Bruce Arena Speaks Out Against MLS Rules

Do you plan to make any significant roster moves before the Sept. 15 deadline?

“No, we are fine. I don’t know what you can do at this point — even though, the way things have been happening [in MLS] lately, God knows what could possibly happen.”

What happened with the possible Kljestan deal from Anderlecht? You seemed all set to sign him.

“We had a trade in place. We had budget room and space to be able to do it. We had all of our ducks in a row. We were positioned to sign a player. I won’t go into detail and just say forces within the league worked real hard to make sure that didn’t happen.”


“Because they are children and there have to be adults in the process, and we didn’t have enough of them. I think we are back into the old days in the league when the rules are somewhat arbitrary. Hopefully we will get that straightened out in the offseason.”

So what do you make of the blind draw that delivered Jones to New England instead of Chicago, his preferred destination?


Had you heard of an MLS blind draw before?

“Never heard of it. They could have made life easier for everyone by making it public, I guess. That [mechanism] would be like the NBA draft lottery being a blind draw. We have seen a lot of blind draws in U.S. soccer over the years with the Open Cup. They have made it more transparent, but there are still a lot of clouds there.”

In the big picture, given your experiences trying to acquire Kljestan and what unfolded with Jones, does it trouble you that, here in Year 19, MLS is still using these peculiar mechanisms for player signings?

“It’s troubling for everyone. Everyone is involved in the process. There is no finger-pointing at any particular person because ownership is involved in all of this stuff. They allow it and they participate. This is all attributed to ownership; it’s not attributed to the commissioner or the people in that [New York] office. It may not be fully supported by ownership, but there is a participation level by ownership that says: ‘This is the way we want to do things.’ ”

Would it be better if there were villains, so to speak, and matchups that created greater upset possibilities?

“Parity translates to mediocrity. It doesn’t translate to excellence. You do want to have cycles where there are more dominant teams. It’s impossible to do in our league because of the rules, the financial restrictions, and the way of doing things that are sometimes apparent and sometimes not apparent. It makes it difficult to produce a really good team over time.”

The argument over the years was that financial rules were a necessity to ensure the league’s long-term sustainability …

“That problem has been solved. I don’t think there is any question about the fact this league is going to be around. We have very strong ownership, so now the next challenge is whether we can make it into a league of more quality.”

So you would advocate lifting the financial constraints …


These are just a few excerpts from Steven Goff’s interview with Bruce Arena. It is a very insightful interview from the perspective of Bruce Arena, a man who has been around US Soccer for awhile. In this blog we have discussed the weird MLS roster/transfer rules before and in the above interview Bruce Arena perfectly outlines why they are so confusing. The rules are not as transparent as they may seem, in fact they are very opaque. It seems as though rules are bent and twisted based on each situation. For example, there was a large outcry when Clint Dempsey went to Seattle and there were many fans who are confused by the “blind draw” instituted to bring Jermaine Jones to New England considering a blind draw has never been done before in MLS. After this season the CBA will be up and after the past few disagreements over MLS transfers it is highly likely that MLS roster/transfer rules will be a big point of contention.


h/t Pro Soccer Talk


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