MLS is now a transfer-market destination league (2022)

Aug 12, 2022

  • MLS is now a transfer-market destination league (1)

    Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

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      Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
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When the summer transfer window closed the night of Aug. 4, it concluded a stellar period of business for MLS.

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Some of the world's biggest names moved to the league, including Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini to LAFC. Then there were well-known international names like Hector Herrera joining the Houston Dynamo, and Federico Bernardeschi joining Toronto FC along with compatriot Lorenzo Insigne, who signed last winter.

The window also saw younger players in their primes joining MLS sides, with former Watford forward Cucho Hernandez joining the Columbus Crew -- where he's already scored five goals in seven appearances -- and former Barcelona prodigy Riqui Puig arriving on a free transfer to the LA Galaxy. There was movement in the other direction as well, with Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina going to Chelsea for a $10 million transfer fee.

"There's no question that we had a historic and significant increase, not only on the expenditure of the acquisition of players, but in many ways, more importantly, the transfer revenue that we have received in the last 12 months," said MLS executive vice-president for competition and player relations Todd Durbin. "That has been significant, and has been a marked change from the level of not only spend, but also with regards to transfer fees received.

The numbers reveal the extent to which MLS has become more of a player in the international market. According to the league, in 2022 MLS paid $175m in transfer/acquisition fees, and for the fourth consecutive year it set a new high for transfer fees paid, double the amount paid five years ago. Revenue generated for outgoing players in 2022 was around $100m. This doesn't include sell-on fees for the likes of Leeds United's Brenden Aaronson or Crystal Palace's Chris Richards.

And there is a sense that the arrivals in this window increased the momentum. In terms of the raw number of deals, not including free transfers, 2021 saw 99 combined moves, both incoming and outgoing, according to MLS. That number in 2022 is 105, though that is only through the end of July.

"I think the signings in this window mark a watershed in the history of the league. I really do," Columbus president Tim Bezbatchenko told ESPN.

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(Video) Dwayne De Rosario on World Cup expectations for Canada and why his European transfer never happened

The window included the continuation of some trends. The arrivals of Chiellini, Bale and Herrera are by no means the first to grace MLS. After all, David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Cuauhtemoc Blanco all played in the league. Sebastian Giovinco's arrival to Toronto in 2015 at age 28 heralded an era when more players close to their prime began to move to 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 moved in the other direction, be it Tyler Adams or Chris Richards. The difference now is that younger players with considerable pedigree like Hernandez and Puig are now moving to MLS, and as the transfer of Rayan Raveloson from the Galaxy to AJ Auxerre showed, a move to the league doesn't necessarily mean the end of a player's European ambitions.

"These are players ahead of their prime, looking to use the league to develop, win trophies, increase their market value and maybe find some stability," said Bezbatchenko. "Maybe they'll go back to Europe, maybe they won't, but they recognize this league as one that's getting a lot of attention."

It's tempting to think that what took place in the summer window was a sudden surge that crested over the dam. There were some unique factors, not the least of which was the proximity of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is slated to start in November. There were players in the market needing to get playing time in order to get on a World Cup roster or at least sharpen up their preparations. Matt Miazga, who moved to FC Cincinnati, and Shaq Moore, who joined Nashville SC in a $2m deal, were in that category, as was Bale.

"I think [the World Cup] led to some opportunism, as players were looking from Europe, or players that were thinking about going to a World Cup and how they best prepare for that," said LAFC co-president and GM John Thorrington. "I think that was something that benefited us this summer."

But what took place was also the result of long-term, steady planning. This is especially true as it relates to the league's investment in its academies. For years MLS was caught in a vicious cycle: Teams weren't really spending that much to build their rosters, and the league's academies had yet to really produce players that were in demand. Then the international interest for academy products gradually began to change, and the vicious cycle became a virtuous one.

"The transfers out feed the transfers in," Durbin said. "Teams aren't viewing [player investment] as an expense, which is the way it was for many, many years.

(Video) What's ahead for MLS teams in the summer transfer window

"Now you start to get this very important dynamic where, as the transfer fees that you receive increase, that gives you the ability to then turn around and invest more back in the players, which then allows you to invest even more, and then so on, and so forth. So that dynamic is a really, really important one, at least in my judgment. You're really beginning to see us turn the corner with regards to that."

