It Seems To Me. . .
Through complicated procedure, Jermaine Jones winds up with New England Revolution.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, September 11, 2014) -- Major League Soccer operates under a dizzying blizzard of rules and regulations. Few outside the league office seem to understand them all.
In fact, trying to understand them is like trying to hit a moving target because some regulations, which modify others, are often unannounced. Long-held rules can be changed on the fly, or simply ignored, when the league wants to ignore them.
This brings us to the saga of how United States men's midfielder Jermaine Jones has come to be playing for the New England Revolution.
Jones, a German-American who has lived his whole life in Germany, has spent the last seven seasons playing for Schalke 04 in the German Bundesliga. Midway through last season, he was told that his playing time would be reduced because he did not fit into Schalke's new scheme, which calls for more scoring out of the midfield. So fearful of U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann's edict that players must be playing full-time for their clubs, Jones got Schalke to agree to loan him to Turkish team Besiktas for the second half of last season.
After an excellent showing at this summer's World Cup in Brazil, Jones had multiple offers from European teams, but with a young family, he thought he would explore joining MLS and living fulltime in the U.S. So a convoluted saga began.
Jones had some very specific demands in mind if he were to join MLS. He already owns a house in Southern California, so he wanted to join either the Los Angeles Galaxy or Chivas USA. He also had a specific salary in mind, based on what he could earn in Europe.
Keep in mind that MLS is a single-entity operation and that the league, as a whole, owns all the player contracts and assigns them to specific teams. If MLS agrees to pay a player $387,500 or less a season, the money comes out of the central player salary pool. If more than $387,500, the player is called a "designated player" and any salary in excess of $387,500 is paid by the team.
Usually, DPs join teams through what is called the "discovery process." Clubs tell the league they want to acquire a DP and the league and the team negotiates a salary with the player. Teams are limited to three DPs unless they purchase or trade a DP slot from another team.
Reportedly, Chivas was not willing to meet Jones' salary demands. The Galaxy was, but LA already had the maximum number of DPs. More importantly, the league office feared adding Jones to the Galaxy would disrupt the balance of power.
So Jones was told landing in Los Angeles was out. He was not willing to drop his salary demands very much, so the league its clubs that Jones was available as DP in a specific salary range.
MLS has established an allocation process for bringing U.S. national-team players playing abroad back into the league. Teams are ranked in an order, based on a number of factors, primarily where they finished last season. Theoretically, the first team on the list has first crack at a returning player and the league goes down the list until a taker is found. A team which chooses a player drops to the bottom of the list.
But wait. Apparently, MLS has developed a new system for allocating "a designated player of a certain threshold," (Read this to mean a very good player wanting to join or rejoin the league). In those cases, MLS decides where a player should go, essentially for the good of the league as a whole. Using this previously unknown system, midfielder Michael Bradley ended up earning his millions in Toronto and striker Clint Dempsey similarly rewarded in Seattle.
The Chicago Fire said it was willing to meeting Jones' salary demands, so meetings ensued between Jones, MLS and the Fire. Eventually, Jones said he was willing to play in Chicago, so a deal was seemingly locked up. Then, at the last minute, the New England Revolution weighed in and locked up Jones by meeting his salary demands.
Now, MLS had to invent yet another disposal method and did -- a blind draw. It was held and New England came out the winner, thus Jones is now plying his trade in Foxborough, Mass. .
In his first two matches, Jones has already had a positive impact on the Revs. How he got there has left many fans (and apparently a few club general managers) scratching their heads in wonder. All should realize that any rule under which MLS operates can be changed, circumvented or simply ignored by the league when it decides circumstances dictate it.