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Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League

  1. Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League

    Hi. I wanted to share a few short observations that might be useful to others considering a save in one of these leagues, after doing 10+ year stints in the A-League (Melbourne Victory) and in the MLS (Seattle Sounders) in FM 2013.


    1. Being able to build a dynasty. I find it enjoyable to find and develop young players, and then retain the best of them which becomes a core unit for many years, thereby enabling the club to have sustained success and build the facilities and reputation for long term greatness, even when you move on. These five or so players are the players whose history you save, and there is some fondness for them. In the MLS, this is possible -- at least I found that key players will resign for your team at the maximum wage permitted under the salary cap, even if they become "true global superstars" provided that they developed at the club, and the club is reasonably successful. I did not even need to use the MLS "designated player" exceptions to the salary cap to retain them. By contrast, the best players on my A-League team would invariably seek a salary that was above the salary cap. The A-League allows you to pay two players more than the salary cap (one international "marquee" player and one "Australian marquee" player).

    For folks who like to focus on internal youth-based development, re-establish their squad every few years, find gems in the free transfer market, and sell their best players on to the big European sides, the A-League would be fun. It is a pretty even playing field.

    (I don't think this explains the difference in the willingness of MLS players to resign at permitted salaries whereas A-league players would not, I should note that the squad personalities of the teams were different and perhaps that had an effect. Melbourne Victory had a team personality of "highly ambitious," whereas Seattle was "determined" or "professional" at different times. But the phenomenon of asking for more than the club could afford while trying to build a dynasty was something every A-league player did (including all of the players who listed the club as their favorite and who had favored personnel on the squad).

    2. Transfers within the league. The A-League has an unusual rule that I found made the league a little less fun to manage in. The A-league does not allow transfers of players from one A-league team to another. This means that mediocre A-League players that you want to move on have no natural buyers. I released at contract expiry or before a number of decent players who just couldn't earn time on the squad, but I am sure another A-League team could have played. The MLS not only allows transfers between clubs in the league, but allows you to include a lot of interesting things in the transfer. For example, you can sell a player for cash, plus an additional foreign player slot (and the slot can be a permanent transfer, or just for a year to five years). You can also exchange draft picks for players.

    As an aside, the fact that internal transfers of players is not permitted in the A-League makes it harder to pay marquee player salaries and to build a dynasty. The TV + prize + ticket income of even a successful A-League side won't support a well-paid first team. The income needs to be supplemented with a few million in transfer income every year. And that makes it financially more challenging to build the facilities etc. to maintain success.

    3. Internal youth program. Perhaps the main drawback of the MLS was the youth development system. MLS teams have affiliated youth academies, but you cannot influence them or help develop the players in them -- you can't increase their recruiting, hire their coaches or managers, etc. Youth players are generated annually in the affiliated academy, and you can bring them immediately onto your MLS side (either in the first team or the reserves) by offering a contract, but for as long as the player is at the youth academy (which is from 15 or 16 until 18) you can't affect their development.
    In the A-League, you have a youth squad, can hire their coaches, set their training etc. and more generally play a big role in developing the youth players.

    Overall, both leagues were a lot of fun but for folks who want to have a "build a dynasty" kind of play experience would probably enjoy the MLS more.

    Cheers!
    Mordox likes this.

  2. Always wanted to play in the MLS on a career, but found it way too confusing. I tried reading about it first, and never could get my head around some of the rules. It's just too complicated to provide any enjoyment for me personally. Good read though.

  3. I enjoyed my MLS save, but I felt like players never really developed much even after having great seasons.

  4. Hi. Your comment about how players develop in the MLS was interesting.

    I definitely found that to be the case more often than not with my best American prospects from the draft ... I would say a quarter or less of the high potential prospects I drafted panned out. I can think of two who did turn out to be great players.

    By contrast, I think my best foreign prospects did develop well more often then not (a couple flamed out, but overall OK I thought).

    It took me a bit to reply to your post because I wanted to go back to see if I had any saves so I could compare some players and show how they developed over time. I found that I didn't have many saves (I tend to make them when I remember to or when I am passing up a job offer or something like that in case I want to branch a save) ... so can't give a "beginning" and "ending" comparison, but I can show some pretty good development.

    Please note that the players who I am showing were my best players, so there is some selection bias (these were the core players that enabled Seattle to be an NACL contender year after year).

    I've never uploaded screen shots before. Apologies in advance if it doesn't look right.

    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-can-rio_-overview-attributes.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-can-rio_-overview-attributes-2021-.png

    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-alfred-lichaba_-overview-attributes.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-alfred-lichaba_-overview-attributes-2021-.png
    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-jaime-montoya_-overview-attributes.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-jaime-montoya_-overview-attributes-2021-.png
    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-mauricio-sorrentino_-overview-attributes.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-mauricio-sorrentino_-overview-attributes-2021-.png
    Last edited by Zakker; 31/07/2013 at 11:18 AM. Reason: Fixed some screenshots

  5. Wow that's good. I only did 3 seasons in the MLS on my save before I got tapped up to coach the USA team, so I was playing mostly as real players who didn't develop much. It shows the FM scouts don't rate the MLS very much.

  6. Sounders/MLS fan IRL so I enjoyed your OP and this thread!

    I was wondering if you had any American players who ended up being part of your "core" and how much were you able to improve the youth development (academy/recruitment).

