Op-Ed: Why MLS Is Ruining American Soccer

I was in Orlando covering the USSF Presidential Election in February 2018, and the obvious public relationship between USSF and MLS was a little disheartening. The seemingly unlimited “conflicts of interest” topics that came up publicly throughout the process- from Kathy Carter offering a position to one of the biggest soccer agents in the country (who represents a large majority of MLS elite players) if she were elected, to the weird huddle off to the side during the election of MLS and USSF brain trusts after the second round of voting which resulted in a 27 PERCENT jump in favor of Carlos Cordeiro (and a 23% decrease from Kathy Carter’s votes):

The constant questions and speculation about the Athlete’s Council and their votes, a number of soccer reporters seemingly ignoring certain stories, the numerous common financial interests between MLS, SUM, USSF and major TV Networks Fox and ESPN, the fact that Eric Wynalda was suddenly no longer with Fox following his Presidential Campaign, Hope Solo receiving a standing ovation following a speech that basically said USSF was completely corrupt. The list goes on, during an election process that featured public mud-slinging and political bashing following the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Then came Jermaine Jones, who said that the blind draw orchestrated by MLS between the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire which was supposed to decide where he would play following his move from Europe never actually happened, and insisted that his agent (the same agent who Kathy Carter promised a position to) came and told him he would be playing in New England.

Leading up to the United States’ must-win match with Trinidad and Tobago, US Manager Bruce Arena- who has coached in MLS for a number of years and who many were skeptical of from the time he was announced- also started making some rather strange comments and decisions. The day before the critical qualifying match, he went on a rant about how he would love to see some of the “European Hotshots” try to qualify in CONCACAF, a statement that came off as either a) so naive that top European teams like Spain or France couldn’t qualify in arguably the easiest qualifying region in the world that maybe he was losing it, or b) so pro-American (and, honestly, pro-MLS) that his loyalty to his country was maybe a bit blinding.

Then you realize that Arena didn’t call Europe-based Fabian Johnson into camp for those important last few qualifying matches (resulting in Kellyn Acosta having to spend time at left back vs T&T). He left Geoff Cameron (a regular starter in the EPL for the past few seasons and one of our best defenders) on the bench in favor of Matt Besler. And then, out comes Danny Williams with this gem of a quote:

Obviously I spoke to the boys when I was in Portugal. Everybody has a different view. I heard from a few people that they tried to ‘market the MLS’ a bit more in the [World Cup] qualifying games and get a name for the MLS. At the end of the day it shouldn’t be about that. It should be about quality and bringing the best players and having a plan. That is it. It is not only the U.S. that failed. Holland failed. Italy. Chile. This is unbelievable. Something is obviously going wrong because other smaller nations, they are speeding up their process. When I look at Iceland, they are a small country but they are actually playing at the World Cup.

Then Paul Arriola signs a massive deal with MLS side DC United (the most expensive deal in the club’s history), and come to find out it was actually (former DC United manager) Bruce Arena himself who told Arriola he should make the move.

Maybe this is all a collection of events that MLS felt was necessary as damage control, following the constant damning criticism of the overall quality of MLS from previous USMNT manager (and one of the all-time greatest strikers in the world)  Jurgen Klinnsman. Whatever accounts for all of these coincidences, one thing seemed certain during qualifying: MLS had some influence over what players were selected and showcased, and those selections were usually pro-MLS.

This all makes today’s news that MLS will offer financial compensation to MLS clubs for the purchase and development of INTERNATIONAL youth players even more frustrating. Throughout the USSF Presidential Election, youth development was one of the hottest topics out there. Everyone became an expert on what we need to do better to help develop more quality US Soccer players. The “college vs Europe” debate continued to heat up. Training compensation and solidarity payments both became common knowledge as we debated how we can help US Youth Clubs develop more domestic talent. During Qualifying, the “pro-MLS” bias and obvious favoritism towards the selection of certain US-based players was to the point where Arena himself could have been wearing a MAGA hat and nobody would have noticed. Now the league is going to put a financial compensation structure in place to help purchase and develop INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS?! It baffles the mind.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the US Soccer Development Academy, you have MLS clubs and non-MLS clubs competing with each other, but it’s not exactly a level playing field. Non-MLS (and USYSA clubs) are basically out there on their own in terms of their clubs’ financial earnings. They’re responsible for improving facilities, paying for field rentals, and covering the numerous costs associated with being a USSDA club, resulting in some parents investing THOUSANDS of dollars each year on club fees, travel costs on weekends for matches, getting their kids to 3-4 training sessions per week. MLS Clubs typically have more resources at their disposal, but as someone who spent a few years as an assistant in USSDA, I’m familiar with the multiple sacrifices that both parents and kids (can’t play for their high school teams, having to do their homework in the car every night, etc.) make while playing at such a competitive level (USSDA and USYSA) and it’s EXTREMELY disheartening to hear that, instead of MLS stepping in and offering financial incentives to improve youth development efforts for our own players, they’ve decided to help every MLS franchise owner who paid the $150million franchise fee with another source of revenue by providing them with the funds (and, likely, resources) to go out, buy a few youth international players, bring them to the States, and sell them for a profit a few seasons later.

