Why MLS Will Continue to Compete for Players with China: Fan View

The approach of the 2012 MLS season is highlighting a new dimension to the competitive soccer player market. In 2011, the emerging popularity of soccer in China jeopardized potential MLS transfers. I think this trend will continue in 2012. MLS will simply have to adjust to competition from foreign leagues for popular players.

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China's Obsession

FIFA's statistics reveal that China has more than 26 million soccer players and more than 2,000 clubs. Despite the inability of the men's national team to qualify for the World Cup and ongoing failures in other matches, the popularity of this sport continues to increase in China. Now, the country is competing more with other foreign leagues to capture skilled players, and it will continue in 2012.

China Ruins a Deal

In 2011, the power of China to ruin a potential MLS deal became fully visible. Initial rumors about Nicolas Anelka's move to MLS, a Chelsea striker who was leaving the Premier League, changed quickly. It was reported by several sources that the Montreal Impact and other Major League Soccer teams had attempted to secure a deal with Anelka. Instead, he chose China's Shanghai Shenhua. Recent rumors indicate that Chelsea's Michael Ballack is also considering a transfer to China.

Money Rules

Once Nicolas Anelka's salary became public, it was easy to see why he chose Shanghai Shenhua. He is estimated to be earning $300,000 a week with China's team. Money is China's ticket to securing talented players, and the MLS' designated player rules are not enough to save the clubs in many cases.

Flaws that Kill

China's willingness and ability to make large salary offers gives the country a strong edge over other foreign leagues. Most MLS clubs simply cannot compete with some of the offers that China provides. However, internal problems in China's teams could be the flaws that kill its ability to contend with other leagues. Corruption is an ongoing issue with bribery and fixed matches. Currently, several Chinese soccer clubs are facing trials stemming from corruption, and Shanghai Shenhua is one of them. The punishment has not been determined, but this may only provide a temporary respite for MLS teams searching for new players.

More from this contributor:

MLS Players with Second Jobs: Fan's View

Fan's view: Do MLS teams deserve more charter flights?

MLS Referee Week Gets Mixed Reviews: Fan's View

Lana follows MLS, UEFA and FIFA. She has been a faithful fan of the Chicago Fire since 1998. Follow @Lana_Bandoim on Twitter.

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Updated Sunday, Jan 1, 2012