Did Steve Nicol actually mean what he said?

Maybe it was the fact that he was called "Stevie" to start the segment by ESPN Press Pass host Dan Thomas -- that's a little too chummy for a host to address a football legend -- but former New England Revolution manager Steve Nicol may have overstepped his journalistic bounds by stating this about the LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders in this 2012 season preview:

"They have talent, they have money and the way MLS is set up, you have to know the rules and these guys can manipulate the rules to help them."

We can only hope that by the word "manipulate" he means that those clubs are savvier than all the others at managing the roster rules in MLS.

But that statement comes on the heels of this declaration by Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis to SI.com: "It's a little puzzling even for me to figure out how the Galaxy is affording all these players. At some point I can only worry about so many things. But I've always been in favor of making all the rules more black and white and putting everybody on the same page."

The speculation surrounding big market bias resurfaces every now and then. But it's got to stop. There are 15 other owners outside LA, NY and Seattle, not to mention an MLS Players Union, who would never just sit idly by and allow "manipulation."

After the first statement, it was no surprise to hear who Nicol named as the favorite of the 2012 MLS season.

"Hard to see past LA," said Nicol, who coached the New England Revolution to four MLS Cup title matches without big money stars. "They have talent and they have money."

Again with the money? This isn't the EPL or La Liga. Please.