This will obviously be taking away even more opportunities from US-based players, during a time when more Division 1 NCAA programs are offering scholarships to International players, there are more International players getting first-team minutes in MLS than in the past, forcing top young American talent to spend a few seasons in USL before hopefully breaking into the first team in MLS (which continues to look less and less likely as each year passes). The MLS Draft has basically become irrelevant over the past few seasons, and today’s news is yet another reminder why MLS is limiting the overall potential for soccer in the United States.

I don’t even need to go into the MLS and SUM partnership which obviously plays a big part in the growing number of people who don’t trust MLS’ true intentions, which always seems to be about one thing: money. This is no different. The constant over-exaggeration of attendance numbers at every MLS match at the beginning of the season, the league forcing individual MLS clubs to tweet out and promote matches which feature two different teams (which DC United called MLS out on a few months ago), and this season they seemed to be stooping to a new low- Tweeting out transfer rumors like Balotelli and Wayne Rooney to DC United before the transfers ever even materialized.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on promotion and relegation. MLS (together with USSF) continue their desperate efforts to ignore the general public’s outcries to recognize a second division in order to introduce pro/rel, but instead of looking at the expansion that comes along with pro/rel as a way to add more teams and actually improve overall development opportunities for United States players, they are more focused on the $150 million franchise fees that they can collect each time a new team is added.

Right now there are 23 MLS teams, let’s say 28 players on each team’s roster. Once the league gets to, lets say 26 teams, that is a total of 728 roster spots that are available.

If the league were, instead, able to evolve into two divisions with, say 20 teams in each division, that’s a total of 1,120 roster spots that are available. And on top of it, the league is now able to introduce teams in smaller markets and in markets where they have no presence at all, allowing the sport to flourish in more markets and introducing the passion that comes with a promotion/relegation battle to the players, fans, and next generation of youth players. Instead, a short-term money grab of $150 million for each MLS franchise, similar to the short-term solution that was announced today that will see MLS clubs purchase young International players and sell them for a profit in a few years.

If MLS actually cared more about youth development in our country and less about short-term ideas on how they can make more money for their team owners, they would not have introduced a “youth transfer fee” system which will limit the number of first team opportunities for our domestic youth players.

The league is clearly more concerned with Tweets which will result in more clicks, commercials which try to brainwash people into believing “this is OUR soccer”, fake attendance numbers so they can show their 2% increase to the TV Networks every season, and trying to sell the fake promises to the general American public that MLS has the quality on the field and overall infrastructure to compete with other top leagues in the world.

It’s all based on lies and money, and if you think it will be HELPING our US Men’s National Team over the next 4-8-12 years, I hate to say it but you’re drinking the Kool-Aid.


MLS Team Stats for Attendance, All Stars, Playoff Appearances, Top 10 Goal Scorers and More

I’ve been working on compiling a spreadsheet full of team stats for each MLS Franchise, which I’m planning on using in an MLS op-ed piece which should be completed within the next few weeks. I thought I would share the data and make a few notes.

The spreadsheet contains data that relates to the following 10 factors for each current MLS franchise:

  1. Number of playoff appearances since 2008 (the last 10 seasons)
  2. Number of conference finals appearances since 2008
  3. Number of MLS Cup appearances since 2008
  4. Number of MLS Cups won since 2008
  5. Number of MLS All-Star appearances from players of each MLS franchise since 2008
  6. Number of MLS Top 10 goal scorers from each MLS franchise since 2008
  7. Number of times each MLS franchise has been in the top 8 of team salaries since 2011 (data before 2011 was hard to come by)
  8. Number of times each MLS franchise has been in the bottom 8 of team salaries since 2011
  9. Number of times each MLS franchise has been in the top 8 of season attendance since 2011 (data before 2011 was hard to come by)
  10. Number of times each MLS franchise has been in the bottom 8 of season attendance since 2011 (data before 2011 was hard to come by)

Below are the top 10 teams for each category:

Most Playoff Appearances Since 2008

Number of times each MLS franchise has made it to the MLS Playoffs since 2008.

Team Playoff Appearances since 2008
New York Red Bulls 9
LA Galaxy 8
Real Salt Lake 8
Seattle Sounders FC 8
Sporting Kansas City 8
Columbus Crew 7
Houston Dynamo 6
FC Dallas 5
New England Revolution 5
Chicago Fire 4
Colorado Rapids 4
D.C. United 4
Vancouver Whitecaps 4
Montreal Impact 3
Portland Timbers 3
San Jose Earthquakes 3
Toronto FC 3
New York City 2
Philadelphia Union 2
Atlanta United 1
Orlando City FC 0

Most Conference Finals Appearances

Number of times each MLS franchise has made it to the MLS Conference Finals since 2008.

