In my conversation with Dan Loney, we somehow wound up talking about the Colorado Foxes and the old APSL/A-League.
Dan made the case that if the 1993 Foxes played in MLS, they would eventually fall off the pace because of a lack of depth and resources, but they would win until that happens.
So that brought to mind two thought experiments …
1. Would the 1993 Colorado Foxes fare well if they were transported into MLS today?
I found 1993 rosters and stats on the old A-League archive, which still exists at Tripod, which still exists.
The Foxes had two goalkeepers splitting time, both of whom wound up in MLS. Mark Dodd fared pretty well down the road. Jim St. Andre had a rough time.
The biggest name on the roster is Robin Fraser, who had a very good MLS career and a lot of meaningful games with the U.S. national team. You may also recognized Tom Soehn, Brian Haynes, Chad Ashton and Mark Santel. (Basically, Foxes coach Dave Dir took a lot of his players with him to the Dallas Burn. Yes, Burn. 1996 was a weird time.)
Top scorers were Scott Benedetti, whom I remember, and Taifour Diane, whom I do not. Ted Eck wasn’t far behind. Diane went to Germany to play for a long time and then go into coaching.
Fraser, Eck and Diane made the All-APSL team.
Now that I look at that roster, I don’t think they would’ve been competitive. But I don’t remember them quite as well as some people might.
The APSL at the time had eight teams, three of them in Canada. The year before, it had five teams, all in the USA. The next year, the APSL added the Seattle Sounders. (The Montreal Impact were already in the league.)
So that brings us to a second question …
2. What would MLS teams look like if we only had eight teams?
Let’s assume 10 or so American players are in Europe, as they were in 1994. At that time, U.S. national teamers who had gone to Europe included John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, Roy Wegerle, Juergen Sommer, Frank Klopas, Paul Caligiuri and Mike Lapper. U.S. players who had grown up in Europe and stayed there (until a few years later): Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart.
So let’s assume John Brooks and Cameron Carter-Vickers stayed put in Europe. (Or Europe and England, if Brexit goes through.) And let’s assume bright prospects like Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and Weston McKennie are in Europe, along with DeAndre Yedlin, Ethan Horvath, Matt Miazga, Shaq Moore and Eric Lichaj.
Let’s assume the three Canadian teams take eight U.S. players each. The five U.S. teams take 18 U.S. players each, filling the other spots with internationals. That’s 114 U.S. players condensed onto eight teams.
What would that look like?