For fans of our beloved domestic league, the annual elimination of the last MLS club from the CONCACAF Champion's League is always a bitter event. The MLS website message boards become flooded with Liga MX fans, Liga MX bandwagoners, or Eurosnobs who crow endlessly about the league's inferiority.
For those that like to engage in any kind of online discussion the days that follow involve a mixture of soccer-soulsearching and flame-war evasion tactics (or combat tactics, if you're into the flame-war thing). How is our league constantly being eliminated when teams like the LA Galaxy are as strong as they appear to be?
After contacting the sports physicians/coroners at MLS HQ, I was leaked the following document. This is an EXCLUSIVE report only made available to Big D Soccer:
"A quick autopsy of the battered MLS corpse shows the primary cause of death. An examination has revealed traces of salary cap poisoning, consistent with Salary Cap (Salorial Caphione HCl) being introduced into MLS' food or gatorade.
The signs of salary cap poisoning are not immediately apparent, and like mercury poisoning they are only evident after prolonged exposure. Symptoms include a lack of quality depth, inadequate team selection options and mediocre player-replacement levels. When exhaustion begins to set in around the 65th minute, or sometimes before the match even begins, the team's brain (in this case Bruce Arena or Sigi Schmid) signals the auxiliary glands (assistant coaches in laymen's terms) to begin infusing player-replacements into the blood stream.
Normally, in a strong and fully-formed league, player-replacement levels are adequate enough to compensate for the people lost to exhaustion, allowing the team to continue performing at an acceptable level.
However, when salary cap poisoning occurs, player replacement levels are inadequate, the catalysts for on field change stripped of much of their potency. Weakened by the cap, the player-replacements cannot execute at levels that can sustain the team's performance, debilitating the unit as a whole and making it far more suceptible to opponents' strikes.
Both teams show bruises on the legs and present signs of high lactic acid buildup, as well as myoglobinuria present in the bladder and elevated creatine kinase in the blood, consistent with exhaustion and muscle failure. This reflects the theory that the the Galaxy and Sounders fought fiercely until their dying breath.
Traces of Herculez Gomez' hair has been found under Zach Scott's fingernails, and pieces of tissue and bone belonging to Carlos Quintero has been found lodged between the teeth of DeAndre Yedlin. This is consistent with the pervailing theory that a fierce struggle kept the Sounders alive longer than would have been possible otherwise.
Given the signs of exhaustion and the weakness of the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders' continental depth, this team concludes that the cause of death is:
Systemic Failure Over Two Legs aggravated by a chronic case of salary cap poisoning."
Depth is one of the single biggest issues preventing MLS teams from seriously challenging the top teams in the continent. When your bench is made up of "affordable and smart buys", your team simply cannot hope to challenge powerhouses like Santos Laguna and UNAM Pumas with regularity. Real Salt Lake's trip to the final a few years ago set unrealistic expectations, and now many fans across the league expect regular semi-final or final appearances.
If you remove the salary cap completely however, this will lead to a Haves vs. Have-nots scenario which will effectively eliminate the parity that makes this league intriguing. That same parity allows teams that struggle for years to still compete via guts, luck or other random factors. Those random successful moments for inadequate teams are crucial to keep fans from completely abandoning the team.
Given the issues associated with each option, what is the lesser of these evils? Do you leave the salary cap in place? Do you change it? Do you remove it completely?
MLS needs to figure out a better answer soon though, or their teams' performance in the CCL might not improve in the future.