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Beckham Rule Masks a Core Development Problem
The New York Sun, November 22nd, 2006 1:49PM

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Paul Gardner of the New York Sun praises the Beckham Rule, which allows Major League Soccer clubs to sign one player each for as much money as they can afford irrespective of the league-wide $1.9 million salary cap. "The move is to be praised," Gardner says, as "better, more imaginative, more exciting players are urgently needed." However, even if the likes of Beckham, Ronaldo and Luis Figo make their way to the States, Gardner says it won't address the problem of college soccer, "a highly public secret that bedevils the sport in this country." While the NCAA does a fine job feeding basketball and football stars to professional leagues, it does nothing for pro soccer. For the NCAA, soccer is at the low end of the totem pole when it comes to college sports: a short season, weak level of play and poor attendances means that nobody cares and schools don't profit from the sport. This translates into a scenario that doesn't produce top players, says Gardner, which is why we need the Beckham Rule to help our professional league. Project 40, introduced in 1996, was supposed to be an answer to that problem, but many saw it as anti-education. A few weeks ago, MLS introduced a new youth soccer program that would create satellite teams for MLS clubs in the under-14 to under-20 age groups. But MLS is forced to stress that such a program would "not jeopardize a player's NCAA eligibility." Ultimately, the game's efforts to progress are hindered by the lack of a professional youth development system, which means-sorry folks-education has to take a back seat to soccer-in the same way educational allowances are made for college football and basketball stars. To get to that point, Gardner says soccer needs to be rescued from the NCAA, which has no vested interest really in developing the pro game. Read the original story...


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