The addition of World Cup star Jermaine Jones to Major League Soccer was a huge win for the league, but the MLS's manner of placing the 32-year-old midfielder on a team is raising some eyebrows.
Though the MLS is making steps toward increasing its presence, the world's most popular sport has struggled to gain traction in the US. Fans in the States like to see high scores, clocks that run down to zero and a definitive winner at the end of a contest. At times, the MLS struggles to bring any of these things.
But viewers around the country turned on the World Cup this summer, jumping on board with the Men's National Team as it made it way through the "Group of Death" and into the elimination round. For once the United States was the underdog, and sports fans loved it.
Now the MLS is trying to harness some of that attention by bringing Jones, a World Cup fan favorite, into the league. The MLS was handed a golden opportunity to draw national attention in a country where the decisions of sports stars mean so much.
Just look at LeBron James. James' offseason perfectly exemplifies what kind of drama sports fans love in the United States. As one of the top athletes in the world, James left the NBA's Miami Heat and sparked the most covered story in the nation over the months that followed.
Sure, a 29-year-old basketball player flying around the country, having dinner with team owners and comparing offers of more than $50 million, might not sound like an exciting plot, but basketball fans couldn't get enough. Stars can turn teams into contenders and attract other high-profile players, immediately shifting the balance of power in a league. That's why the country held its breath for James, and other free agents like Robinson Cano in the MLB.
But instead of parading Jones around the country, holding meetings with teams and discussing best fits and implications, the MLS took matters into its own hands.
The league commissioner drew Jones' team name out of an envelope.
Teams in the MLS aren't independently owned, they're all controlled by league stakeholders. So a bidding war between several franchises, like the one for James in the NBA, wouldn't be possible.
But MLS still dropped the ball by handling this move so lightly. Chicago and New England were chosen as the two potential landing grounds for Jones because of their expressed interest, open roster spots and cap room.
In other words, both teams just needed a player.
When the commissioner pulled the Revolution's name out of the envelope, he sent the league's newest star to a team without even considering his preference. Now, future players considering the MLS will have to remember how little say they have in the "free agent" process.
Jones handled the situation well, saying that he looked forward to playing for New England. But for all the commissioner knows, he could be unhappy with his new team.
MLS needs to make a major change to this process. Americans have learned to accept the fact that two teams can end a game with a tie, but handcuffing the best players by leaving their futures to chance won't lure more fans to the sport.
Imagine Dave Dombrowski making a call to ensure that the Tigers' name is included in Max Scherzer's envelope this offseason. Or Kevin Durant being sent to a small market like Milwaukee. The most popular sports in the country embrace free agency, but MLS missed a great chance to do the same.