In the aftermath of Inter Miami’s 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in the Leagues Cup semifinal, Union head coach Jim Curtin and captain Alejandro Bedoya signaled support for loosening roster restrictions in MLS to allow clubs to spend more freely.
Inter Miami, after signing Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba this summer, has sparked fresh debate about the best strategic path forward for MLS as owners like Miami’s Jorge Mas, Charlotte FC’s David Tepper, Portland Timbers’ Merritt Paulson and more continue to advocate to spend more money to grow the league.
“I think the league rules are going to change,” Curtin said. “Him (Messi) coming here is going to change a ton, and it should. The training wheels are off.”
Inter Miami signed Messi and Busquets with two of their three designated player (DP) slots. Their third DP spot is occupied by Brazilian midfielder Gregore, a strategic choice to be able to add three U-22 initiative signings, but it capped that third valuable slot. Miami in turn spent upwards of $15 million on transfer fees to sign highly-rated South American youth internationals Tomas Aviles, Facundo Farias and Diego Gomez.
“Look, I think it’s great for the league,” Bedoya said. “You hear things that maybe something will change in the offseason but we’ll see. There’s no secret that money well-spent allows you to bring in more quality players, more quality depth.”
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Mas and other owners were vocal at the owner’s meetings around the MLS All-Star Game in Washington D.C. about loosening restrictions, though not all owners spoke with the media. The lower-spending clubs who are likely to oppose big changes didn’t voice their opinions publicly.
“They’re only going to get better, that Miami team is going to go,” Curtin said. “Their ownership is going to spend like crazy and make them the best team in the league— They might already be one of the best teams in the league.”
For the coach and captain of Philly to express these remarks is particularly interesting given they don’t stand to directly benefit. The Union has been among the league’s lowest spending clubs on first-team talent, both in salary and transfer fees.
Philly were 22nd in salary spend this year ahead of the summer transfer window. Their club-record transfer fee is $2.8 million. Miami spent more than $2.8 million on three different transfers this summer alone, none of which DPs. The Union would stand to lose ground on rivals should wealthier clubs be allowed to invest more.
“We’ll see what happens in the offseason,” Bedoya said. “Miami are pushing the envelope. … It’s good for the league, it’s good for soccer in our country and our region. With the World Cup coming here, we find ourselves at an inflection point.”
“That’s coming and I don’t think anything is stopping that,” Curtin added.
(Photo: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports)