One of the reasons North Americans have never fully taken to the sport of soccer--particularly club soccer--is that its rules and customs are unfamiliar to us.
No playoffs. Cup competitions. International dates taking star players away. Many top leagues instead of one clear one. Player loans.
The latter is currently a big topic in the news as David Beckham prepares to spend two months with AC Milan this off-season. Although the hard core soccer guy understands that loans are a part of big-time soccer (although they are usually the other way - smaller team gets good player that can't get playing time on big team) the news has been looked at as the beginning of the end of Becks great American adventure by soccer/MLS-doubters.
Beckham will be back with the Galaxy in April. He's under contract and there is no way that MLS is prepared to sell him--the optics would be horrible. However, that doesn't mean that all is well on the Mr. Posh front.
SI's Grant Wahl is reporting that Beckham has player's option at the end of the third year of his five year contract.
This is new news. Previously, there has not been mention of an option in his contract. Perhaps MLS doesn't want to answer questions about why he might want to go back to Europe.
Unless there is significant changes to the way MLS allows its teams to fill out their rosters you can wave good-bye to Beckham at the end of the 2009 season. He's be stupid to stay. Not because MLS players are horrible and undeserving of his presence, but because MLS salary cap rules are far too restrictive and do not allow teams to surround top players with worthwhile teammates. Sure, you can go out and sign a Beckham. Just don't expect to have a chance in hell of winning.
I've gone over this a bit over at The 24th Minute, but right now the cap hit on a designated player in MLS is $400,000. It's next to impossible to build a team with a DP if you want significant depth. Of all the team's in MLS with a DP only Chicago is a legitimate championship contender. DC United finds itself out of the playoffs for the first time in years after changing its approach this off-season to go the DP route (double DP actually).
If MLS wants to keep Beckham--and it should try to--it needs to eliminate the cap hit altogether. That way, teams that take the risk of bring in a DP will be able to get the right supporting cast around him. MLS needs more David Beckhams. It can't afford to lose the one it has.
Cross posted at The 24th Minute