Eric Wynalda, who once told Jim Rome “to suck (his) dick,” was given a forum to speak at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Surprise! He had some controversial things to say. The former USMNT took a hatchet to MLS, launching broadsides against the league’s braintrust and even Landon Donovan. As usual with a Wynalda outburst, there’s a little bit of truth amidst a lot of napalm.
He believes MLS provides a lazy, uncompetitive environment not conducive to player development. He cites Landon Donovan’s work ethic as a prime example.
I will throw some people under the bus. This is the way it goes. I’m not trying to be an ass. I’m being honest. I’ve been to enough Landon Donovan practices to watch him walk out on a Wednesday or Thursday. You’re like, really? You try that in Europe. Go ahead. Try that one on for size. Superstar’s going to walk off. Yeah, you’re part of that equation, guy. Because if people are making money together, that’s the first time Todd Dunivant has the right to say, ‘Hey superstar, get your *ss back here.’
He criticizes MLS for not aligning its schedule with the world’s major leagues. He believes it costs the league financially by throwing off the transfer window.
They made a big spiel, man. They said, ‘This is a business. Major League Soccer is a business.’ Okay, last summer, $2.2 billion dollars was spent in six weeks in the transfer market. Our inclusion in that was negative $11.4 [million], because our schedule doesn’t fit in with the rest of the world.
He thinks the MLS schedule conflicting with international tournaments costs both the league and the USMNT competitively.
And outside of being a national team player, playing in MLS, preparing for a World Cup, I’ll tell you right now, anybody who’s playing in MLS and getting ready to play in the World Cup is playing not to get hurt. And then when you get on the world stage and you go sleep to sprint, excuse my French, you’ll f*cking lose bad. And it takes a long time to catch up.
Wynalda argues that the MLS schedule kills off ratings and subsequent interest in TV networks. Having the most meaningful games played in a playoff, in direct competition with the NFL, College Football and the World Series kills ratings. That, he argues, was a primary factor for Fox being willing to pay $500 million for the World Cup, but be unwilling to meet MLS’ demands for a new television contract. He would shift toward a European schedule, playing the final in May.
Our CEO and president, David Hill, he’s an Aussie guy. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him? Have you seen him?…I realized one thing in my life, it’s that when big businessman talk, the billionaires, they kind of talk the way I talk. Direct. This was his message to Don Garber: ‘Change your schedule. Because having a 0.3 rating in November for your final doesn’t impress us.
Wynalda also blames MLS for stunting the development of certain American players. He cites the example of DeMarcus Beasley, who, according to Wynalda, had offers rejected from Lazio and Inter Milan so he could remain in MLS fronting the league’s inner city development program.
DaMarcus Beasley, in 2002, had an offer from Lazio, and then he had an offer from Inter. One of our players had an offer to go to Inter Milan, and we passed, because there was an inner-city exchange program where he was the star, and he was going to show up and tell all of these kids, ‘You can be a professional soccer player one day.’
Just pick up the paper or look on the internet. He was making $48 grand a year. I was standing next to a gentleman, an African-American guy who had a kid, and he was there to see DaMarcus Beasley, and this is his words, not mine. ‘I don’t get it. I mean, go on kids, play soccer, be just as f*cking poor as I am.’
We agree with almost of all of Wynalda’s points, in a sense, but we would question whether the changes proposed are readily attainable. When you have had a true professional league for fewer than 20 years, it’s hard to have adults running it with professional experience. When you’re still beholden to owners, such as Robert Kraft, who seem to care more about rationalizing expenditure than growing the league into a titanic soccer entity, it’s hard to enact radical reforms.
In uncharted waters and balancing being both a soccer league and an American sports league, Major League Soccer is stable and still expanding. The league has serious issues to tackle, but we’re dealing with an evolving teenager, not a full grown entity. Give it time.
[Photo via Getty]