- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter has come up with some dumb ideas in the past - rotating the World Cup every two years, calling on female players to wear skimpy outfits - but his “six-plus five” rule is an idea that must be taken seriously.

Blatter wants to limit the number of foreign players starting on a team to five. The hope is that it will create more parity in competitions and preserve the integrity of national teams.

The FIFA Congress meeting in Australia yesterday unanimously supported the idea. But Blatter faces a huge battle with the European Union and its open labor laws. The European Union already has given it the red card, calling it discriminatory and illegal.

Blatter wants to phase his idea in slowly, gradually limiting the number of foreign players down to five by the 2012-13 season in Europe.

The English Premier League is the biggest culprit in the binge-signing of foreign talent. The number of English players starting in the EPL this season fell to an all-time low of 170 out of 498 (34.1 percent). According to research by BBC Sport, on the last weekend of the EPL season, 142 players starting were foreign, and only 78 were English.

Detractors say that better coaching will produce more homegrown players and that a quota system will weaken the brand of the EPL, which is regarded as the best in the world. Supporters of Blatter say homegrown players are denied a shot at top-flight soccer and see the pool of talent for the national team shrinking.

While it’s vital to have an exciting league with talent from overseas, there has to be a balance. Coaches in the EPL are looking for short-term solutions because their jobs are on the line. Developing domestic talent, which takes time, is low on their lists.

You can’t blame a guy for wanting to drive his Porsche fast, but there have to be traffic laws. Likewise, you can understand why Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger fills his roster with cheap, young players from other countries. It’s easier and convenient for the Frenchman, who pays no mind to the English national team.

West Ham United had the highest number of Englishmen in its starting lineup with 6.61 players, while Arsenal averaged just 0.34 percent.

There were 3.9 English players starting on each team in the EPL on the last day of the season, compared to 7.3 Italians starting in Serie A, 6.9 Spaniards in La Liga and 4.9 Germans starting in the Bundesliga.

Unlike the European leagues, Major League Soccer has a generous quota system. Teams can hire eight international players, and all eight can start.

D.C. United was an ideal model of the “six-plus five rule” Thursday when it started six Americans in the lineup - Zach Wells, Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, Bryan Namoff, Domenic Mediate and Devon McTavish - in the 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, which started seven Americans.

Busted - FC Dallas defender Adrian Serioux said some threatening things about David Beckham last year to a British newspaper. Those words caught up with him yesterday. MLS fined Serioux $1,000 in addition to the $250 fine he received for a red card after a nasty tackle on Beckham on May 19.

This is what Serioux said about Beckham in the United Kingdom’s Sun tabloid in February 2007:

“He’s great for MLS, but me and a few others are going after him - he’s made us feel unappreciated. If Beckham can’t handle it, he can play pingpong or tennis. There’ll be no line to cross with him. I don’t have a line. If he’s on the ball, he’s there to be hit hard.”

Serioux earns $125,900 compared to Beckham’s $6.5 million.

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