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Bruce Arena on MLS Discovery Signing process: “It’s a blackmail job”

Bruce Arena LA Galaxy 12

photo by Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports


The LA Galaxy may have gotten their man, but head coach Bruce Arena is not exactly happy with how things played out.

The Galaxy signed midfielder Sebastian Lletget late last week, but only after shelling out $50,000 in allocation to the New England Revolution. LA had to pay New England that amount to obtain Lletget’s MLS discovery rights, which did not sit well with Arena considering he spent months trying to sign Lletget while the Revolution had no contact with Lletget and no previous ties to him.

“Discovery lists should be that you’re pursuing a player and have interest in a player. You’re discovering them because you want to sign them,” Arena told on Tuesday. “That should be the mechanism, but through the years teams in the league have attempted to use the rule as much as possible to hold back players from other teams.

“Now it just becomes a sped-up blackmail job. Now you get the player, but eventually, you have to pay money for it.”

What seemed to upset Arena even more was that the 22-year-old Lletget had trained with the Galaxy during their preseason trip to Ireland earlier this year. Lletget was given permission by English outfit West Ham United to train with Arena’s club, which contemplated signing him.

The Galaxy wound up adding Lletget to their roster eventually, but Arena thinks changes should be made to the discovery process.

“We should, in my view, be able to sign players that are outside the league,” said Arena. “You discover them, you sign them. It shouldn’t be an issue.”

This is not the first time Arena has been critical of MLS or its process to sign players based in foreign leagues. Last summer, Arena was fined $20,000 by the league for pointed comments he made after failing to sign veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan from Belgian side RSC Anderlecht.

Kljestan joined the New York Red Bulls this past winter.


What do you think of Arena’s comments? Does he have a point? How big a fine might MLS give Arena this time?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Lets make it simple. MLS rules sux! Ridiculous rules! They just want to make money. That’s the main priority for MLS!

  2. it’s a joke. NE did not discover him. it’s mickey mouse stuff…and i hate when people call MLS that. it’s a lame process and good for Bruce calling MLS out. only one willing to grow a pair, tell it like it is, and take the fine.

  3. I’m not a pro / rel supporter. Not even close.
    But I don’t understand why having a closed league means all this other nonsense.
    Get rid of drafts, and allotments and whatever happened with Jermaine Jones.
    Put in a hard salary cap. Allow free agency to whatever is needed to avoid an antitrust lawsuit.
    Some profit sharing, but not to this extreme

    Let front officers compete just as hard as the players

    If a small market team can’t compete and they go out of business, just “promote” someone from the USL/NASL

    This isn’t the 70s. We have a waiting list of people who want in

    • If you don’t have a DP exception a “hard salary cap” means you don’t get all the DP players we have now. That’s not good for the league. The other nonsense should go though.

  4. HaHaHa.. Arena just hates it because the Revs beat him this one. Thems the rules and you were beat.

    Meanwhile EVERYBODY hates the fact that LA seems to be able to sign anybody, at any cost and STILL CANT WIN

    • Still can’t win? They won the SS in 2010 and 2011 and MLS Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2014. I’d take that kind of “not winning” at my club any day.

    • The Revs beat him to it? Try reading the article before making an unintelligent comment. He trained with the Galaxy over preseason, he wasn’t released by West Ham yet so they had to wait before they could pursue him, then MLS comes out with their new rules, and the Revs call dibs on a player they hadn’t made contact with just to make money off the Galaxy. That’s not the Revs beating him to it, that’s the Revs manipulating an already poorly-written rule to cock-block Bruce. Also, I second slowleftarm’s comment.

  5. Regardless what you think of Bruce Arena, the MLS player acquisition rules need to be far more simple and clear. The people who post on this site follow MLS closer than almost anyone and we still don’t know what’s going on half the time. I don’t see how that’s good for the league.

  6. The Galaxy did not “pass” on signing Lletget, he had not yet been released by West Ham and as the transfer window was closed, the Galaxy could not acquire him until the transfer window opened, or, has been released from West Ham. Had the Galaxy pursued a signing before he was released, West Ham may have asked for a transfer fee. A transfer fee counts against the salary cap and may have priced Lletget out of the MLS market, or he would have to be acquired as a young DP, the Galaxy did not have a DP slot open so had to wait until he was released by West Ham. It was during this time that the new CBA was finalized and the “discovery” lists were reset and the NE Revs but them on theirs, knowing they would get a quick 50K from the Galaxy under the new “discovery” rules.

    As it was, West Ham did not finally do an official release until this last month

  7. Sure, Bruce is a chronic complainer and an intense competitor. And of course the MLS roster and personnel rules are a joke — And you thought that a single entity system would make agreements easier — but I much prefer, even as just a morning’s entertainment, Bruce’s whining to Jurgen’s pontificating.

  8. The league should give discovery claims to LA too.

    Its not fair that only New England gets them. Who thought that would be fair? I dont see how they came up with such an unjust system.

  9. Bruce is a perennial whiner, but I love it when he takes aim at the league itself. He often gets it right, as he does in this case.

    • While he may be right, that fact is lost for some because he comes off like a whiny brat. He has gotten his hands on top talent coming into the league for years when most teams have no chance. The rest of us hear him whine about this and it makes us laugh. Poor Bruce…

  10. This coming from the team that gets to define the DP rules as they see fit. I for one welcome any move by any team that screws over LA.

      • Really? Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but the rule itself is practically named after LA (“The Beckham Rule”) when the rule allowed them to sign Beckham. And of course, Donovan, though salary-wise a DP, didn’t count because, you know, it’s LA. Then I think they were pushing for 3 slots so they could sign Keane.