Some changes to the league's roster rules in 2020 also made it worth teams' while to engage in the transfer market. There was a time when MLS took 25% of any transfer fee. Now 95% goes to the team, and depending on the player's classification, some of that can be converted into General Allocation Money, usually $1.1m for players who aren't signed as homegrowns or through the U22 initiative. But the rest can be used to fund the team's discretionary spending, be it acquisition of Designated Players, U22 initiative players, and player development costs. All of this has resulted in MLS clubs being more engaged in the international market.

"That's a characteristic of a healthy league," said Bezbatchenko. "Not every league in the world can say they have the assets, the inflows and outflows, like we have seen the past year."

With that engagement has come more eyeballs on MLS from abroad. Players talk, and the league's stability and investment in infrastructure has made an impression throughout the game's ecosystem.

"I just I get a very clear sense when I speak to colleagues around the world that, whether it's the attention that our young players and the interest they're garnering from abroad or players in Europe seeing this as a really positive next step in their career at various stages of their career, I just see that that growing and growing with each year," Thorrington said.

Bezbatchenko added that in the past, when a player showed interest in MLS, there were plenty of agents and advisors who were not convinced that the league was a good landing spot.

"Now it's almost the reverse," he said. "Everyone around the player, including the player, believes that the future of soccer in MLS and North America is promising."

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Can the league do more to facilitate transfers? Certainly the much derided, and at times overly complex roster rules seem to get in the way of teams doing deals. At this stage of the league's evolution, some mechanisms, like the league's allocation order, seem to have outlived their usefulness.

But the desire on the part of MLS to avoid any hint of teams bidding against each other for players, and thus suppressing spending, remains strong. As such, any changes in the near future will likely be around the edges. Bezbatchenko believes that increasing the investment in academies will continue to create growth in the transfer market. He also feels that enhancing a team's scouting department as it relates to bringing in academy prospects will aid that goal. The broader the net that is cast, the better the odds of finding a talented prospect. That will require some modification -- or even elimination -- of the concept of homegrown territories, which give MLS teams first dibs on young players from their geographic area.

"There's been conversations and discussions about how can we go into other territories," Bezbatchenko said. " And make sure that we are bringing players into the fold that might not have an opportunity if the territories were exclusive."

Durbin added that changes to the homegrown rules would be announced by the league "very soon."

The fact that the league's calendar isn't aligned with Europe is also a factor, in that MLS teams have to weigh the pros and cons of parting with a key player in midseason, like New York City FC did in loaning Valentin Castellanos to LaLiga side Girona. Durbin noted that the calendar is becoming less of an issue in that overseas teams are becoming more patient and willing to negotiate over multiple windows for a player, but the dynamic isn't going away, and Thorrington is resigned to the situation. "You have to roll with it," he said.

It feels like it will take more than maintaining the status quo to sustain the current level of momentum. Durbin isn't expecting the kind of hockey stick growth that was experienced in the past 12 months. That's why he's stopping short of calling the summer window a "tipping point," but he remains optimistic.

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"There's no question that you're going to continue to see that grow, increase going forward," he said. "It's our hope that we that we see the level that has accelerated over the last two or three years. But that story is yet to be told."

FAQs

Does FIFA include MLS? ›

All 29 teams of MLS will be featured in FIFA 23, the last game of EA's previous partnership with FIFA.

How does the MLS transfer system work? ›

If a Designated Player is transferred or loaned, the club will receive all amounts of the transfer or loan fee revenue until it has recouped all out-of-pocket cash payments made by the club in connection to that player prior to any sharing arrangement with the League.

What European league is MLS equivalent to? ›

In terms of European competition MLS teams would be competitive in the Europa League which is UEFA's second tier continental tournament.

What percent of the MLS is foreign? ›

Foreigners represent 26.6% of players in the 37 leagues analysed. European and Ameri- can MLS teams are by far those who recruit the most from abroad. Within these leagues, almost half of the players have a foreign ori- gin. This proportion is significantly lower in both Asia and Latin America.

