J. Todd Durbin was one of the key figures behind the implementation of the league’s roster rules and guidelines released Friday.
NEW YORK — J. Todd Durbin is MLS’s executive vice president of competition and player relations. He’s one of the “architects of the competition structure of Major League Soccer,” as the league site puts it, and has been with it since 1995.
Durbin was one of the key figures behind the implementation of the league’s roster rules and guidelines released Friday. There now are clearer-cut allocation order rules when select U.S. national-team players enter the league. The number of players on each team’s discovery list — each team has seven slots to claim a player who decides to come to MLS from another league — has been cut from 12 to 7.
On Monday, Durbin explained the rationale behind the rule changes.
Question: The new guidelines include instructions on which players will go through the allocation order as determined by order of finish. Why the distinctions?
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Answer: We wanted to look at this process and see if we could simplify it and make it clearer, if we could find a way to have less players go through the allocation order rankings, we could have more players go through the discovery process. In essence, we kind of turned it on its head. Instead of the assumption being, if you’re on the national team you’re automatically in the allocation pool, that ends up being very fluid.
Q: Would the new rules have affected the Sounders’ signing of Clint Dempsey in 2013?
A: The main thing that would have changed is the clarity aspect of it. In today’s world, it would have been very, very clear whether Clint needed to go through the allocation list, and if he wasn’t then he’d have to be a discovery. One of the challenges and questions that was out there when we signed Clint was, what was the assignment mechanism and how’d he end up in Seattle? I think there will be absolutely no ambiguity there going forward.
Q: How will this change player acquisition?
A: I think the change in the system is going to make it easier and make it more likely that players will come (to MLS). If you think about the fact that the vast majority of players will come from the discovery rankings, they’re going to know which team they’re going to play for. When we’re in contract discussions with the player, they know where they’re going to be going. … By pushing and continuing to push players into the discovery process, I believe that we will incentivize a team to spend more money on scouting, more money on identification, more money on improvement.
Q: Can you discuss the choice young players have to make between college and turning pro?
A: We don’t ever incentivize players to leave college. From our perspective, it’s always been a very important strategic role that, when a young domestic player either here or in Canada decides he wants to be a professional, we are their league of choice. This is the place where they want to start their careers. … We’re not around college campuses and looking at players, telling them they need to become a professional to continue to develop. Our basic approach is, when they decide on their own, then we are there.