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How to Get Away with Blackmail in MLS

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The Discovery List mechanism in MLS is being gamed by teams simply to "blackmail" other clubs and needs to change.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arena didn't mince words this week when he called the MLS Discovery Lists process essentially a "sped up blackmail job". As he reaches for his checkbook to pay the certain fine to the league for his comments, he'll at least have consolation in knowing he's totally right. The system's got to change.

When the Galaxy signed Sebastian Lletget this past week in an attempt to improve an ailing midfield, the team announcement included a short clause saying they acquired the right to sign him "from the New England Revolution in exchange for $50,000 in Allocation Money." This seemingly innocuous phrase in the announcement represented the process that drew Arena's ire, and rightfully so.

Later in the week Chris Megaloudis, a player agent, tweeted out more details from the process to sign Lletget and what he thought were some suggestions on how to fix the broken system.

How To Get Away With Blackmail

Based on the tweet above, it seems there is a simple recipe in place to get away with blackmail in MLS:

  1. Have no conversations with a player or agent.
  2. Don't actively scout said player.
  3. Let player take part in preseason with club you'd like to blackmail.
  4. For good measure, make sure player misses two months in the process. Why just make money when you can also keep the player sidelined from his previous team?
  5. File Discovery List claim.
  6. Laugh all the way to the bank with $50,000.
Now that the Galaxy have the recipe for how to get away with blackmail in MLS, maybe they can use it a few times this semester to help pay for the fine Arena is sure to incur for his accurate assessment of the situation.

Fixing The System

There are a myriad of ways that this process could be fixed to actually serve the players and teams involved, instead of being used for blackmail. Megaloudis suggested a $100k fee for filing a discover claim, removing the incentive for teams to do what they did to Lletget. Arena wants to be able to discover players and sign them without the current system. Whatever the answer is, the process of signing players to the league and allocating them to teams in an equitable fashion has to be better than a "sped up blackmail job".

Player allocation processes in MLS continue to be an opaque system. We seem to learn more about the rules as each unique case comes up. For MLS to succeed as a league, it must become more transparent which would allow for loopholes like this one to be closed and no longer exploited. Fans watch MLS because they love the beautiful game. They want to see the game played, but they want more than that. They want to see the world's game become America's game.

Bruce Arena is right: the current MLS Discovery lists are little more than blackmail jobs. They rob the teams of allocation money and the players from playing time. The beautiful game deserves beautiful rules both on and off the field, and we as fans should expect no less.