The long, twisting saga of Seattle FC's pursuit of Sigi Schmid will end Tuesday with the official announcement of his hiring, a day after MLS imposed a penalty on the expansion team for unspecified improprieties.
Seattle must give Columbus, which Schmid led to its first MLS Cup in the final year of his three-year contract, an unspecified amount of cash - i.e, a fine -- and allocation money to secure the services of Schmid, who turned down several attempts by the Crew to retain him.
MLS also announced it investigated charges of tampering by Seattle, whose technical director, Chris Henderson, has known Schmid for more than 20 years, since he played for Schmid at UCLA. The league said it found no evidence of tampering, though whatever criteria or definition of "tampering" it uses has never been specified.
The Crew cited Schmid's contract included a non-compete clause for 2009 and claimed that certain financial details had been communicated to Seattle.
Schmid's desire to return to the West Coast - he coached the Galaxy for five seasons after leaving UCLA - and some disgruntlement regarding his relationship with Hunt Sports Group management precluded any chance he'd stay in Columbus. When they brokered a deal in late 2005, HSG refused to negotiate with representation and dealt exclusively with Schmid, which may be one way a non-compete clause slips into the contract of a successful coach.
Either through Henderson or other individuals, Seattle learned how much Schmid had been making and what the Crew had offered to keep him. A source said early in the process Schmid was earning in the neighborhood of $175,000 per year and Columbus had offered "something less" than $300,000.
Those numbers and others believed to be in the ballpark had been widely reported, so only HSG and MLS know how blame came to be placed on Schmid, Henderson and Seattle. Yet Columbus, apparently, convinced the league that by knowing how much it was willing to pay Seattle gained an unfair advantage in negotiations and violated confidentiality clauses in the contract that was in force until officially terminated Nov. 30.
HSG refused permission for Schmid and Seattle to discuss employment until the contract expired and by whatever means, if information was exchanged, MLS had no choice but to impose punishment, whether or not a non-compete clause - the existence of which has been questioned - was in place.
The league followed a similar course last year when Juan Carlos Osorio exercised a clause in his contract that empowered him to join Red Bull New York, which didn't need to approach him, since Osorio publicly stated his intention to move east, which could be construed as reverse tampering.
In any case, it cost New York some allocation money and a first-round draft pick to nab Osorio after the Red Bulls were initially denied permission to speak with him. Sound familiar?
In any case, this announcement closes months of speculation and outright inaccuracy, dating back to reports that the Seattle coaching job was offered to Kansas City technical director Peter Vermes two months ago. According to a Seattle team official, that never happened. There were also stories stating Schmid demanded to be paid the highest coaching salary in MLS, which a source labeled "utterly false."
Regardless, Seattle has its man, the only coach in league history to win championships with two different teams. Can there be a third?