Team Conference Final Appearances since 2008
LA Galaxy 5
Houston Dynamo 5
Real Salt Lake 4
Seattle Sounders FC 4
New York Red Bulls 3
Columbus Crew 3
Sporting Kansas City 2
FC Dallas 2
Chicago Fire 2
Colorado Rapids 2
Portland Timbers 2
Toronto FC 2
New England Revolution 1
D.C. United 1
Montreal Impact 1
San Jose Earthquakes 1

MLS Finals Appearances Since 2008

Number of times each MLS franchise has made it to the MLS Finals since 2008.

LA Galaxy 4
Houston Dynamo 2
Real Salt Lake 2
Seattle Sounders FC 2
Columbus Crew 2
Toronto FC 2
New York Red Bulls 1
Sporting Kansas City 1
FC Dallas 1
Colorado Rapids 1
Portland Timbers 1
New England Revolution 1

MLS Cups Won Since 2008

Number of times each MLS franchise has won an MLS Cup since 2008.

Team MLS Cups Won Since 2008
LA Galaxy 3
Real Salt Lake 1
Seattle Sounders FC 1
Columbus Crew 1
Toronto FC 1
Sporting Kansas City 1
Colorado Rapids 1
Portland Timbers 1

MLS All-Stars Since 2008

Number of times each MLS franchise has had a player voted to an MLS All-Star game since 2008.

Team MLS All-Stars Since 2008
LA Galaxy 29
Sporting Kansas City 23
Real Salt Lake 21
Seattle Sounders FC 20
Houston Dynamo 20
New York Red Bulls 17
Chicago Fire 16
Toronto FC 13
FC Dallas 13
Columbus Crew 11
Colorado Rapids 11
Portland Timbers 8
New England Revolution 8
D.C. United 8
Philadelphia Union 8
Montreal Impact 7
San Jose Earthquakes 7
Vancouver Whitecaps 5
New York City 5
Orlando City FC 5
Atlanta United 3

Number of Top 10 Goal Scorers Since 2008

Number of times each MLS franchise has had a player finish in MLS Top 10 Goals Scored since 2008.

Team Top 10 Goal Scorers Since 2008
LA Galaxy 13
New York Red Bulls 11
Seattle Sounders FC 9
Toronto FC 7
San Jose Earthquakes 6
Real Salt Lake 5
Chicago Fire 5
Montreal Impact 5
Columbus Crew 4
Colorado Rapids 4
Portland Timbers 4
Philadelphia Union 4
Vancouver Whitecaps 4
Orlando City FC 4
FC Dallas 3
D.C. United 3
New York City 3
Sporting Kansas City 2
New England Revolution 2
Houston Dynamo 1
Atlanta United 1

MLS Salaries- Top 8

The number of times each MLS franchise has finished the season in the top 8 of MLS team salaries for each season, dating back to 2011.

Team Top 8 Team Salaries since 2011
LA Galaxy 7
Seattle Sounders FC 7
Toronto FC 7
Vancouver Whitecaps 5
New York Red Bulls 4
Montreal Impact 4
FC Dallas 4
Chicago Fire 3
Portland Timbers 3
Orlando City FC 3
New York City 3
San Jose Earthquakes 1
Real Salt Lake 1
Columbus Crew 1
Colorado Rapids 1
Sporting Kansas City 1
New England Revolution 1
Atlanta United 1
Philadelphia Union 0
D.C. United 0
Houston Dynamo 0

MLS Salaries- Bottom 8

The number of times each MLS franchise has finished the season in the bottom 8 of MLS team salaries for each season, dating back to 2011.

Team Bottom 8 Team Salaries since 2011
Houston Dynamo 7
Columbus Crew 5
Colorado Rapids 5
Real Salt Lake 4
Sporting Kansas City 4
New England Revolution 4
Philadelphia Union 4
D.C. United 4
FC Dallas 3
Chicago Fire 3
New York Red Bulls 2
Montreal Impact 2
Portland Timbers 2
San Jose Earthquakes 1

MLS Attendance- Top 8

The number of times each MLS franchise has finished the season in the top 8 of MLS team attendance for each season, dating back to 2011.

Team Top 8 Team Attendance since 2011
LA Galaxy 7
Seattle Sounders FC 7
Portland Timbers 6
Vancouver Whitecaps 6
Toronto FC 5
Houston Dynamo 4
Sporting Kansas City 4
New York Red Bulls 3
Montreal Impact 3
Orlando City FC 3
New York City 3
Real Salt Lake 2
Philadelphia Union 1
San Jose Earthquakes 1
Atlanta United 1

MLS Attendance- Bottom 8

The number of times each MLS franchise has finished the season in the top 8 of MLS team attendance for each season, dating back to 2011.

