PODCAST: Recruitment in the MLS

From a recruitment perspective, scouts and analysts working in the MLS in North America face a number of unique challenges when it comes to assembling their player roster.

Of course every elite club around the world will be working to their own budgets and recruitment parameters set internally, but what sets the MLS apart in many ways is that all 22 franchises have to work to exactly the same parameters, which are defined by the League.

As well as having strict roster-rules to adhere to, which includes a salary cap for non-designated players and a limit on the number of international players, they also have to monitor certain recruitment channels, such as College Soccer, which may not carry the same level of importance at a European club.

One other area which sets the MLS apart is the transparency of all player salary information, which is published each year and available online, which adds another dimension to the decision-making process.

As a Designated Player, Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley’s salary sits outside of the franchise’s salary-cap

Given mid-season player trades between franchises and the drafting of NCAA players via the annual Superdraft probably have more in common culturally with other US sports compared to European football, you would imagine, just like players moving from abroad, recruitment staff moving from Europe to work in the MLS would have to quickly acclimatise to a new working environment in order to help their team recruit effectively.

With this in mind, we have brought together two industry professionals who have made that journey during the last three years to discuss MLS recruitment strategies for the latest edition of the Scout7 Podcast.

First up we have Lucy Rushton, who moved to Atlanta United eighteen months ago after spending seven years working with Reading. She is the franchise’s Head of Technical Recruitment and Analysis and spent the first twelve months of her time in Georgia helping the franchise assemble its roster ahead of their inaugural MLS Campaign this year.

She is joined on the podcast by Jack Dodd, who after a semi-professional career in England went on to scout for Liverpool FC’s Academy before joining Crystal Palace as a first-team Technical Scout. In the summer of 2014 he moved to Canada to become the Director of Scouting Operations at Toronto FC.

The pair’s transition from England to North America make them well-qualified to answer questions surrounding the different working practises on each continent.

As well as talking about the challenges of the MLS roster-rules, they offer an insight into some of the factors which can make the MLS a tough league for a player to adapt to, such as having to cope with frequent changes in heat and humidity at different venues, different playing surfaces and long-haul travel.

Being a continent renowned for having a healthy interest in sports data and statistics, they also talk about how applied analytics and technical scouting practices fit into their daily scouting processes, in addition to the challenges of the mid-season transfer-window, which is scheduled during a different period to many other domestic leagues around the world.

Finally, from a local youth recruitment level, they also talk about the competition they face from other US Sports to try and convince prospect players and their parents to commit to a career in football, which based on Atlanta’s strong 2017 attendances, suggests is continuing to grow and develop in North America at a healthy rate.

It all makes for an insightful listen. You can hear it in full by clicking on the player at the bottom of the page.

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by Sam Dickinson Guest Blogger

Published 10 August 2017