Major League Soccer: Do Designated Players fit into the future of American soccer?

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With radical changes to the current system unlikely, it may seem academic to discuss the merits and drawbacks of Major League Soccer's Designated Player Rule.

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However, that's not to say that changes won't be necessary in years to come.

MLS Different to leagues across the globe

It is a law that promotes equality, and so there will always be more powerful parties that highlight its cons, but a glance at European football would suggest that this is a sensible idea.

Americans have made many changes to the sport in the past that haven't lasted - countdown clocks and tie-break shoot-outs, for instance - but the MLS is now a division of reputable quality and offers every team the opportunity to challenge.

The title has been claimed by nine different clubs in its 18 seasons, while the same period in England, Spain and Italy has brought four, five and five champions respectively.

Funding in the former two countries has been heavily weighted towards the top sides, while a match-fixing conspiracy is never far away in Serie A. With the UEFA Champions League bringing yet more monetary gains to the continent's elite, the gap between the head and tail of each nation's league is expanding all the time.

Look at DC United

This can again be compared to the United States. In 2013, DC United finished rock bottom in the Supporters' Shield standings, failing to qualify for the MLS Cup. This term, they lead the Eastern Conference, and have every chance of claiming the latter honour.

Now, while this switch in fortunes would hint at the use of expensive DP signings, it has been the Black-and-Red's other business that has been particularly crucial.

The off-season acquisitions of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Davy Arnaud and Fabian Espindola have all been central to success, along with more recent arrivals Chris Rolfe and David Estrada. In fact, big-name recruit Eddie Johnson took until the third month of the season to net for the first time.

United's dealings have been mightily impressive, but it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of the aforementioned players would struggle to find employment in more prestigious divisions.

What can be done?

There are no major issues with the Rule, and any adjustments would surely first rely on each outfit maxing out their DP slots, but in order to compete for CONCACAF championships - and eventually FIFA's Club World Cup - the MLS must advance their current structure.

A wage cap can remain in place, but less stringency would allow a higher standard of player to consider the States as a viable destination. There is certainly a market between the varying talents of Emanuel Pogatetz and David Villa.

Another alteration that smaller franchises would perhaps have a problem with would be to increase the number of DPs allowed. This would be a move towards the situations currently spied in England and Spain - with Chelsea and Real Madrid monopolising the finest stars with their boosted finances - but it is necessary to challenge on a worldwide stage.

Barring a huge raise in wages for standard contracts - at the league's expense - no team can hope to claim the best prizes with only three standout performers. However, in an ambitious environment, only owners with genuine aspirations of reaching the top should belong.

The Designated Player Rule works, and it shouldn't be scrapped, but in order to achieve its goal of becoming a premier competition by 2022, modifications are required.

D.C. United

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