Alright, the story on the Designated Player rule is up on SI.com.
It actually started because I was telling my editor Jonah Freedman about the ages of certain players and then I realized that most of the DPs had in fact played three World Cups ago. So I wanted to see what people around the league thought.
Basically, the DP rule has been a boon. Club and league officials are excited at the types of players that have been brought in and everyone I talked to compared it favorably to one of the best elements from the early days of MLS, when there were international characters like Marco "El Diablo" Etcheverry, Jorge Campos, Carlos "Pibe" Valderrama and Roberto Donadoni. The league went away from that, probably because of salary concerns, but now that those issues can be dealt with we are starting to see a new wave of players come in. And those who I talked to were excited about that.
Many might assume that since a guy is 32 and is now in MLS, it's a last resort and the player couldn't really hack it elsewhere. To a certaint extent, there is some truth to that though I wouldn't put it so bluntly. Juan Pablo Angel had fallen out of favor at Aston Villa while Marcelo Gallardo was in a bleak situation in France. But to say that it was either MLS or off to the retirement home wouldn't be putting it correctly. Like Francisco Palencia said a year ago, MLS isn't a graveyard for elephants. I mean, America probably would love to have Cuauhtemoc Blanco back.
Anyway, as the story points out, it's unrealistic to assume that an MLS team would be in the running for a mid-20s world star even if the team could afford his salary. Transfer fees would likely rule out any such move, and an MLS team couldn't compete with the deep pockets of some of the world's upper crust.
The story is kind of a progress report on the DP rule if you will. Some teams have used it, some teams have traded it away and other teams are waiting for the right player to come along. I asked Michael Hitchcock about the possibility of seeing all 14 DP slots used this year or all 15 being used in 2009 and he said he didn't think that was likely to happen. In a way, it's kind of like the sponsorship deals. Some teams went out and signed those deals right away and others haven't yet done so. Like everything else in this league, the DP rule is evolving and will continue to do so. But this is one of the things, though, that has been a positive for the entire league even if only a few teams have taken advantage of it.