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In MLS, Playoff Misses Rewarded with Influx of Young Talent Riches

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When a lack of success is rewarded with new young talent for lower salaries through the draft process, is it fair to judge a season on its actual result or what happens next? Is it really a failure to miss the playoffs when you get to add the most talented player in the draft to your roster for the next season?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Let's just start out of the gate with this: America is a great country. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We invented Velcro, and Kraft singles, and Madonna. But we also are responsible for the pervasive "Good Job" attitude that has resulted in Kindergarten graduations and trophies for every team member, regardless of whether they made it off the bench.

We are also responsible for rewarding bad teamwork, bad management, and bad coaching by allowing the bottom team in the league the top draft pick for the following season. Here in Florida, we are no strangers to sucking at sports. The Bucs, the Marlins, the Magic...all beneficiaries of being bottom of their league and then getting high first-round draft picks to strengthen their franchises.

We here at The Mane Land have probably beaten the piñata to a pulp on the topic of relegation. However, it's really essential to highlight how important the rest-of-the-world standard of promotion/relegation truly is to the integrity of this sport (meaning: soccer).

For a capitalist country, it's ironically quite socialist for the team ranked at the bottom to get the top choice in the draft. The much more capitalistic attitude is to allow those who sink, to drop, and those who succeed, to rise. Which is, actually, what happens when we relegate and promote.

MLS is just starting to get some street cred in Europe. It's a big deal that Steven Gerrard thought he was coming to the Galaxy to retire but, as it turns out, he is actually going to have to earn his salary. Didier Drogba just joined the Montreal Impact and could be the catalyst that gets the Impact into the playoffs at the expense of Orlando City. We have taken on some really quality players, still in the prime of their careers, and yet the concern over the quality of the league is arguably compromised by allowing the lowest common denominator the opportunity to win the top pick for the best talent at the collegiate level.

So, why does this make me worry, as a supporter of Orlando City, a Society XXI member, and a huge proponent of the popularity of soccer in America? Because I worry that, at some point, the front office is going to realize that taking a dive to get the top draft pick is a better option than placing near the bottom and not realizing the full benefit of the fail-and-win system that MLS has chosen to adopt, alongside all the other major American sports franchises.

Of course, I don't actually think that the Orlando City front office will do this. But certainly, out there in the league, some teams must be thinking about this. And the fact that it's an option makes me, as a fan, worry about the viability of MLS in the long-term. Unlike other American sports, soccer isn't solely focused on success in North America, and MLS can't name itself as world champion by winning entirely in America, when everyone else was playing the game first.