Does the Designated Player Rule Help or Hurt MLS?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 19, 2010

COLUMBUS, OH - JULY 17:  Thierry Henry #14 of the New York Red Bulls looks off during a television interview before a game against the Columbus Crew on July 17, 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The transfer window for soccer opened earlier this month and, within that couple of weeks, MLS has doubled the amount of designated players in the league from the start of the season.

Six players have already confirmed the move to the States and a possible seventh coming in the person of Ronaldinho.

The real question from critics and MLS fans is will this further increase the quality of play and could these designated players make an impact on the league as a whole (or just the franchise they play for).

The highest profile signing so far has been Thierry Henry's move to the New York Red Bulls.

But, the question on the Henry signing would be if there were already two or three designated players on the Red Bulls roster, would Henry even consider going to a smaller market team in the league.

The answer to that question is easy. NO. Henry wants to shine on one of the biggest stages of MLS, and the Red Bulls can provide that. There would absolutely no way that Henry would play for a smaller market team like Columbus, Colorado or San Jose.

The good thing for MLS is that they are getting other international players to sign for teams not in New York or Los Angeles.

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The Seattle Sounders secured the signature of Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo before the World Cup and he will join up with fellow designated player Freddie Ljungberg.

Montenegro international Branko Boskovic signed with DC United.

Spanish forward Mista has joined Toronto FC and two Mexican internationals, Omar Bravo (Kansas City) and Nery Castillo (Chicago), have signed as well.

But the question remains: Does this really improve the league as a whole?

On the subject of marketing and ticket sales it does because the Red Bulls will attract more fans than usual for away games with Henry (and so will the LA Galaxy having Landon Donovan and possibly Ronaldinho on their roster).

On the topic of making the league better as a whole, there are some question marks.

First, the designated players that were superstars at one time in Europe want to play in the big markets like New York and Los Angeles. That automatically puts the the other 13 teams not in those cities at a disadvantage.

You can also make the case that Guillermo Barros Schelotto in Columbus and Cuauhtemoc Blanco in Chicago made an impact, but they did not have as much fanfare as Beckham and Henry.

The only way teams outside of NY and LA can succeed with the designated player rule is to sign South American players, mid-level European players, and players from Mexico.

This is a disadvantage to those teams but since that formula has worked for Columbus and Chicago, other teams should go ahead and improve the quality of their team by using their designated player spots (just like the Crew and Fire).

So, the answer to the question is yes. MLS benefits in every way from the designated player rule and has been one of the better things that Don Garber and the MLS brass have done in the past couple years.