In the summer of 2016, an almost-18-year-old Weston McKennie — a player in the FC Dallas academy system — opted to seek his soccer fortunes at Schalke in Germany. McKennie has done well, becoming a regular starter. His success, and more players following his path to Europe, have caused Major League Soccer to rethink its academy policies.
Around 2000, FIFA introduced a system to help reward small clubs and youth academies that would develop players but then lose them for nothing in exchange. One, called “training compensation,” mandated a series of fees paid to clubs that trained young players who went on to sign their first pro contracts in another country. Another, called “solidarity payments,” mandated more fees to be sent to those youth clubs when the player was later sold.
MLS has never participated in this approach, partly because the league wanted to take players from other non-MLS American youth academies, sell them abroad and keep the transfer fee rather than send money to the developing academy.
Now that the foreign teams are training players such as McKennie, though, the league doesn’t want to lose them for nothing. It’s a financial incentive for those academies, but not everyone is happy about it, especially the MLS Players Association, which views it as a restriction on player movement.
• The International Center for Sports Studies released a study of announced attendance in soccer leagues around the world, and both Liga MX (fourth) and MLS (eighth) landed solidly in the top 10 for average fans per game. Only the Big Five European leagues and the Chinese league drew better than MLS. Mexico topped every league except the top divisions in Germany, England, and Spain.
• Eventually, fans in favor of MLS introducing promotion and relegation are going to get their way. Not because MLS has finally climbed on board the pro/rel train, but because the league is too addicted to nine-figure expansion fees to stop growing. The league’s new target number, announced this week, is 30 teams, with Sacramento and St. Louis the front-runners to be added to the list. No other top-tier soccer league has more than 26 teams.
Premier League: Tottenham at Manchester City, 6:30 a.m. Saturday, NBCSN. On Wednesday, Spurs prevailed over Man City in one of the great Champions League quarterfinals, winning 4-4 on aggregate after instant replay disallowed a last-gasp Man City goal. Both teams have a lot at stake.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: email@example.com