LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena 'embarrassed' by MLS commercial flight arrangement
LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena says he is so "embarrassed" that Major League Soccer teams must use commercial flights that he has told players not to wear team gear to the airport.
Unlike the other major sports leagues in the United States, MLS does not charter flights for their teams to travel between games, and Arena told the Los Angeles Times that he feels flying commercial damages the perception of the league.
"I'm embarrassed that we travel that way. I don't think it helps the reputation of our league," Arena said. "I try to keep it as quiet as possible."
According to the Times, the Galaxy will fly 38,000 miles for 17 regular-season away games this season -- more than most Major League Baseball teams, despite playing a quarter as many games. MLS teams must wait for the airlines' schedule, often making it impossible to return home on the same day of a game.
Arena switched the United States national team to chartered flights when he was its manager, and he said it's time for the league to follow suit.
"It's time for our league to get into the modern days of professional sports," Arena told the Times. "Travel impacts the competition. ... We lose a training day. It impacts recovery and, again, it impacts the competition."
Midfielder Landon Donovan agreed with his manager, saying the travel arrangements left a gulf between MLS and the country's other sports leagues.
"There's a perception and an image," he told the Times. "We're on a Southwest flight to Kansas City and a lady in front of us said, 'Why are you guys flying Southwest?' So if we want to be Major League Soccer, not minor league soccer, and we want to be like the [other] sports, eventually we have to get there."
According to the Times report, the commercial flights can also lead to injuries -- forward Alan Gordon must be cautious with his back -- and could create a divide within teams as some star players like Steven Gerrard have first-class accommodations written into their contracts.
However, MLS commissioner Don Garber told the Orlando Sentinel last month that charter travel was not a financial priority for the league.
"Our teams have got to decide whether or not charter travel is a bigger priority than perhaps investing in the academy programs to make players better," he said. "All of that has got to get squeezed into an affordable budget so we can continue to succeed as a league.
"Charter travel is less of a priority than investing in academy programs."
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