Team Bottom 8 Team Attendance since 2011
Columbus Crew 7
Colorado Rapids 7
D.C. United 7
FC Dallas 7
Chicago Fire 7
New England Revolution 5
San Jose Earthquakes 4
Philadelphia Union 3
Houston Dynamo 2
Sporting Kansas City 1
Montreal Impact 1

2018 MLS Combine Guest Blog Post: Chris Lema, Georgetown

This is a guest blog post from 2017 Georgetown captain Chris Lema, a New York Red Bull Academy product who has been involved with the US Youth National Team at both U-17 and U-20 levels. Chris spent the past few days at the MLS Combine in Orlando, as he prepares for Sunday’s MLS Draft. Chris was nice enough to share his Combine experience thus far with DMVSoccer.com.

Chris Lema Georgetown

The Days Before

Leading up to the combine, my nerves were calm, but I was excited to get back in touch with a soccer ball. Being that my Georgetown team had been done with the season since our NCAA second-round defeat, I had not been able to play soccer on a regular-sized field in quite some time. New Jersey (where I live) had an abundance of snowstorms over the winter break, which made it a lot more difficult to get around. In order to prepare for the combine, I had to find indoor pick-up spots all over New Jersey, and do both my workouts and runs indoors in my local Planet Fitness.

I was later introduced to RC Performance, where I was training alongside Brandon Allen- going through some high intensity soccer and agility drills that I believe helped both my technical ability, and fitness- leading up to the combine and draft. Training prior to the draft was something that I knew was important, especially because I knew my body would have to adapt to the Florida climate.

On Monday, January 11th, I arrived at Newark Liberty International airport for my one-way flight to Orlando, where I met up with two other players (Brian White of Duke, and Mamadou Guirassy of NJIT) who I knew were also traveling to the combine.

The flight was comfortable and quick from New Jersey to Orlando, but as soon as I got off of the plane I felt the dreadful Florida heat and humidity. This was the reason why I pushed my boundaries in terms of fitness over the past couple of weeks.

As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I could read all of the signs welcoming the 2018 MLS Combine Players. Everything from hotel key cards to pre-printed schedules which had “2018 MLS Combine” featured on them, and that’s when it started to sink in.

2018 MLS Combine

Chris Lema

Throughout the trip, all of the players had a first-class experience. We had our own personal Player Combine Lounge where we could enjoy some snacks, drinks, and of course play some FIFA 2018 (on Xbox One). We had three meals a day, and everything was healthy and delicious. One of the best parts about this week was that we had quite a bit of down time in between games where we could hang out with other players, catch up on some TV shows, and have meeting with numerous MLS teams. These meetings were considered “interviews” in which the team’s staff would ask you questions pertaining to both your soccer ability and personal life.

The idea was for teams to get to know you as both a player, and as a person. After the questions pertaining to how much you were enjoying the combine, some of the more popular questions were:

1) Do you like to win or hate to lose?
2) What are some strengths and weaknesses that you have?
3) How was your college experience, and how has it helped you develop?
4) How did your youth career help you get to where you are now?
5) Tell us a little bit about your family.
6) Give us a rundown on how you thought you played.

Throughout the day, you would hear players talking about their interviews with other MLS teams, and joke about the weird questions they got asked, which included riddles with a certain amount of time to answer. Once in a while, a team would throw you a curve ball question that requires a lot more brain power than usual, to try to catch you off of your game.

When players weren’t talking about their meetings, they were certainly talking about their stock going up or going down, as several articles and forms of social media post opinions on how players are doing. I tend to not let these things affect me. I just keep my head high and play the style of soccer that I’ve been playing for the past 21 years of my life, which I believe is the secret to performing well in the  combine. I wanted to control what I had control over, and play my game.

If someone one day asked me if I had any advice for them leading into the combine, I would tell them to play the way you know how to play, keep the game as simple as possible, play both sides of the
ball, and try to get as many touches on the ball as you can. That’s what I wanted to focus on when I played at the combine, and I believe I did well in the three matches I played. I was happy with my performances, and was able to go home excited for what is to come in the next few days. Can’t wait for the draft!

2017 MLS Teams: Who Is Most Efficient?

MLS analytics

The MLS Season is more than halfway over…well, 64.7058% over, if you want to get “Analytical”. And with DMV-area MLS side DC United in dead last place in the league-wide MLS standings with only .81 point per game, many are wondering how Head Coach Ben Olsen and the DC United front office plan to turn things around before next season, when the black and red will have a new state-of-the-art home in Audi Field.

This past weekend’s 4-0 defeat to fellow bottom-dwellers and first-year team Minnesota United, who were coming off of a 5-game stretch without a win, has many loyal black and red fans searching for answers. Recent reports that ownership is trying to sell the franchise to a small list of potential suitors which includes Redskins owner Dan Snyder, believed by many DMV faithful to be one of the worst owners in sports, doesn’t exactly make loyal DCU fans feel more confident about the team’s direction.