Are there MLS stadiums in FIFA 22? ›

To get all 28 MLS Teams that will be playing in 2022, to get their stadiums fully licensed to be on FIFA 22. Currently, there are only 6 MLS stadiums in FIFA. Major League Soccer is growing and becoming more popular.

Is the MLS in FIFA 22? ›

EA Sports have released their FIFA 22 Major League Soccer Team of the Season, compiling the top-XI players from the 2021 season. The MLS TOTS was determined via EA Sports FIFA, with the 2021 Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution leading the way with three players.

Does MLS have a transfer window? ›

MLS transfer windows

Major League Soccer's first window closed on Wednesday, May 4. A secondary window opened on Thursday, July 7 and closed on Thursday, August 4.

Do MLS teams pay transfer fees? ›

The numbers reveal the extent to which MLS has become more of a player in the international market. According to the league, in 2022 MLS paid $175m in transfer/acquisition fees, and for the fourth consecutive year it set a new high for transfer fees paid, double the amount paid five years ago.

What is the point of MLS next pro? ›

Established in June by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a new professional men's soccer league that will begin its inaugural season in March 2022. Committed to driving a new era of North American soccer, MLS NEXT Pro will offer new opportunities to players, coaches, referees, and sports business professionals.

Do Europeans like MLS? ›

Currently the MLS is largely seen by European clubs and fans as a place players can go when they're no longer in their prime but aren't quite ready to retire.

Is MLS better than Liga MX? ›

Has MLS surpassed Liga MX? The short answer is no, not yet at least. Mexico is still the most competitive league in CONCACAF and MLS recently won the CONCACAF Champions League after more than 20 years, when the Seattle Sounders beat Pumas UNAM last April.

Is the MLS a cartel? ›

"MLS is not a single entity," antitrust attorney Mark Levinstein said. "It is simply a cartel with a reserve clause that is executed by the teams agreeing to let the league be the signatory on their contracts."

What state produces the most MLS players? ›

The number of MLS players born in the United States and Canada is at an all time-high with 335 players, spanning 37 states and five provinces. The states that have the most representation this season are California (71), Texas (32) and Ohio (23). Ontario has most MLS player representation with 14.

What country are most MLS players from? ›

us United States

How much of the MLS is American? ›

In the 2020 season, US players played only 37.96% of all playing time. The US share of playing time in MLS has decreased by 29.53% since 2011 and 43.58% since that first season. Meanwhile, European share has increased from 7.89% in 1996 to 9.96% in 2011, way up to 20.20% in 2020.

Will FIFA add MLS stadiums? ›

Donk hints at new face scans for MLS players as well as new MLS stadiums in FIFA 23, which the announcement blog also confirms: “The renewed partnership will continue to further MLS' authentic in-game integration, with fans able to play with their favorite MLS clubs, players and stadiums.”

What stadiums are not in FIFA 22? ›

Various important stadiums are not in FIFA 22 as they are exclusive to Konami's eFootball (formerly PES / Winning Eleven). FC Barcelona's Camp Nou, Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena, and Juventus's Allianz Stadium.

Why is Celtic Park not in FIFA? ›

Celtic Park and Ibrox now WON'T feature in FIFA 23 after bizarre u-turn as EA Sports reveals full stadium list | The Scottish Sun.

Can you play as an MLS team on FIFA? ›

If you ever want to discover a new team or learn more about leagues in other countries, FIFA 23 will offer lots of leagues from all over the world just like FIFA 22. This includes the MLS, which has been included in FIFA since the 1995 edition of the game.

What happened to Brazil FIFA 22? ›

Which World Cup teams are on FIFA 22? Due to licensing issues, only 13 of the 29 currently-qualified teams are fully available to use on FIFA 22. Notably, there are no African or Asian nations present. Meanwhile, Brazil are featured with their official crest and kits, but without the real-world players.

Why is there no Juventus in FIFA 22? ›

The team was a permanent fixture in EA's series until it was confirmed in July 2019 that Konami had signed it up to be an exclusive partner club in eFootball PES 2020. This exclusivity deal was a multi-year arrangement, meaning Juventus didn't feature in FIFA 20, FIFA 21 or FIFA 22.

