be converted into General Allocations, usually $1.1 million for unsigned players either as a home child or through U22’s initiative. But the rest can be used to fund discretionary spending by the team, be it Designated Player acquisitions, U22 initiative players and player development costs. All of this has resulted in MLS clubs becoming more involved in the international market.

“That’s the hallmark of a healthy league,” Bezbatchenko said. “Not every league in the world can say they have assets, cash flow in and out, like we’ve seen over the past year.”

With that involvement came more eyeballs of MLS from abroad. Players say, and the stability of the league and investment in infrastructure has made an impression throughout the game’s ecosystem.

“I only understand very clearly when I talk to my colleagues around the world that, whether it is the attention of our young players and the interest they garner from abroad or international players, European players see this as a really positive next step for them Thorrington said: “

Bezbatchenko added that in the past, when a player showed interest in MLS, there were a lot of agents and advisers who didn’t believe the league was a good place to go.

“Now it’s almost the opposite,” he said. “Everyone around the player, including the player, believes that the future of football in the MLS and North America is promising.”

Can the federation do more to facilitate transfers? To be sure, the overly complicated and sometimes overly complicated squad rules seem to get in the way of teams making deals. At this stage of the tournament’s development, some mechanics, such as the league’s allocation order, appear to have ceased to work.

But the desire on the part of the MLS to avoid any hint of teams bidding against each other to buy players, and thus, reduce spending, remains strong. Therefore, any changes in the near future will likely be on the edges. Bezbatchenko believes that increased investment in academies will continue to generate growth in the transfer market. He also feels that strengthening a team’s scouting department as it relates to bringing in academy prospects will support that goal. The wider the net spread, the higher the chance of finding a promising talent. That would require some modification – or even elimination – of the concept of homegrown territories, which led the first MLS teams to seek out young players from their geographies. .

“There have been conversations and discussions about how we can go into other territories,” Bezbatchenko said. “And make sure we’re putting players in a position that might not stand a chance if territories were exclusive.”

Durbin added that changes to the homegrown rules will be announced by the league “very soon.”

The fact that the league’s calendar doesn’t fit Europe is also a factor, with MLS teams having to weigh the pros and cons of parting with a key player mid-season, like New York City FC worked in lending Valentin Castellanos arrive LaLiga edge Girona. Durbin notes that the calendar is becoming less of an issue in that overseas teams are becoming more patient and willing to negotiate through multiple windows for a single player, but this dynamic is not going away and Thorrington has accept the situation. “You have to roll with it,” he said.

It looks like it will take more than maintaining the status quo to maintain current momentum levels. Durbin doesn’t expect the evolution the hockey stick has experienced over the past 12 months. That’s why he stopped calling the summer window a “tipping point,” but he remains optimistic.

“There is no question that you will continue to see that growth, increase in the future,” he said. “We expect that we see the levels have increased rapidly over the last two or three years. But that story has yet to be told.”



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