The Armchair Analyst is back for his weekly Q&A

Posted by Major League Soccer (MLS) on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being the growth of MLS – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.

In the past couple of weeks, several clubs in the Chinese Super League have made a bit of news in the soccer world, splashing staggering sums of money for the likes of Chelsea midfielder Ramires ($36.1m), Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez ($47.1m), and Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Alex Texeira ($56.1m)

These transfers drew big headlines around the world. Big dollar signs do that. More locally, the headlines turned to Obafemi Martins, his reported move to Shanghai Shenhua, and, on Wednesday, his appearance at the club's training camp in South Korea:

Immediately, people started wondering what all of this means for MLS. I did, too.

ESPN writer Jeff Carlisle's breakdown on is a good place to start for anyone looking to understand it more. Especially because it includes this quote from MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott:

"They've been very active in the player market, and I think they're very serious about trying to build their league," Abbott told Carlisle. "We are too, and we've been at it for a long time. There are a lot of elements that we're continuing to work on: players, quality of play, stadium environments, supporters culture. All those things go into a league being successful."

What he means, essentially, is that MLS teams have learned over the years that splashy signings alone are no replacement for a solid structure. It's a lesson, no doubt, that some CSL teams have learned, some are learning, and many more will learn in the coming years.

Which is why MLS clubs aren't asking "Can we splash out an insane amount of money on an individual player?", but rather "Can we continue to build the fanbase, build the academy, and build a pipeline of talent from our U-12s through the first team? Can we find and develop promising international talent?"

Last year's Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls are a great example of this axiom, as they seamlessly transitioned from the Thierry Henry-era to "The Team is the Star" era. The MLS Cup-winning Portland Timbers built off their own internal chemistry and added a young international talent (ex., Lucas Melano). The other three teams whose success really defined last year -- Columbus Crew SC, FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps -- all followed roughly similar patterns.

And this year, many of the minutes opened up by Martins' presumed departure will go to young, newly inked striker Jordan Morris. Melano, after a rough start, produced Portland's series-clinching goal against Dallas and the Cup-winning assist against Columbus.Matt Miazga's path from the Red Bulls to Chelsea is well understood, and RBNY signed a raft of new Homegrowns this offseason.

There is now a structure in place to supply new talent, and teams have gotten better at developing it. That doesn't create the headlines that huge transfer fees do, but in the long run, they tell a much, much more important story.

Ok folks, thanks for keeping me company this evening. Let's do it again next week!