Will the Chinese Super League Hurt MLS?

by Luis Eduardo Flores

Over the last couple of years; we have see top football stars leave their respective UEFA teams in favor of an MLS team. As we know; in recent years, MLS has been able to sign high profile players (ex: Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill). These moves have been met with criticism and humor on behalf of long time soccer fans. Despite the comments; those players managed to fine success in MLS.

One might assume that with MLS signing in these players it will draw the attention of other players. Well, yes; but don’t forget that the salary is what mainly draws the attention of these players. Either ways; MLS is always seeking new talent from UEFA, but they are not the only ones.

Most recently; the Chinese Super League has been looking into the market and acquiring former UEFA stars. So, what does this mean for MLS? The CSL is competition; plain and simple.

LEF 3.21.16 1Ok, we know the history of MLS and its modern day struggles to assert itself in the American sports market and soccer on a global scale. China is pretty much trying to do the same thing; assert itself in the sports market altogether. In 2011, there was a decline (per statista.com); as it valued at $2.5 million (US dollars). Since then, it started increase in growth and value. That’s nothing compared to the $63 billion value (2015) of the American sports market.

Throughout the past year; CSL has been willing to pop out more money to sign more players. After the end of the last MLS season, the New York Red Bulls’ Tim Cahill signed with Shanghai Shenhua for an approximate $9.6 million deal (per season). Yeah; that hurt the Red Bulls; but that’s a different story.
LEF 3.21.16 2Current star forward Bradley Wright Philips’ salary $600,000 (per season); which cannot compare to Cahill’s. If BWP was in a salary base scenario in which he had to choose between the Red Bulls and a CSL team; the truth is that he will most likely sign with a CSL team, since they can provide him with larger salary. This is just one example and there are many more that can be used.

Don’t forget; CSL does have salary cap and not every player is willing to sign with a CSL; due to loyalty. No one should expect Messi to leave Barcelona anytime soon. The league can possibly shoot itself in its own foot if their focal point is signing in new players instead of investing in local talent. A year ago in MLS, signing rumors were flying around. While that’s great and all; we had to be realistic. The salary cap plays a huge role. MLS has been careful on how much they are able to spend on new signings. David Villa ($5.6 million), Kaka ($6.6 million), dos Santos ($4 million), Gerrard ($6.2 million), and Pirlo ($2 milllion) all have huge guaranteed salaries. The league will definitely love to have the likes of Chicharito (to Orlando City) and Ronaldo (to LA Galaxy); but the teams have their limits and they will not exceed those limits to sign them. Imagine if it was CSL that signed in these players; how long will they be able to keep them? We can’t forget that their domestic players also need a salary.

We know that media mogul Li Ruigang’s China Media Capital signed a deal in October to the exclusive rights to broadcast CSL for the next five years. Ok; so how else is CSL going to spend whatever is left of the $1.3 billion?

Here is one huge advantage that CSL has over MSL; this one hurts. The Chinese government supports sports; especially soccer, since it can move the country’s economy. Does MLS have that support? No. As mentioned in a previous article; the NFL is the face of the American sports market and a huge factor in the US economy. If CSL does become a huge financial and competitive success quicker than MLS, well it’s sad to say that MLS will face even more struggles.

Actually; let’s not get carried away. As the CSL continues to grow, out on the field how will CSL’s teams deal with other AFC teams in the Champions League. Keep that in mind.
Don’t worry MLS; necessity is the mother of innovation.

Photo: Chinese Super League, mirror.co.uk

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