        Other than signing a few big names I don’t know of any boundary-pushing Seattle or Toronto has done, but I could be mistaken.

    • Nah its just that the system is ridiculous! What did New England do beside put someone on a list? An “i call dibs” list. MLS is comical.

      • More comical than the EPL, where you can make a list that says Chelsea-Man City-Man U-Arsenal and know it’s going to be your top 4 every year, you just have to pick the right order?

        Or how about a list that says “Real Madrid/Barca” because those are the only two teams remotely capable of winning La Liga?

        Or just one name for now – Juventus – now that the Milans have hit the rocks economically?

        Or just one name – Celtic – now that Rangers has tanked?

        Or just one name in Germany – Bayern – now that everybody has finished buying Dortmund’s players?

        There literally is no roadmap to building a parity-based league because it simply hasn’t been done before, but I think it’s worth doing. Yeah, some of MLS’s rules have unintended, sometimes comical or even farcical results. But I think the Scots would cheerfully trade our problems for theirs, where now they have to watch Celtic just jog to a title every year, and most of Germany feels the same way about Bayern than we would having to watch the Dallas Cowboys win 20 straight Super Bowls.

        Bruce has won and won some more. Let him deal with the deck not always being stacked in his favor for awhile.

      • Yeah, all leagues should be rigged to give off a fake appearance of equality between so called “clubs” like MLS.

        Real competition between clubs should be outlawed worldwide. You’re a genius!

      • Is this really what the previous poster was saying? It didn’t seem like it. I guess you did make your point with a snide comment.

      • hey Zigler, how is it real competition when league tv money are often assures that their will only be two competitors (like La Liga)?

      • But isn’t MLS the same way? LA Galaxy have won 3 out of the last 4 MLS Cups, but we still watch. When you have a good organization, front offfice, and team, why should you be punished?

      • unfortunately, MLS can’t even get that one right. They have too many ways players don’t count towards the cap.
        I like the DP rule, but after that it just gets confusing.

      • You don’t think Bruce’s success (over two decades and with two different teams) has more to do with his talent and less to do with the cards being stacked in his favor?

        I’m all for success breeding success. Look at Man Utd, they built their success through winning not being bought by an oil magnate or other billionaire investor. Same way that I can’t begrudge the yankees their success. Sure they have more financial power than, say, the Pirates or Royals, but they’ve earned that through years of success and building a brand and loyal following.

        Whether you like it or not, sport is a business. The teams that are better at that business should be rewarded. I don’t think it makes sense to have parity just for parity’s sake. Does 20 mediocre teams make the league stronger than having 4 powerhouses with the rest all competitive amongst each other?

      • Parity really exists only as an idea and not a reality. The fact is that all fans of specific teams want only their team to win and be continually successful while at the same time being better than and improving over the other teams you compete against which is in direct contradiction to any parity argument. If you are a fan of a team you are anti-parity by nature and if you say you are not then you are not truly a fan. MLS has some good teams but look at the bottom of table in the Eastern Conference-Montreal, Philly and the expansion geeks–those are some really bad teams.

      • Wrong.

        Not even close. Of course you want your team to win, but if it ends up like the NASL right now, LaLiga of the US, it is barely worth watching.

      • It’s a matter of perspective and most fans that we have in America are poor fans who only support teams if the wins are greater in number than the losses. The USA is a big country with a lot of big cities and it is tough to compare with Spain which has 2-3 larger cities and 3-4 decent sized cities..Eibar Cordoba Elche?…these are really small clubs and areas who know who they are and look to compete against those they can compete with and grow from don’t expect them to win the league but still support them the same.

      • la liga barely watchable? really? its more than the top 2 anymore.

        also check out the non engineered parity in the Mexican League this year.

      • “There literally is no roadmap to building a parity-based league because it simply hasn’t been done before.”

        What are you talking about? Mexico has had a parity-based league for decades and to be honest they do it way better than MLS has ever done it.

      • The Galaxy were in talks with West Ham and had Lletget attend training with the team when they were in Ireland for a preseason friendly against the Shamrock Rovers. When the new CBA was approved in March, the “discovery” lists were then “reset” and, of course, NE Revs made a “discovery” claim on Lletget as they “discovered” he was training with the Galaxy.

        This is why Arena was mad. You must also realize the shenanigans over the Klejstan deal, which was all but done, when the MLS stepped in and said, “no” and used a weighted lottery to award his rights to another team.

        So the MLS start a more transparent “allocation” and “discovery” lists but leave vast loopholes for them to step in and make player decisions.

        No doubt Arena will get a fine for his “blackmail” comments, and will add to the cost of acquisition, and so be it.

        But you have to remember that the Galaxy were probably the only football club ANYWHERE who could have lured Steven Gerrard from Liverpool. And when Ronaldo hinted he wanted to come to the MLS, it was also hinted he wanted to come to LA. Yeah, the MLS likes to tout that they are an up-and coming league, but it is the Galaxy who forced the Beckham rule and started the DP generation which kick-started MLS 2.0. and added millions of dollars in salary to the future and existing player pool due to expanded TV rights.

        The Galaxy and AEG KNOW what they are doing; they are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their team, when you stop doing that, you become mediocre, which seems like its the way the MLS want to go with this parity thing. Let the Galaxy find or attract the good players and we’ll award them to another team to achieve parity.

        Garber knows he can get away with this as his job position is selected by the 20 teams in the MLS, and AEG knows that this is the way things are and they’ll have to deal with it.

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