The 2016 season has come to a premature end for the Revs and it’s time to look forward towards 2017. While it’s well documented the Revs aren’t among the big spenders on designated players, I was curious if not spending as a strategy actually had some merit. To find out, I did a quick analysis of 2016 league salary spending vs where each team finished to see if there were any interesting correlations. The results were interesting.
Success in MLS: a Case of the Haves and Have Nots?
To keep it simple, I looked at all 20 teams and divided them into 3 tiers by salary – high spenders (10m or more), mid tier which is most teams (9.99m to 6m) and lower tier (below 6m).
Upper tier spending teams…
- TFC 22m – 3rd in East, Eastern Conf Champ, MLS Cup finalist
- NYC 21.2m – 2nd in East, East playoffs
- LA 18.6m – 3rd in West, playoffs
- Seattle 12.5m 4th in West, Western Conf Champ, MLS Cup finalist
- Orlando 11.9m – 8th in East, Did not make playoffs
Middle tier teams….
- Colorado 8.7m – 2nd in West, Western Conf finalist
- Vancouver 8m – 8th in West, Did not make playoffs
- Portland 7.1m – 7th in West, Did not make playoffs
- Montreal 6.9m – 5th in East, Eastern Conf finalist
- SKC 6.9m – 5th in West, playoffs
- San Jose 6.9m – 9th in West, Did not make playoffs
- Philly 6.8m – 6th in East, playoffs
- DC 6.3m – 4th in East, playoffs
- Chicago 6.1m – 10th in East, Did not make playoffs
- RSL 6.1m – 6th in West, playoffs
- NYRB 6.1m – 1st in East, playoffs
- Columbus 6.0m – 9th in East, Did not make playoffs
Lower tier teams….
- NE 5.9m – 7th in East, Did not make playoffs
- Houston 5.3m – 10th in West, Did not make playoffs
- Dallas 4.8m – 1st in West, Won Supporters Shield, Won USOC
What I found was interesting because we have 2 “upper tier” teams in the MLS Cup final while a “lower tier” team won the SS and USOC. In fact, the 2016 USOC final was lower tier Dallas vs lower tier Revs. This year’s confence championships were upper tier Seattle and TFC vs mid tier Colorado and Montreal respectively, with the upper tier team winning both. Everyone else was somewhere in between from worst team in the league (Chicago) to battling for the SS to the end (NYRB and Colorado).
Lessons Learned for the Revs Front Office
To me, regardless who wins the final, it proves 4 things:
1) Spend, but spend wisely (Giovinco, Lodeiro etc vs Gerrard in LA or Kaka in Orlando).
2) You can’t be afraid to change it up midseason. This could be hiring a new manager when your team is in the mid-summer doldrums (Schmetzer replaced Sigi in late July) or making a key midsummer acquisition to strengthen your team (Lodeiro). One could make a strong case the 2016 revs may have benefited from both of these.
3) Develop and give your young talent minutes, supplementing with under the radar veterans that won’t cost a fortune (Dallas) to win trophies.
4) It takes more than 1 designated player. While Orlando has Kaka, he’s surrounded by mediocrity, hence why they didn’t even make the playoffs. Seattle has Lodeiro and previously Dempsey. TFC has Bradley, Altidore and Giovinco. LA had GDS, Gerrard, Keane, Zardes and Donovan and still didn’t get past Colorado – so there’s a formula of team chemistry, coaching and designated player age/pedigree.
I think the revs could learn from others in the league who are in both the “spend more” camp and “spend smarter” – if they have the humility to do so.