To Red Bull New York fans, one of the things I promised when taking over earlier this season was to provide more information to you on topics. So, my plan is to answer questions that I received from fans and post them here on Red Bulls Reader on a regular basis throughout the upcoming season.
Here’s the first installment and the questions that I have received have mainly been about the First Team and the new rules from MLS.
What is the Salary Cap?
For the 2009 season, the salary cap has increased by a small amount over last season’s cap. It should be noted that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players expires at the end of the 2009 season. The salary cap and player pay scale is certainly something that will be discussed at length during the negotiations. The CBA is without question the most important issue for the League during the upcoming year.
What is the Status of Designated Players and the Red Bulls Designated Players?
For 2009, there is no change in the status of having Designated Players (DP) and Juan Pablo Angel is our DP. We also have a second DP slot available with the retirement of Claudio Reyna. Jeff Agoos and Juan Carlos Osorio have had long discussions on how to utilize this roster spot. And, as Jeff recently told our writers in a conference call, all options are on the table. That means we can sign a player, trade the DP slot, or keep the slot without filling it and using the funds to sign 2-3 players.
Also in terms of the DP slot, it continues as long as the MLS Board of Governors agrees to continue having it. The DP slot is up for review after the 2009 season. The general consensus around the League is that the Designated Player rule has been a successful marketing tool but the salary allocation has led to a disproportionate burden on the cap. If you look closely at the tables the last two years, teams with DP’s have had only moderate success and many have struggled. My belief is that teams taking the risk on DP’s should not be overly punished on the pitch, but that is what is happening due to the heavy salary allocation. I expect the Designated Player to be around for years to come, but the rules are likely to change.
Roster size / Reserve Division
One of the new rules for 2009 is the increase of senior roster spots from 18 to 20. We feel this is an important step for the League and MLS because greater depth is required to successfully compete in international tournaments such as CONCACAF Champions League. The total roster size, however, was reduced from 28 to 24 players. This limits the number of developmental players that a Club can have by four positions. With this change, the Board decided to eliminate the Reserve Division for 2009.
These changes put greater pressure on acquiring the best possible prospects to ensure greater growth potential. They also force clubs to be creative in developing the skills of young players on the back end of their roster. We are working on a plan to accomplish those goals.
MLS has never taken days off during World Cup qualifiers often leaving Clubs without their best players for League matches. We feel this is bad for the League as it hurts our credibility with passionate and loyal soccer fans. It also penalizes Clubs that acquire the best possible talent for this league. We applaud Commissioner Garber’s effort to adjust the schedule for 2009 to limit some of these conflicts. Unfortunately, the schedule is too crowded to eliminate all of the conflicts but we feel we have made progress.
We open the season on Thursday, March 19 against the Seattle Sounders. The match will be telecast live on ESPN2. The entire 2009 schedule is still in the works, but we will play a total of 30 MLS Regular Season matches. This year’s schedule will have each team playing every other MLS team home and away, for a base of 28 games. Two additional games against intra-conference rivals will complete the 30-game schedule.
We will also have additional matches for the CONCACAF Champions League. The Champions League dates will be in late July and early August. If we advance, the tournament stretches throughout the calendar year. Also participating from MLS are Columbus, Houston and DC United.
In addition to the Champions League, the Red Bulls will again be participating in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The Open Cup will get underway for the team sometime in July.
With an odd number of teams in MLS in 2009 (Seattle is the 15th team); the playoff format has been modified slightly. Eight teams qualify, just like last year. This year, the top two teams in each conference automatically qualify. The remaining four spots will be filled by the remaining teams with the most points, regardless of conference. The teams will be seeded according to conference first. And, just like 2008, a team can be shifted to the other Conference if more than four teams from one conference qualify.
That’s it for this edition. If you have any questions that you’d like answered in the future, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.