The Union are off to a somewhat “meh” start to the 2023 season. They have two wins, one draw, and three losses in league play and find themselves in eighth place with seven points.
They are, however, hosting Mexican side Atlas F.C. in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champion’s League on Tuesday night, and ahead of that leg 1 matchup comes a report from The Athletic that says the Union have been punished for tampering at the youth level:
MLS last year narrowed the scope of homegrown “territories,” instead requiring teams to produce a list of 54 “protected” youth players in their territories — 45 from within their academy and up to nine players who reside within their territory, but play outside their academy. All of those players are at the under-15 level and above. Outside of those 54 “protected” players, the rest of the market is open to scouting and recruiting by other MLS teams.
However, MLS teams have been circumventing those rules just a few months after they were instituted. That includes recruiting players outside of their market aged below that under-15 level, which violates the MLS rules.
Multiple sources said MLS held a call with its clubs’ chief soccer officers in recent weeks to address the tampering. On that call, league officials reviewed past tampering punishments. Among the biggest offenders was the Philadelphia Union, which was hit with a number of violations. Several teams made six-figure GAM payments to teams for violations in what multiple sources called, “forced trades,” for violating the homegrown rules. Teams also paid cash fines. Some were also docked homegrown priority spots on the 54 “protected” player list.
This is a nothing burger. Major League Soccer has been making up shit on the fly for two full decades now, and screwing the Union and other teams in the process. For example, back in 2014, returning United States internationals Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley decided they wanted to go to Seattle and Toronto, respectively. The Union were interested in fellow returning USMNT player Maurice Edu, but while Dempsey and Bradley just picked their spots, Edu was restricted to the league’s “allocation order” and the Union had to trade Jeff Parke to get to the top of the list and set up the Edu transaction. Seattle and Toronto, big, sexy teams in big markets, got a free fucking pass while the Union had to play by the rules.
We never got a real explanation for that, so I don’t care if the Union are violating homegrown rules. If anything, now we’re even, you bastards. Plus, the restrictions are stupid anyway. The Union academy is GOOD, and has alumni playing for teams like Leeds, Frankfurt, Birmingham (via Arsenal), and Genk, not to mention myriad MLS clubs, so if I’m a 14-year-old kid, that’s where I wanna go, to the YSC Academy. I don’t wanna go to the crap local New York academy because of fugazi geographical restrictions. Competition is good, and if these other clubs don’t want the Union poaching their talent, then improve your youth development game.
As far as I’m concerned, the Union did nothing wrong here. Nothing to see here. MLS hates the process. Doop doop, motherfuckers.