Countess, Akwari,
DiGiamarino, Arvizu
How I learned to stop worrying and love the MLS lottery
February 8, 2006

Can you hear it? It's the crying of other MLS fans over another MLS lottery won by Metro, this time for the rights to David Arvizu. "Rigged!" they cry. "MLS is bending over for the MetroStars!" they cry. "We are poor unfortunate fans of small market teams!" they cry. Shove it, other MLS fans. Shove it.

Before we point out these fans for what they are, meaning complete idiots, let's delve into the past of the MLS lottery. It was first instituted in 2000, in order to allocate players who have signed with the league after the SuperDraft and were desired by more than one team. The first team that won such a lottery was Columbus, who acquired Mario Longo (who?) on May 8, 2000. The midfielder played a total of 32 minutes over four MLS matches and was out of the league by 2002.

From that point on, the lottery has appeared semi-regularly throughout the years. The details of its procedure were murky at first, but recently MLS has gone to great lengths to explain the process, which involves ranking the teams on the basis of their record over the last 32 games (the length of the regular season), plus playoffs. Teams can also choose to drop out of the lottery, for if they win one, they are barred from participating in another one for the rest of the calendar year. Under these rules, the MetroStars had a 23.5% chance to get Arvizu. Chivas USA's chance was 54.5%. Flip two coins, MLS fans. How often will you see two heads come up together? That's right, one in four times. Pretty often. That's your 25%.

So Arvizu is the fourth lottery won by the Metros, following D.J. Countess (2001), Nelson Akwari (2002), and Joey DiGiamarino (2003). Amazingly, none of these players did much with the team, as Countess never played a minute for Metro (more on that later), Akwari was shipped out after a forgettable stretch, and DiGi flamed out in his return to MLS. In fact, the first two, so-called top-notch prospects, have grown to be below-average MLSers. The only one of the three still in the league is Akwari.

The amazing thing is that the MetroStars failed to win a single lottery that they wanted to. In 2001, they lost out to San Jose on Paul Grafer, who was on loan with Metro the year before, and were forced to trade Ramiro Corrales for Grafer and his pants. In 2002, Dallas got Winston Griffiths, with Metro trading Countess to obtain the soon-to-be-departing Jamaican. In 2004, the most publicized of all MLS lotteries saw Danny Szetela go to Columbus with a look of disgust on his face.

So why do Metro keep winning all these lotteries? (Of course, it's important to mention that "small-market" Dallas has won three themselves; for ex-Metro draft pick Hamisi Amani-Dove, Griffiths, and Alex Yi.) The answer is simple; as Alexi Lalas said after the Arvizu selection, "you have to be in it to win it." And the Metros, under three different regimes, have been constant participators in the process (for example, the DiGi lottery was just between them and DC), knowing that even if the player is not the most desired property for themselves, at worst it gives Metro a free trading chip, like it did with Countess and Akwari. Besides, does anyone remember the Orlando Magic winning the NBA lottery with a 1/66 chance? Unfortunately, Metro has not had enough success over these past years to reduce their odds to a number like that.

So what will become of David Arvizu? Will he never play a game for Metro or become an all-time great? Who knows. At least we got him without losing anything. Shove that, other MLS fans.

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