Wednesday, September 12, 2012

MLS Rules Confuse Me... Again

I spend more time than I should trying to understand MLS' rules when it comes to player acquisitions.  I do this because the rules as a whole aren't exactly that straight forward, with the draft, "college protection", discovery claims, allocations, and the like, it can be hard for the casual fan to understand exactly what is going on.  Today though I am almost at a loss because of what would appear to be a contradiction of MLS' rules.

Today the teams participating in the lottery for Marcus Tracy were released.  The lottery is designed as a way to allocate a player out to a team so that they are not able to hold out for a specific club.  Tracy was the 2008 Hermann Award winner as the best college player.  He was drafted with the 56th pick of the 2009 MLS draft by Houston.  He fell so far because Tracy was already planning to bypass MLS and sign with Aalborg of the Danish league.  The Dynamo though made an offer to Tracy which allowed them to retain his MLS rights for 2 years.  The reason for this is because of the "College Protection List" which if a player is drafted but doesn't sign with the league the team retains the player's rights for 2 years.  That expired on December 31, 2010 for the Dynamo.  So tomorrow Tracy is going through a lottery.

What makes it confusing is a situation involving Sporting Kansas City.  Earlier this year, Sporting KC signed local KC player, Michael Thomas after making a trade with the San Jose Earthquakes.  Thomas had been drafted by the Earthquakes in 2010, but after being offered a contract, instead signing with Halmstads in Sweden.  Based on the "College Protection List" and the information on Tracy being offered a contract, Thomas' period should have expired on December 31, 2011.  On January 17th, 2012 though, Sporting announced that they had traded a supplemental draft pick to the Quakes for Thomas.  At the time I was told that because San Jose made an offer, Thomas stayed on their "College Protection List" forever.  That doesn't make sense in light of the Tracy situation.

So if Thomas had been offered a contract by San Jose the same way that Houston had offered one to Tracy, why is the way that the two were/are allocated to the league different?  Honestly it's not a matter of the draft pick, the Earthquakes drafted Tyler Krumpe from Loyola Marymount, who didn't even make the Quakes roster.  The point of this is MLS seeming to have used two different ways of bringing a player into the league when both players' situations when they "left" the league were the same.

It just doesn't make sense.  The only thing I can really think as a potential reason for it is because of the last reserve game of the year last year against Dallas.  In that game, Thomas was the infamous Trialist 1.  At that time, Thomas was still on San Jose's "College Protection List" so maybe as a sign of good faith with the Quakes, or because the Quakes realized it was Thomas and complained to the league, they made the trade.  If so, why not just state that instead of stating something that is contradictory to your own rules that you publish on the web?

 As I said earlier, in the end this isn't about the draft pick we've given up, I'd have rather given up a throw away draft pick than our lottery spot for Thomas, because in the lottery there's no guarantee that he'd end up in KC.  My problem is the fact that with two seemingly similar situations the league is going two totally opposite ways with the way a player is allocated to a team.  I love Sporting KC, and I love the league, I love that my son will get to grow up watching professional soccer in the US, but I wish the league would follow the own rules that they have set up.


Nathan Martin said...

How many "college protected" players do you think have trialed with another team?

Either a handshake before or a clarification and a handshake afterwards.

It takes time to flesh out the rules and cover all the scenarios.

I accept it as long as they now have a precedent and protocol for such a situation.

Dan said...

but if there is a precedent, why didn't Houston get Tracy's rights like Mike said?

Nathan Martin said...

Tracy didn't trial with another team or fill out the paperwork to return to the league while still on the protected list.

He is coming back to the US in September 2012. He was protected until December 31, 2010.

Apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

Then state all that in the trade. The team in January said the announced reason for the trade was because San Jose held his rights indefinitely (according to the quote in the comments of Mike's blog post in January) due to them making an offer. Tracy was made an offer by the Dynamo as well but he goes through a lottery. It's apples and apples

Nathan Martin said...

I agree with all that the trade statement lacked clarity and consistency.

None of us know when Michael Thomas signed with the league. None of us know if SKC had talked to San Jose before trialing him. None of us know whether that is or was clarified to be a violation. None of us know if a sign and trade deal had been reached beforehand but the paperwork needed to be finalized, etc...

I am confident that behind closed doors the league and the organizations have a better idea of protocol going forward.

There was a transparency issue.

I can see where Mike and others are coming from considering league history.

There's no question that the league has matured and there's no question that the league needs to do more.