Reason #14,562 to hate New York City FC: Thanks to their status as Manchester City's kid brother, we have to deal with a lot of people on the other side of the Atlantic writing about MLS that simply don't have a clue.
Not that I blame them completely. I still have a hard time with roster rules from time to time. I don't think anyone who pays attention to MLS hasn't had a "wait, what?" moment when discussing or reading about the league's byzantine structure and roster rules. We just had a player allocated to a team based on a blind draw. Where else in the world in what other sport does that happen?
(The answer is none. Hopefully.)
But back to the issue at hand: this story from Here is the City, evidently a prettier, London-based Business Insider-type site, gleefully listing all the reasons Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips should jump across the Hudson to New York City FC.
Say whatever you will about the story's content -- yeah, calls for our new neighbor to poach the team's leading scorer is the hook here, and yeah, the thought is sickening -- but the logic the author, Jack Beresford, uses to come to the conclusion is stupefying.
He kicks off with Wright-Phillips' record in MLS, which you assume means his record of goal scoring so far. And he'd be right, it is "sensational." The guy is six goals away from the MLS single season record of 27 with eight left to play. But does Beresford actually know this? I'm not sure, because he closes the bit with, "that tally saw him surpass Juan Pablo Angel's record for goals scored in a single season and makes him a valuable commodity to any franchise."
Wright-Phillip's 20 goal mark breaks the New York Red Bulls' single season mark, not the league's. I'd give the benefit of the doubt here, but no distinction is made when one would be so easy to make. Literally, two seconds of googling.
The second point is that, somehow, someway, it'd be a low cost move. Supposedly, it'd take between £500,000 and £1 million (roughly $810,000 to $1.6 million) to get him out of a Red Bulls shirt.
But seeing as the Red Bulls received offers for Wright-Phillips after his long distance crack against Bayern Munich in the All-Star Game, along with England's propensity to treat MLS like Wal-Mart, you realize how crazy that figure is. There's the likelihood that the Red Bulls already received offers of similar size, and that doesn't even include a significant mark-up for a rival.
And all that assumes that MLS teams can actually buy players from each other. They can't. MLS owns player contracts.
Teams can effectively buy players with allocation money, which give teams breathing room around the salary cap. They can trade players, international slots and draft picks. But they can't straight up buy players with cash. Even if NYCFC were to make a play for Wright-Phillips, they'd need to package together one hell of a deal to get it done (assuming the Red Bulls will even entertain offers for him).
Even worse, it simply ignores that the Red Bulls are owned by (and named after, much to our chagrin) a multi-billion dollar soft drink company. I mean, it's not the deputy prime minister/royal family member of an oil-rich Middle Eastern state, but it's something.
His third point is that there's a Manchester City connection there already, as Wright-Phillips came through their system. A fair point and one we can't really take issue with. His fourth point is that Wright-Phillips would be a nice depth option for Manchester City and that he could be "drafted in" if he signs with the New York version.
But that's not how NYCFC is going to work. Even if Manchester City wanted to use the team like that, MLS is limiting the team to four loan players. If Man City wanted to "draft" Wright-Phillips in, they'd have to pay for him. Then loan him back when they're done with him.
It's possible for Manchester City to treat their New York branch like a farm team. They just can't do it so blatantly.
But, hey, at least he's not trashing the league like some of his countrymen are wont to do.
No one ever said we like these rules, but it's how the league is set up. They're the reason the league has survived as long as it has and the reason it's thriving now. And if you're going to be able to write about the league, you've got to be at least cursorily aware of it's weird structure. It's something I've been guilty of in the past myself.
The bad news is that this is going to get much, much, much worse before it gets better. If you thought you were sick of agents using MLS as boogey man to get more favorable terms for their clients in European press before or a lot of dot connecting on the part of soccer writers over there, you haven't seen anything yet.