When did transfer window close? ›

The Premier League transfer window will officially close on Thursday 1 September at 11pm local time. This will keep the Premier League in line with Europe's other major competitions.

Will FIFA 22 Update summer transfers? ›

FIFA 22: Summer Transfers Update is available with Haaland, Mané, Gabriel Jesus and more! EA Sports, through a brief press release, informs us that the First update of Summer transfers is available for the FIFA 22 Ultimate Team mode.

How many DPs can an MLS team have? ›

Every team can have up to three DPs.

How competitive is MLS? ›

The MLS is one of few leagues in the world that doesn't have a promotion and relegation system but is one of the most competitive. On top to that, no MLS team has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League, with every team that has ever made it to the final losing to a Mexican side.

How much is a MLS homegrown contract? ›

They must be paid at least the Reserve Minimum Salary ($63,547 in 2021), but their salaries only count against the team's salary cap ($5,210,000 in 2021) if they are on the Senior Roster (roster slots 1-20).

Is MLS NEXT semi pro? ›

It launched in 2022 with 21 teams, of which 20 are reserve sides for MLS clubs and the independent Rochester New York FC.
...
MLS Next Pro.
FoundedJune 21, 2021
First season2022
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
ConfederationCONCACAF
6 more rows

Is MLS Next Pro professional? ›

Launched in March 2022 by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men's soccer league in the United States and Canada that completes the player pathway from MLS NEXT through to MLS first teams.

What age group is MLS Next Pro? ›

Offering a platform for youngsters aspiring to play soccer at the highest level, MLS NEXT features play at Under-13 through Under-19 age groups. The season kicks off this weekend (Sept. 10), and will officially wrap with next summer's MLS NEXT Cup, set for the middle of June.

Is the MLS growing? ›

Globally, the value of the top 20 soccer teams is $2.53 billion, a 10% increase from 2021. The MLS has been expanding. Since 2017 the league has grown from 20 to 28 franchises. St.

Which soccer league has the most parity? ›

Of the top four European football leagues, Germany's Bundesliga has the most parity, but Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have still won all but six titles in the last two decades.

Is MLS a top 10 league? ›

MLS is commonly ranked as the 10th best soccer league in the world, both in terms of popularity and the overall quality of the game.

Will MLS remove salary cap? ›

The league salary cap will remain at $4.9 million for 2021 and 2022 before slowly increasing to just over $7 million for the 2027 season.

Who is the richest Mexican soccer player? ›

Thauvin is currently the highest paid player in Mexican soccer, although his performance has left much to be desired. His salary is $5,500,000 million dollars.

What is the average salary of a Mexican soccer player? ›

While Liga MX does not make salaries public, it has been mentioned in various Mexican news outlets that the average salary for a Liga MX player is $353,730 yearly. That does not include bonuses, sponsorships, or image rights.

What is a single entity structure? ›

Essentially, the single entity structure means that players first sign a contract with the MLS, and the MLS then assigns the available players to each club based on specific distribution guidelines, at which time the team can obtain the player. Teams can trade these rights to any other team at any time,...

What percent of MLS next players go pro? ›

As mentioned above, the percentage is extremely low and currently sits at just 1.4%.

What US state is soccer most popular? ›

Washington is the most soccer-friendly state in the union, and considering the map weighs MLS attendance, that makes sense — the Seattle Sounders are by far the most popular, successful soccer team in the country.

Which college has the most MLS players? ›

66 colleges in total had players drafted by MLS in the four drafts. Of the players still in MLS, UCLA is tops with nine of its alumni still playing in MLS. University of Akron has eight, Notre Dame has seven, an Louisville and UNC have six.

Can Indian players play MLS? ›

Sunil Chhetri and Steven Dias were handed contracts by US-based FIFA registered agent Eddie Rock and told to sign up at the earliest. PANAJI: This is a frontier story with a twist. It is the United States that is now pushing for expansion; in the Indian football context, of course.

How many foreigners are in MLS? ›

League level:First Tier - United States
Number of teams:28 teams
Players:809
Foreigners:459 Players 56.7%
ø-Market value:€1.39m

How many Hispanic players are in MLS? ›

MLS 2022 starts this weekend with Javier Hernández and Carlos Vela as the top Mexican ambassadors in the league. However, they are not alone. There will be more than 20 Mexican players in the U.S.

