ISAAC HEATH - Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe announced he was moving to Aalborg in January, he not only became the next American to move to Europe, but also the latest star to slip away from MLS for nothing.

Like many young American players that have been flooding over to Europe recently, Rolfe hopes to develop his game through exposure to stiffer competition and an all around higher level of play than is available in MLS, with the ultimate goal of returning to the national team.

"I am challenging myself with a new league, refocusing on my game, and will learn quite a bit about the game while I'm over there," Rolfe told YA in Chicago. "Hopefully it will pay off and make me a better player and catch Bob [Bradley]'s eye again."

"[Denmark] is one of the easiest places for me to make the transition both professionally and personally because a lot of them speak English over there, and the Danish league is a pretty technical league, so I feel I can develop well."

While Scandinavia is proving to be a strong place to develop American talent, with Danny Califf, Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber and Michael Parkhurst being prime examples, the real loser in all of this is MLS.

The combination of MLS contract structure, the well documented low salaries for many quality players, and allowing players to leave on free transfers, has caused the American top flight to regularly lose key players like Rolfe to other leagues.

"In my case, I'm not going to say they did anything wrong," Rolfe explained, "but I think if they rewarded some of the guys early on for having success, it would be easier to keep players around."

"I would have been interested in signing two years ago. When we started to renegotiate my contract I was playing well with the Fire and playing for the national team and they had me at a pretty low salary for what I was doing."

"It was fair because I obviously agreed to [my original contract]," the former Dayton Flyer added, "but if they tried to reward us earlier on in the contract they would probably keep more players around, because when you come to the end of your contract and you've already stuck it out three years you may as well stick it out one more year and see what happens."

While it may be a foregone conclusion that many American players will go to Europe regardless of MLS contract structure, MLS has let several of these players go for free.

Players like Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Parkhurst, and now Rolfe have all left the league without MLS receiving any compensation for them.

For example, MLS turned down a 2.5 million dollar bid from Preston North End for Taylor Twellman in 2008, and if the player has a similar opportunity available when his contract comes up in a few years, MLS may lose yet another player and receive nothing in return for him.

Aalborg wanted Rolfe this season, and tried to snatch him up this summer by offering MLS an undisclosed transfer fee. MLS turned down the offer and now Rolfe has signed a pre-contract with the Danish team for January of 2010.

"We never got a response [from MLS] as far as I'm concerned," a somewhat confused Rolfe explained. "I personally did not hear any reasoning behind it."

Few can deny the role MLS has played in the rapid growth of US soccer, however, like many others, Rolfe still sees room for even more improvement.

"It's still a young league, but if they would accept that now and start selling players that would make it more profitable and it could turn into a more competitive league quicker."
Don C
Thursday October 1, 2009 1:50 pm
Transfers are the lifeblood of futbol worldwide. When a team gets in trouble they sell their talent and hunker down for a while. I will bet there is not sell on clause in the transfer so in case Rolfe moves up from Denmark, they will recoup something. That is another part of the transfer system these goobers ain't gettin'. Sheesh.
Tuesday September 22, 2009 2:27 pm
Here we go again... you think a player like Rolfe deserves to dwell in MLS until he's too old or injured to make a fair living? Of course he's leaving and good luck to him. Also, here is a player who so easily could have been called up for the Gold Cup squad, but wasn't... he has eyes and a brain in his head, the players based in Europe were called in ahead of him even when it was quite clear that they could not stay through the tournament because of it interfering with their club teams preseason. He knows he has virtually no chance of making the National Team so long as he stays put in MLS.

So long as an unproven player stands to make more money trying his luck overseas...while the proven players get the runaround, they will feel little or no compunction to the idea of bolting to the lower leagues of Europe, and the Kenny Cooper incident over a player being put in a position of having to lose out on his keeping any part of a transfer fee that by rights is SUPPOSED to be his... well by now any player who expects the league to be out to look after HIS best intrests is either blind or a fool. Playing out your option and just leaving is obviously going to continue... and it's MLS's own damned fault.
Tuesday September 22, 2009 2:48 am
I must stand corrected on one of my points from post below "...(playing thru World Cup is the epitome of this goofiness)..."

It seems they recently decided to change this policy:

Good for them on that point. Maybe the blockheads are starting to think a bit...... Let us hope.
Monday September 21, 2009 11:25 pm
I am sure MLS got a lot of value out of keeping Rolfe around for the whole season vs. what they could have had in a transfer fee a couple of months ago...NOT.
Monday September 21, 2009 7:43 pm
This is just another in the myriad examples of MLS being run by a bunch of goobs who know zilch about how the game really works internationally.

Poor contract management and player sales; Not observing FIFA international dates to allow players to play internationally without hurting their club (playing thru World Cup is the epitome of this goofiness); Dumb playoff system and lack of a regular season that matters; Unrealistic salary cap that limits roster size and competitiveness in international tournaments (CONCACAF Champions League, SuperLiga, etc...); Salary cap also causes players to be too underpaid to want to stay in US to play (or causes promising journeymen to have to retire early to get a real job).

The list can go on and on....
Monday September 21, 2009 5:03 pm
This is what I've been talking about for years now, they let a LOAD of quality players go for free, Marshall and Boswell could've gone but lacked the ambition plus I hear Clark is headed to Serie A after this season. The young league excuse is b/s, doesn't anyone in MLS HQ follow soccer? An unpaid intern would've figure the whole transfer system in his/her first year. Sell the young stars use the money that you get from the transfer fee to hire their replacement and/or bring in better player from Latin America.
When a star leaves (Cooper) it opens the door for the next American star (Brek Shea). That's how they do it down in Argentina and Brazil, the players win, the team, league win and the NT wins.
Monday September 21, 2009 8:48 am
Boo-hoo-hoo... MLS is their own worst enemy in the transfer game. They turn down what are good offers (you mentioned the $2.5 mil for Twellman), or they try to get players to sign over their rightful cut of the fee's (as they did recently with Kenny Cooper). They (MLS) should get someone from an established club to give them some pointers on player values, and tell them about the 'sell-on' clause which could prove a better route. Sure, sell a player now at what may seem below their own valuation, with the hopes of getting 10 - 25% of what the next sale is. Sure it's a gamble, but better than nothing.

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