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Will Major League Soccer become more transparent with their fans?

So one of the issues I have had for some years with MLS are simple issues of transparency, with a single entity that runs everything it leaves a lot of room for fans and media to wonder about what they don't know. We saw this year some things that many fans and media members considered real inconsistency from the league on issues of discipline and officiating. We saw for the first time ever in MLS the league review plays after the match and try punish some types of behavior when it comes to diving and simulation, in the past fouls and plays that result in injuries have been reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee but this year we saw them move to punish

instances of obvious simulation and/or embellishment that directly impact the game will be subject to severe discipline, including fine, suspension or both
MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodríguez

We saw this applied twice during the season, but were left wondering in some cases why there was no punishment and no comment from the DC about the unpunished incident?

In addition to question about the disciplinary committee, there is an area of MLS that has long had fans scratching their heads, it is of course allocation money. The MLS slush fund that renders the salary cap meaningless when these mystery funds are applied. The league releases the salary cap amount, the players union releases how much players make, but when these numbers simply don't lineup, it most often is allocation money that has created the gaps. The current MLS policy on sharing information about allocation money is:

To protect the interests of MLS and its clubs during discussions with prospective players or clubs in other leagues, amounts of allocation money held by each club will not be shared publicly. (Similarly, most clubs in other countries do not announce the amount of money they plan to spend during a given transfer window.)

yeah, right but when we remember that all deals done by MLS teams are actually deals done and approved by MLS via the single entity structure that simply doesn't hold water with me.

After the jump, a bit more about allocation money, and why I believe MLS will be much more transparent about both gray areas in 2012.

So the question is often asked where does allocation money come from, well I don't believe this is an exhaustive list it does shed some light on potential sources:

Allocation Money
Allocation money is a resource available to clubs in addition to their respective salary budgets.

A club may receive allocation money for:

  1. failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs;
  2. the transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value;
  3. expansion status;
  4. qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League;

Each year the MLS Competition Committee determines the allocation amount to be made available to each club. Allocation money can be traded by clubs. Allocation money does not count against a club's salary budget and can be used:

  • To sign players new to MLS (that is, a player who did not play in MLS during the previous season).
  • To re-sign an existing MLS player, subject to League approval.
  • To "buy-down" a player's salary budget charge below the League maximum of $335,000.
  • In connection with the exercise of an option to purchase a player's rights or the extension of a player's contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.

We also know that the league has granted teams allocation money for players who have gone on loan to other teams, when it has impacted their ability to play in MLS matches. Of course we don't know the amounts that are granted, we don't know how long allocation money lasts or much more than what you see above.

So as a person who isn't very trusting when there are secrets held from the public, I thought that it was worth taking a couple minutes of Sr VP of Player Relations Todd Durbin and EVP of Competition Nelson Rodriguez's time at the MLS Supporters' Summit to ask them about adding more transparency in these area's and I have to admit I was surprised by their responses, even more that they were posted on the MLS website:

So will they actually do what they talked about, I have very high hopes that they will on both topics. They can take a lot of wind out of conspiracy theories and those who may believe that the league doesn't operate on a level playing field for all teams by simply making information available. Heck I am OK if this information is made public, but they should be willing to discuss it with the media when question come up, but clearly full transparency would be the best way for the league to go.

Time will tell.