And with fans begging for DC United’s front office to finally pursue a big-name designated player, which they haven’t really had since Dwayne De Rosario in 2011-2013, fans’ frustration CONTINUES to mount when reading reports that the team is seriously considering signing Nigel De Jong, who has broken more legs than he has scored goals. De Jong was in MLS in 2016 with the LA Galaxy, where he played in 18 games, scored 0 goals, had 0 assists, earned 3 yellow cards (one of these yellows, his horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe, should have been a straight red and a suspension) and 1 red card. Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy terminated his contract in 2016. De Jong moved to Turkey, where he played only 18 games for Galatasaray since 2016.

So from a fan’s perspective, it’s easy to feel frustrated when the DMV’s ONLY MLS team hasn’t had a bonafide big-name player serving as the face of the franchise in recent memory, we finally have a new stadium being built which should have been done years ago, and we’re expected to be excited about being the only team in the world thinking about signing a 32-year-old CDM who brings zero to the table offensively, will likely be suspended for multiple games, and ended the career of arguably the best young USMNT prospect, Stuart Holden, who was up for EPL player of the year when he was at Bolton in 2011?

In every sport, teams are forced to work with the resources that they have in place, from a financial aspect. Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, a true story about Oakland Athletics GM Billy Bean building a team on a shoestring budget after being forced to sell the team’s best 4 players in the offseason, highlighted Bill James’ Analytics-first approach to signing new players, which was later adopted by John Henry and the Boston Red Sox.

In the NBA, analytics has become such a big part of the game that former NBA great and current TNT announcer Charles Barkley spoke out against focusing on stats and numbers, over factors such as leadership, eye test, etc.

But in soccer, how can efficiency be measured when it comes to a team’s budget and overall performance?

As it relates to DC United, if the team can’t afford to compete from a financial aspect with big spenders like Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, are they at least getting the most out of the budget that they do have?

We compiled a spreadsheet which looks at every team’s current standing in the league, along with each team’s 2017 player salaries and total player compensation being paid out. We then ranked each team on the following four metrics, based on how they are trending to finish the 34-game season:

  • Average cost per game (what it costs each MLS franchise per game, based on total player compensation for the season)
  • Average cost per point earned
  • Average cost per goal
  • Number of goals allowed

We took those four metric for each team, and calculated the average rating for each team among those 4 categories (we will cal this ‘x’). We then took each team’s average standing in their conference (from 1-11, with the top 6 being playoff teams, ‘y’), added the total average from x and y together, and came up with efficiency ratings for each team.

You can view the spreadsheet by clicking here. Teams are sorted by overall efficiency, we explain more about how we came up with these numbers below.

Team in bold are currently in top 6 in their conference, aka current playoff teams.


Does any of this make sense? Probably not, but here’s what we came up with in terms of top performers in each category, as well as total overall efficiency.

Cost Per Game

Below are the top 12 teams when it comes to cost per game efficiency. This was calculated by taking total compensation, divided by 34. Any teams in bold (top 6 in standings) are current playoff teams.

Rank (standings) Club Base Salary Compensation Cost/Game (34 game season) Rank Cost/Game
3 Houston $4,837,899.98 $5,025,066.65 $147,796.08 1
10 Montreal $4,995,921.08 $5,215,855.89 $153,407.53 2
11 DC United $4,812,135.44 $5,272,447.94 $155,072.00 3
10 Minnesota United FC $4,926,046.04 $5,322,864.55 $156,554.84 4
8 New England $5,406,993.25 $5,800,118.33 $170,591.72 5
2 FC Dallas $5,690,579.28 $6,510,760.94 $191,492.97 6
1 Kansas City $6,365,856.00 $6,730,358.78 $197,951.73 7
6 Columbus FC $6,345,232.48 $6,747,544.99 $198,457.21 8
3 New York Red Bulls $6,313,982.00 $6,895,186.17 $202,799.59 9
7 San Jose $6,429,566.00 $6,959,287.11 $204,684.92 10
9 Philadelphia $6,516,876.00 $7,117,010.10 $209,323.83 11
8 Real Salt Lake $7,156,440.44 $7,734,355.44 $227,481.04 12

Cost Per Point

Below are the top 12 MLS teams based on what they pay per point earned. This was calculated by taking the current points per game average (through 20-22 games played), multiplied by 34 to come up with total number of points based on current PPG trends. We then took the total cost per game, divided it by total points for each team.

Rank (standings) Club PPG # of Points (34 game season) Cost/Point (34 game season) Rank Cost/Point
3 Houston 1.5 51 $2897.96 1
2 FC Dallas 1.7 57.8 $3313.02 2
1 Kansas City 1.64 55.76 $3550.067 3
3 New York Red Bulls 1.68 57.12 $3550.41 4
10 Montreal 1.2 40.8 $3759.99 5
8 New England 1.24 42.16 $4046.29 6
6 Columbus FC 1.39 47.26 $4199.26 7
7 San Jose 1.32 44.88 $4560.72 8
10 Minnesota United FC 1 34 $4604.55 9
6 Vancouver 1.5 51 $4659.38 10
5 Atlanta FC 1.62 55.08 $4768.87 11
9 Philadelphia 1.18 40.12 $5217.44 12

Cost Per Goal

Below are the top 12 teams based on cost per goal. This was calculated by taking each team’s goals for, dividing it by the number of games played, and multiplying that number by 34 to come up with total goals scored per game average based on a 34-game season, We then took the cost-per-game average for each team, and divided it by goals-per-game, to come up with the average cost per goal scored for each club. Clubs in bold are current playoff teams based on standings.

Rank (standings) Club GP GF Goals/Game # of Goals (34 games) Cost Per Goal Rank
3 Houston 22 39 1.77 60 $2,452.12 1
8 New England 21 36 1.71 58 $2,926.82 2
10 Montreal 20 30 1.5 51 $3,007.99 3
3 New York Red Bulls 22 40 1.82 62 $3,280.58 4
10 Minnesota United FC 22 29 1.32 45 $3,493.11 5
2 FC Dallas 20 32 1.6 54 $3,520.09 6
5 Atlanta FC 21 41 1.95 66 $3,956.99 7
6 Columbus FC 23 33 1.43 49 $4,068.19 8
1 Kansas City 22 28 1.27 43 $4,574.51 9
6 Vancouver 20 30 1.5 51 $4,659.38 10
9 Philadelphia 22 29 1.32 45 $4,670.51 11
8 Real Salt Lake 23 30 1.30 44 $5,129.47 12

Goals Against

We took the total goals against for each club, divided it by the number of games played to come up with goals against average. We then multiplied that number by 34. Top 12 clubs in terms of goals against average, starting with least number of goals allowed:

Rank (standings) Club Games Played GA Average GA Based on 34 games Rank
1 Kansas City 22 17 0.77 26 1
1 Toronto 22 22 1 34 2
2 Chicago 21 24 1.14 39 3
2 FC Dallas 20 23 1.15 39.1 4
9 Philadelphia 22 27 1.23 41 5
4 NYC FC 21 26 1.24 42 6
5 Atlanta FC 21 28 1.33 45 7
3 New York Red Bulls 22 31 1.41 48 8
5 Seattle 22 31 1.41 48 8
7 Orlando 22 31 1.41 48 8
6 Vancouver 20 29 1.45 49 9
11 Colorado 20 29 1.45 49 9

Total Club Efficiency

After calculating a rank for every MLS team based on each of the following measurable:

  • Cost per game
  • Cost per point
  • Cost per goal
  • Goals against

We took each club’s combined ranking for all 4 categories, divided that total number by 4 to come up with an average ranking for each team. So, for example, Houston has the following rankings for each category:

  • Cost per game rank: 1
  • Cost per point rank: 1
  • Cost per goal rank: 1
  • Goals against rank: 10

That’s a combined rank of 13, divided by 4 which equals an average rank of 3.25.

We then took the total average rank for each team, added the current number based on standing.

So Houston is number 3 in the Western Conference standings.

3.25 + 3=6.25.

We then took divided those numbers by 2, to calculate a total efficiency rating for each club (with the lowest rating being most efficient based on all combined measurables):

Club Average Rank Rank (Standings) Efficiency Rating (Average Rank + Rank in Standings) / 2 Rank
Kansas City 5 1 3 1
Houston 3.25 3 3.125 2
FC Dallas 4.5 2 3.25 3
New York Red Bulls 6.25 3 4.625 4
New England 6.5 8 7.25 5
Columbus FC 8.75 6 7.375 6
Atlanta FC 10 5 7.5 7
Chicago 13.25 2 7.625 8
Montreal 6.5 10 8.25 9
Vancouver 10.75 6 8.375 10
San Jose 10.5 7 8.75 11
Toronto 16.75 1 8.875 12
Philadelphia 9.75 9 9.375 13
Minnesota United FC 9.25 10 9.625 14
Seattle 14.25 5 9.625 15
Portland 15.5 4 9.75 16
NYC FC 16.75 4 10.375 17
Real Salt Lake 14 8 11 18
DC United 12 11 11.5 19
Orlando 17.25 7 12.125 20
Colorado 14.5 11 12.75 21
Los Angeles 18.25 9 13.625 22

Not every team will have huge budgets like Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles. But based on the amount that each club is spending, are they getting the most “bang for their buck” based on some of these calculations?

Take Kansas City, for an example. Only 6 other teams spend less than Sporting KC from a cost/game standpoint, yet they are top 10 in the other 3 categories, and as a result are not only the top team in the Western Conference, but are (according to these calculations) also the most efficient team in the league.