  7. I like the Sounders as well! Lived in Seattle a number of years.

    I did have some Americans in the "core." I drafted a regen who developed reasonably well, had a model professional personality, and tended goal for years:

    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-brad-dixon_-1.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-brad-dixon-2.png

    I don't have before and after shots, but these two American regens turned out well. One, a regen named Enriquez, was my first success moving from a low determination (around a 6 I think) and poor personality like unambitious to a resolute character:

    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-gil-enr-quez_-overview-attributes.pngSome thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-kevin-fletcher_-overview-attributes.png

    One last screenshot you might find interesting, because this was a phenomenon that happened to me a few times. I would draft a prospect with a 4 or 5 star potential according to my scouts and whose attributes looked like a good base. I would try to develop them and they just didn't take off. So I would sell the player, often within the MLS to get some draft picks or foreign slots ... and a year or two later (now mid 20s) they would wind up in Europe somewhere. Now, you would think that by mid 20s development would have reached its end, but often these players would skyrocket in abilities once they hit Europe. Here is a fellow who followed this pattern:

    Some thoughts on the MLS and the A-League-fred-rigby_-overview-attributes.png

    As for facilities -- during the 12 years at the club, I got the youth and training facilities to "top" (but for youth facilities, they were labelled "top," but I could still upgrade them -- mainly a budget issue). The facilities were mentioned a few times when players would explain why they signed with Seattle. Upgrading the facilities was a major objective of mine, but I can't say I noticed a boost to training outcomes.

    Hah! Just remember something that an MLS fan would find funny ... The LA Galaxy sacked Bruce Arena in the middle of season one, and after a little while unemployed, he signed on as head of youth development for the Sounders! I was pretty pleased with that!

    Cheers!

  8. Great job with the Sounders. What has your trophy haul been like? If you've won the CONCACAF Champions League, how did you do in the Club World Cup?

    I had a save where I played three seasons with RSL before I took the job as USMNT manager. I did win the CONCACAF CL once and made it to the Club World Cup, but lost to Man Utd in the quarterfinals (not so shocking). With Dempsey's move to Sounders I'm tempted to do another MLS save or go back to my RSL save before I left them. I had a pretty good squad, Teal Bunberry, Freddy Adu, Benny Feilhaber and they had built a bigger 30,000 capacity stadium. I'd really like to win the Club World Cup with an MLS team. That would be a major accomplishment, but I wonder if I'd need to start with a team like the Galaxy, Sounders or Red Bulls who have more financial muscle. Or just try to do it again on my old RSL save ... hmm ...

  9. Looks like you did pretty well in just three seasons, Metalface!
    I tell you, the initiative that Hanauer showed in bringing in Dempsey was reflected well in the game -- the board was very supportive when I played Seattle.

    (The dynamic where the MLS played a hand in determining that Dempsey signed for Seattle and not a team like LA or NY I didn't see ... unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective!)

    Honestly, the CWC was really tough, but it was also a highlight because it was the only time you got to play a really top side (the NACL seemed fairly easy to get through after the team was well established). Toward the end of my run in Seattle I would appear in the CWC fairly regularly out of the NACL but even with a team with several quality regens, getting through to the final was like rolling lucky 7s 2 or 3 times in a row. My memory is pretty hazy, but typically we would draw against a beatable side from Qatar or elsewhere in the Asian CL. Then came a game against the winner of the champions league, in which we did surprisingly well. I remember thinking that they either totally underestimated us or the game gives human managers a pretty solid boost when your team has a chance for a big upset and you tell them just go out and play. The final was a big brazil or argentina side. I can't remember whether we won it once or twice, in part because it was a while ago and because after a few heartbreaking losses in the CWC over the years, where it didn't seem to matter what I did we would go from 1-0 to 1-2... in later years in the games against the big sides, if the Sounders somehow snuck a goal in, I would switch to a more defensive strategy, cross my fingers, and switch the key highlights only and hope they could pull through (mumbling "please win"). I also remember that for a game or two against one of the big sides the Sounders were described as "likely to get something out it" or something like that.

    I should note that the prize money for the CWC for the semifinals onward, is a huge boost to an MLS side!

    I enjoyed the MLS for a long haul save, because by accumulating foreign slots, draft picks, building up facilities, recruiting young players ... after several years you can establish a club that can compete in the CWC (though with your eyes closed in a bunch of nail biters). I do think the financial support and ambition in Seattle helped. I am not sure if RSL would be as open to upgrading everything. Personally I am too biased to play as Galaxy or NYRB! Maybe Houston or DC United?

    Cheers!

  10. I did do pretty well in three seasons. I think the first season I won the Supporters Shield, the second I won the NACL and my third year I won the MLS Cup. I can't remember if I ever won the US Open Cup or not though. After that I wanted to see if I could move to Europe and got the Norwich job where I brought in Jozy Altidore and Timmy Chandler to continue their development. Then the US had a poor Gold Cup, Klinsmann's position was insecure so I mentioned to the media I was interested in the job. They sacked Klinsmann and gave it to me. So I managed Norwich and USA for a bit, then ditched Norwich to just focus on USA where I took them to the World Cup final in 2022. Still, it might be fun to just go back to where I was playing as RSL. Houston could be fun (I live in Austin), or Chicago (currently interviewing for a job there), Sounders or Kansas City who have a really great squad.

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