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MLS Notes: Cunningham signs with Crew, league amends player rules and more


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Jeff Cunningham is returning to Columbus after all.

Cunningham, the second-leading goal scorer in Major League Soccer history, and the Crew agreed on a multi-year contract on Friday, more than a month after Columbus secured the striker's MLS rights in the Re-Entry Draft.

The 34-year-old Cunningham, who spent the first seven years of his MLS career with the Crew, had trialed overseas with clubs in Scandinavia but ultimately elected to stay in the United States. After his first go-around with Columbus, Cunningham played for the Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC and FC Dallas. He's now returning to the franchise that drafted him with the ninth overall pick of the 1998 MLS College Draft.

With 132 career goals, Cunningham trails Jaime Moreno by one on the league's all-time list. The Crew opens the 2011 season against D.C. United, Moreno's former team, at RFK Stadium on March 19.

Here are a few more items from around the league this Friday:


In addition to confirming that team rosters have expanded to 30 players, MLS announced a few changes to the league's player rules.

Among the highlights to the rule changes is that United States citizens will no longer occupy international roster slots for the teams in Canada (Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps this year, Montreal in 2012), though Canadian teams must have at least three Canadian citizens on their rosters.

Also included in the rules for 2011 is that teams can sign an unlimited number of homegrown players.


The Los Angeles Galaxy acquired 22-year-old midfielder Miguel Lopez on loan from Argentina Primera Division side Quilmes.

Lopez, who was a teammate of Galaxy first-round draft pick Paolo Cardozo at Quilmes, can play either central midfield or out on the left wing.

The Galaxy also announced that Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has received his green card and will no longer occupy an international roster slot.


The San Jose Earthquakes announced the signing of midfielder Tony Donatelli, a player who can add depth to the right side of the team's attack or contribute centrally.

Donatelli most-recently played for the Montreal Impact, scoring seven goals last season.


Do you think Cunningham will find success with the Crew? What do you think of the league's rule changes? Do you like the signings for Los Angeles and San Jose?

Share your thoughts below.



  1. These homegrown rules are really going to deepen the divide between the haves and have nots in MLS. New England especially is going to be exposed for being run so cheap.

  2. The “control” part is where it gets tricky … per the EEOC guidelines:


    Section 109 sets forth four factors to be considered in assessing whether such control exists. Those factors are: (a) the interrelation of operations; (b) the common management; (c) the centralized control of labor relations; and (d) the common ownership or financial control of the employer and the foreign corporation. ==================

    Item C is what jumps out at me … especially since it is MLS that holds all the player contracts (and negotiates the CBA) … not the individual teams.

  3. I’m really not clear about the new rules. Only 18-20 slots are to be “on-budger” roster slots — subject to the salary cap. According to MLS, slots ##21-30 would not be subject to the cap. However, they give no basis for determining which salaries are exempted. In the offseason, the league announced there would be six cap-exempt slots, for either homegrown players or other player under 25. The new rules make no mention of age. Can teams shift their priciest salaries?

    Before I wondered about GA contracts — whether those would be in the six slots the league announced earlier. The new announcement restates that GA players are cap-exampt, so they must be in the ##21-30 slots. Presumably, homegrown players would continue to be cap exempt — at least until they fill up slots ##21-30. What’s unclear is what criteria there will be for assigning the other slots — nor what is the criteria for including players’ salaries in slots ##1-20.

    Near as I can figure, since the budget will apply only to 18 or 20 players, teams will just distribute the cap among probably their 20 highest salaries, so long as they fit under the cap. Otherwise, they’ll have to shift a high salary to a cap-exempt slot? Can teams really get around cap limits by shifting lots of high salaried players to “off-budget” slots? Nothing in the announced rules provides any guidance nor do the rules suggest teams can’t do this.

    If teams can do that, what is the purpose of the cap? Will there be rich teams suing these new cap-exempt slots to create extra slots for DP-like talents? Or, am I missing something? Will there be some criteria and/or salary caps for the “off-budget” roster slots? ((The rules make clear what minimum salaries would be, but not maximum salaries)).

  4. Title VII — Section 109 covers discrimination abroad by American employers (and by foreign corporations controlled by American employers).

    The Canadian teams are not American companies. Nor are they foreign corporations controlled by American employers. They have a relationship with MLS but they have their own Canadian owners — the teams are located in Canada and are run by management in Canada. American civl rights law does not apply to them.

  5. If an American company operates overseas they are still subject to some (but not all) US employment laws. Title VII (anti-discrimination) is one of these laws that apply. However, these laws only protect US citizens working abroad and not foreign nationals that may be employed by the US firm. Conversely, foreign nationals legally entitled to work in the US are protected by this same anti-discrimination law.

    Is the franchise model somehow exempted from this? If so, how?

  6. LOVE that they lifted the ludicrous restriction on the home grown players.

    I think the bigger impact of allowing that is that local media will be more inclined to write about the teams if they are doing well and a lot of ‘local boys’ are out there making it happen. If there is one thing I learned about newspapers it’s that they like to kiss the a$$ of their hometown and this should help.

  7. No, they are a franchise run by a local investor and are subject to the local rules; much like a Canadian McDonald’s is subject to Canadian Law and not American Law.

  8. I’d like to see the pacific northwest and California make their own league. It would allow nice intense rivalries and have good proximity. Based on last year alone you would get most of the top teams and fan groups. They could do an 8 team league right now.

    For that matter have a northeast-ish league too. New York can have two teams, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, Columbus, then add maybe a New Jersey team, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo or Rochester.

    The key is to isolate based on reasons even more arbitrary and silly than nationality. Or how about a red state league and a blue state league? You could limit the number of democrats or republicans per team.

  9. If the Canadian MLS teams are considered to be “controlled” by a US entity (and under single-entity I think they would be) then they shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate either since they same US law would apply.

  10. Why? By plucking off Canada’s three major cities and making them part of MLS, they wind up indirectly supporting US soccer by making the league more finanically viable and creating more places for US players to play.

    Hell, I’d put a team in Mexico for the same reason!

  11. Under US law you can’t give preferential job treatment to one foreign nationality over another. You can restrict things based on American vs foreign nationality, but you can’t give treatment to a Canadian over a Brazilian for instance. By counting a Canadian as a domestic player you would be lending preferential treatment to a specific nationality and would be running afoul of the law. That is just the way it is and there is nothing MLS can do about it.

  12. They FINALLY changed the Canadian domestic player rule. That was my objection all along to having 3 Canadian teams – you couldn’t dilute the quality of those three MLC teams by counting US doemstic players differently for the Canadian teams than for US teams.

    (Frankly, what they should do is count Canadian players as “domestic” for US-based teams too, to make things even out – arguably, the Canadian teams actually have an advantage now, since they can count both Americans and Canadians as “domestic”. But I think it is OK given the requirement to have 3 Canadian players on each Canadian team.)

  13. Forgot to add does this change anything about the length of time required for a player to sign a homegrown deal? I think now a player has to have played 1 year in the academy to be eligible.


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