Take another team like Toronto, who spends more on player compensation than any other team in the league. They are on top of the Eastern Conference but are closer to the bottom in terms of overall efficiency.

And LA Galaxy, who are the least efficient team in MLS based on these calculations, can afford to sign a number of big-name players season after season, with 2017 being one where they likely miss out on a Western Conference Playoff spot.

What Does All of this Mean For DC United?

Let’s assume a new ownership group comes in, and takes the LA Galaxy approach to signing big-name players for the next 3 seasons. Will one or two big-name players guarantee success? Obviously not. But for teams like Kansas City, Houston, and other teams who are able to produce results on an Oakland A’s type of budget, what are they doing right that can possibly be duplicated here in the DMV?

DMV Alumni Take On The MLS SuperDraft

5 DMV Alumni Took On This Years’ Edition Of The MLS Combine & SuperDraft 


DMV locals Mike DeGraffenreidt (Loyola Blakefield/Baltimore Bays), Chris Odoi-Atsem (DeMatha Catholic/AC Bethesda), Jacori Hayes (DeMatha Catholic/Baltimore Bays), Suli Dainkeh (South Lakes HS/DC United Academy), and Jeremy Ebobisse (Walter Johnson HS/Bethesda-Olney) were 5 of 68 players invited to this past week’s MLS Combine which took place in Manhattan Beach, California.

With the impending MLS SuperDraft, all 5 players spent the week trying to improve their draft stock in hopes of being picked in the first 2 rounds that would take place on Friday, with a further 2 rounds of the draft to come the following Tuesday.

Here we take a closer look at how each of our 5 local representatives faired against some of the best competition in the country.

Michael DeGraffenreidt

michael DeGraffenreidt

A product of Baltimore Bays Chelsea academy and Loyola Blakefield, Mike started off at Louisville exactly how he finished off his youth career: as a starter. The 52nd ranked recruit on the ESPN 150 and Maryland Soccer Player of the Year was a 4-year starter at the ACC school. He played 77 games in his time there, starting 76 of them.

Combine Recap

Mike had a solid MLS Draft combine, playing a half in each of the 3 games and looking fairly comfortable despite not being tested often. After recording his stats in game 1 and 2, he went a combined 48/51 on passes completed (94%), 6/7 on aerial challenges, completed 5 tackles and while on the field Team Chaos only let in 2 of their 6 total goals conceded, with nothing Mike could do about either one.

I thought DeGraffenreidt showed off an excellent range of passing, but really wasn’t tested too much throughout his 3 games at the Stubhub Center, but an excellent college career and a pretty good combine should help Mike get picked up next Tuesday during the 3rd and 4th rounds of the draft.

Chris Odoi-Atsem

Chris Odoi-Atsem

The former WCAC and All-County player of the year left DeMatha Catholic with a glittering list of accolades, including several WCAC titles and a 2011 National Championship to boot. After a very impressive youth career at AC Bethesda and powerhouse DeMatha, Chris joined the Maryland Terrapins with high expectations, and delivered from Day 1. He played 88 games in his career, starting 83 of them, delivering 3 goals, 8 assists and contributing towards 33 shutouts as well.

Combine Recap

Day 1 of the combine was Chris’s day for sure, as he was 1 of only 2 players to place in the top 5 of all 3 athletic tests performed. Chris finished 4th in the 30 meter dash with a time of 3.89 seconds, 3rd in the 5-10-5 shuttle with a time of 4.22 seconds and 1st in the Vertical jump test with a leap of 36.5 inches.

Chris only went on to impress coaches more as the combine went on, completing 47/54 passes (87%), making 11 tackles and a number of great attacking runs as well. Coaches definitely noticed his strong athletic upside, and knew his technical skills would need some fine tuning, but DC United took their first pick and used it wisely on a local guy. Ironically enough, the former Terp grew up so close to their own academy that they could’ve saved the first round pick had they scouted him several years earlier and claimed him as a homegrown player. Either way, it shows how much faith the club have in his abilities, and DC has picked up a very strong outside back option in Chris as he will look to head into preseason learning as much as he can from the likes of Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and the other veteran defenders in their squad.

Jacori Hayes

Jacori Hayes

One of the most talented players in the country, Hayes had an exceptional year at Wake Forest that took them all the way to the College Cup, only to lose out in PK’s to the now back-to-back national champions, Stanford.

Jacori had a standout youth career, captaining his Baltimore Bays academy side, being a part of the U18 USYNT, and being named a high school All-American as a part of the DeMatha national championship side in 2011.

Pre-combine, he was a lock to go top 10 after a college career in which he played in 81 games, starting 74 and collecting 15 goals and assists a piece while doing so. Not only did he have a great record at Wake but he won award after award being named to the All ACC teams 3/4 years, NSCAA All American team, TDS Men’s Best XI and many more. Jacori had an up and down draft showing off his skills and excellent soccer mind but failing to have much end product resulting in many critics saying his stock dropped over the course of the week going into the draft.

