ESPN writer Frank Dell'Apa tells us that Major League Soccer has earned more than $30 million in transfer fees since 1996. To be sure, $30 million is a negligible percentage of the worldwide soccer market over the last 11 years, but if recent trends are anything to go by, the league's transfer revenue looks set to grow each year. Last year's tally of $6 million for Freddy Adu and Clint Dempsey broke records; this year, with Eddie Johnson gone for $4 million and Aston Villa's $4 million offer for Brad Guzan still in the works, 2008 will have set a new record before the summer transfer window opens.
That's all good for MLS, but Dell'Apa says the league is still a reluctant player in the global transfer market. Taylor Twellman's blocked move to Preston North End is the perfect example. Why did the league reject Preston's $3 million offer? From a competitive standpoint, it's not in the league's interest or the New England Revolution's interest to lose a proven goal-scorer. From a financial standpoint, it's not in their interest to lose a star player, either, because not only are star players not easy to replace, but there's also no guarantee a replacement would adequately fill the void left by his departure. Delving a little deeper, Dell'Apa points out that the Revs would have kept $1.7 million of Twellman's fee, with the rest going to MLS. However, only $500,000 of it could be used to find a replacement of equal value, unless the Revs applied to spend more. Meanwhile, it's nearly impossible to find a proven striker of equal value for $500,000 -- especially on short notice (the transfer window ends Thursday).