Interpreting MLS’s Offer to Stuart Holden – It’s PR

MLS offered Stuart Holden a considerable salary increase to lure him to resign with the league. Holden who was making just $35,000 this past season was offered an approximately 10 fold increase, ie $350,000 to resign with the league. What to think of this?

While this sounds like a good offer, this is really a public relations jester from MLS. Stuart Holden could have resigned at the beginning of the year but refused and played for a measly 35 grand so that he would be free to sign with a European club in the offseason. Holden has garnered a lot of interest from practically every club in Scotland, including Rangers. But since Holden could be signed on a free transfer it is likely he could be signed by a team from one of the bigger leagues. While $350,000 is a good salary for MLS, this is small beer compared to what he could get paid in Europe. If MLS were to offer to make him a designated player and pay him around the 1 million mark it could have a bit more appeal, but even with that Holden could still likely make more in Europe. So by offering Holden a new offer and having Holden turn it down this will enable MLS to save some face for losing such an up incoming star. This is similar to when the Washington Nationals sought to resign Alfonso Soriano – a move that bought some goodwill.

However, there is a scenario in which I could see Holden deciding to resign with MLS. Holden should be a little concerned with making a move abroad mid-season in the midst of a World Cup year. By moving abroad now, the pressure will be on Holden to break through and gain significant playing time right away. If Holden fails to break through and doesn’t get a lot of playing time that could threaten his World Cup status. He will likely still make the squad, but right now I would have Holden penciled into start.

Therefore, it might make sense for him to stay with MLS and to work out a deal so that he could move to Europe after the World Cup. This could be in the interests of both parties and certainly in the interest of MLS. It would ensure that Holden gets PT before the World Cup and therefore remains relatively sharp. It would be in the interest of the league, who instead of losing Holden on a free transfer could actually reap a significant windfall from the sale, especially if he shines in the World Cup.

However, agreeing to do this would require a real leap of faith for Holden, as he would have to trust MLS to sell him if a good offer came in. And trusting MLS is something that players like Ricardo Clark and Taylor Twellman have learned not to do. Additionally, right now Holden has significant freedom to chose which league and team he will end up with, since having no transfer there is likely much greater interest from European clubs than there would be in the summer when there will be a multimillion price tag on his head.

So while it is possible that Holden and Garber shook on it and Holden will enable MLS to reap the windfall from selling him in the summer. This is really really unlikely. When Holden and Clark end up leaving the league for free, MLS, while losing two great players, will have also lost significant revenue that could have been used to sign other really talented players.

The league has to realize that selling players who want out is part of the game and it is better to profit from this to spend the money on new talent then to simply let players walk. The fact is that MLS has made a mistake not selling players like Holden, Clark and Twellman when they have been under contract and wanted out. The league could have raised significant funds from these sales perhaps 6-8 million dollars. Moreover, the consistent refusal to sell makes younger ambitious players who want to play in Europe extremely hesitant to play in MLS.

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One Response

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