Combine Recap

Across the 3 games, Jacori mixed his time between CDM and CAM, as scouts questioned where he would play in MLS. He maintained an 83% pass completion rate (82/99) while making 13 tackles. However, Jacori wasn’t able to show off his best attributes at the combine. Regardless, his standout college and youth resume saw him drafted 18th overall to an FC Dallas side not afraid to play their youth. We fully expect Jacori to go into preseason ready to prove all those people wrong who didn’t take him in the picks prior.

Suli Dainkeh

Suli Dainkeh

Suli headed into the University of Maryland as a member of the U18 USYNT. The 2012 Gatorade State Player of the Year (VA) was also a member of the DC United Academy. Dainkeh was a heralded prospect out of Reston, Virginia and was ranked #16 midfielder in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.

Suli completed one of the most accomplished 4 years of any player in the combine, as his UMD side went 4 years in a row winning the conference tournament, with he himself picking up a Second team All-Big Ten selection. Dainkeh finished his Maryland career with 33 shutouts, while playing in 71 games, starting 60 of those and also throwing in a goal and 2 assists.

Combine Recap

The VA native had a tough time at the combine through games 1 and 2 as he gave away a PK and received a yellow card. On game day 2 he also had a hard time as he faced off against a strong pair in Chris Nanco and Colton Storm with not much help in front of him. Stat-wise through the first 2 games, Dainkeh showed well as he maintained a 90% pass completion rate (65/72), made several key clearances, completed 13 tackles and won 5/6 aerial duels with opposition players. Dainkeh had a very good day 3 though as he showed the side of him that earned so much praise at UMD and he was much better which definitely will help him get picked up somewhere soon in these next 2 rounds of the draft and we fully expect Dainkeh to earn a contract come preseason as he looks to kick off his professional career in the MLS.

Jeremy Ebobisse

Jeremy Ebobisse

Last and certainly not least, Jeremy Ebobisse, who looked to be the #1 Draft pick in nearly every single mock draft I looked through over the past few weeks.

Jeremy has been one of the DMV’s top talents since a young age, as he starred on the locally infamous OBGC Rangers and Bethesda-Olney sides that were oozing with technically sound and exciting players, including Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem. Jeremy and others can thank head coach Matt Pilkington for their success, as he was able to train and develop some of the best players to ever come out of the DMV up until NYCFC was able to prize him away from the area.

Jeremy’s OBGC sides won multiple state and regional titles, but never won that elusive national title that they missed out on after several trips to National Championships, including that final agonizing one to PDA in the USSDA Championship.

His final youth soccer season was his junior year of high school, as he was able to graduate in 3 years and head to Duke a year early, but not before shattering the USSDA goal scoring record with a mind-boggling 38 goals in 24 games, with 9 of those coming in the team’s 3 playoff games (despite the fact he was playing with guys 1-2 years older than him his entire youth career). Jeremy had a tough freshman season at Duke, he played well but wasn’t able to replicate his youth career goal scoring numbers with only 2 goals and 3 assists.

His Sophomore campaign was a complete different story, as he headed into the season as a team captain and put away 7 goals as well as 4 assists. Jeremy had a stellar 2nd college season and had attracted the US U20’s attention, as he was called up to his first official YNT camp since the introductory camp in the U14 age group and took his chance with aplomb scoring 9 goals in his 11 games to date. Jeremy started to attract offers from Europe and decided it was in his best interest to forgo his final 2 years of eligibility and test the waters over in Europe.

After a couple of trials Ebobisse decided it was best for his own development to sign with the MLS, which he did as the college season rolled around in August. Since he has signed with the MLS, he has split time with the US U20’s, the Charleston Battery (1 Goal/5 Appearances), and had several training stints with MLS Clubs looking to get a closer peek at Ebobisse pre-draft.

Combine Recap

Jeremy missed Game Day 1 of the combine, as he was still in camp with the US U20’s, and then missed Day 2 as well before making his only combine appearance in Game 3. He showed well, taking on several players successfully, playing a couple of good through balls, missing a sitter and then eventually putting one away to end the combine with a beauty of a left footed strike.

Come draft day, there was much anticipation as Jeremy was expected to go early, and in came the Portland Timbers who traded the Houston Dynamo $100K TAM (Total Allocation Money), 1 International Spot AND their #10 pick in the draft to acquire Ebobisse’s services at the 4th pick.

Jeremy will head to Portland with much buzz and excitement around his arrival with an amazing fanbase out there and high expectations from us, everyone else and definitely himself heading into the 2017 MLS Season.


Congratulations to all of these DMV alumni players on a successful 2017 MLS Draft, we sincerely look forward to watching your careers over the next few years and wish you all the best!