Do MLS players get paid weekly? ›

For the most part, professional soccer players get paid once every four weeks and this does not relate to how much soccer they play during that time.

Do MLS teams fly private? ›

MLS teams typically fly commercial. Until this season, to hold down costs, teams were given the option of using charters on up to four flight legs per season.

What is the average salary of an MLS player? ›

All told for 2022, the MLS minumum salary is $65,500 and the average MLS salary for non-designated players is $438,728, which represents an increase of $40,975 (10.3%) compared to a year ago.

Can you play MLS team in FIFA? ›

If you ever want to discover a new team or learn more about leagues in other countries, FIFA 23 will offer lots of leagues from all over the world just like FIFA 22. This includes the MLS, which has been included in FIFA since the 1995 edition of the game.

What is MLS in FIFA? ›

FIFA 22 Major League Soccer.

Is MLS a good league? ›

MLS is commonly ranked as the 10th best soccer league in the world, both in terms of popularity and the overall quality of the game. Approximately 2 million TV viewers follow each game, while competitors such as the Premier League have up to 7 million viewers every game.

When was FIFA 23 release? ›

Will FIFA add MLS stadiums? ›

Donk hints at new face scans for MLS players as well as new MLS stadiums in FIFA 23, which the announcement blog also confirms: “The renewed partnership will continue to further MLS' authentic in-game integration, with fans able to play with their favorite MLS clubs, players and stadiums.”

What leagues will be in FIFA 23? ›

FIFA 23 is the only place you can play on the world's biggest stage in both the men's and women's FIFA World Cup™ tournaments, as well as the iconic UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Europa Conference League, CONMEBOL Libertadores, CONMEBOL Sudamericana, Premier League, Bundesliga, and LaLiga Santander.

Is Charlotte FC on FIFA 22? ›

The Charlotte Football Club is sadly not available for players in FIFA 22. The Football club is not mentioned in the official list of teams available currently in the game.

Do MLS teams fly private? ›

MLS teams typically fly commercial. Until this season, to hold down costs, teams were given the option of using charters on up to four flight legs per season.

Is the MLS profitable? ›

MLS revenue from 24 clubs in 2019 was $1.1 billion revenue in 2019. MLS now has 28 clubs playing in 2022. Highest club valuation is LA FC with $860 mil.
...
Fact or fiction: MLS will be the #6 highest in revenue among soccer leagues in 2023.
Leaguerevenue per team
MLS$46M
11 more rows
5 Feb 2022

What is the biggest soccer league? ›

The English Premier League is made up of 20 teams and is the most followed football league in the world, it's also the biggest football league by revenue but well behind the American sports leagues.

Do Europeans like MLS? ›

Currently the MLS is largely seen by European clubs and fans as a place players can go when they're no longer in their prime but aren't quite ready to retire.

Is the MLS growing? ›

Globally, the value of the top 20 soccer teams is $2.53 billion, a 10% increase from 2021. The MLS has been expanding. Since 2017 the league has grown from 20 to 28 franchises. St.

Is the MLS or Mexican league better? ›

Has MLS surpassed Liga MX? The short answer is no, not yet at least. Mexico is still the most competitive league in CONCACAF and MLS recently won the CONCACAF Champions League after more than 20 years, when the Seattle Sounders beat Pumas UNAM last April.

Is FIFA 23 the last one? ›

FIFA 23 will be the last installment in the EA Sports FIFA franchise, but it most certainly doesn't spell the end of the video game. In May, EA Sports and FIFA announced their partnership spanning over 20 years will come to an end in the summer of 2023.

How much is FIFA 23 cost? ›

In the U.S., standard edition FIFA 23 games will cost $59.99 on PS4 and Xbox One, with a bump in price for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S at $69.99.

How much is a FIFA point? ›

All FIFA Points (Microtransactions) Prices in FIFA 22
FIFA Points AmountStandard PriceEA Access Price
100$0.99/ £0.79$0.89/ £0.71
250$2.49/ £1.99$2.24/ £1.79
500$4.99/ £3.99$4.49/ £3.59
6 more rows
23 Sept 2021

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