Thoughts on the New DP Rule

Thoughts on the New DP Rule

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On July 29, 2010
  • Designated Player, Geoff Reid

By Geoff Reid

First of all apologies for being away for a while. I took a break during the world cup to specifically enjoy it and getting back into the regular routine is a tough thing to do!

With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon and put in place, several things got tweaked, including the Designated Player rule and this was a good thing because when the rule was first announced and was code named the ‘Beckham Rule’ because lets face it, it was designed around signing him, the whole buzz around the rule was lost this time a year ago. Something clearly had to be done and when the new CBA was being drafted back in the winter, it was re-done and it remains to be seen whether the changes put in place will pay dividends.

Back when the rule was first brought in during the 2007 season, besides the famous Englishman being signed, Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Columbia’s Juan Pablo Angel, Argentina’s Marcelo Gallardo, Claudio Reyna, and Brazil’s Denilson also signed with the league. Some really worked out very well on and off the field, while others were simply a bust. Denilson in Dallas was just an experiment that went wrong in almost every way possible which has prompted the ownership group not to go the route of a DP anytime soon. On the other hand, Blanco’s signing in Chicago worked out in every way possible. The only thing that was missing from his time at the Fire was an MLS Cup. The New York Red Bulls experienced both sides of the rule with Angel becoming the clubs all time leading scorer and without doubt a huge success, while the signing of former US National Team captain Reyna was a complete bust. In the nation’s capital, Gallardo didn’t seem like he had much interest in his one and only season in 2008. Now with nobody new coming in under the old agreement, it was then time to make some changes.

Being this year is the year for a new CBA, and on top of that a world cup year, it was a good time to make those changes to the rule and now each club is allowed up to three DP’s per team to begin with. There’s always a jump in following during a world cup year and the league always looks to ride the momentum that the world cup starts and in a year when the national side performed very admirably in the tournament, that’s vitally important. A big way of riding that momentum is by using the DP rule to good effect. One of the worst kept secrets in anything was finally made public with Thierry Henry signing for the New York Red Bulls as their new DP. Henry has wanted to come to our shores for a while and has been to New York City every summer the last couple of years and it was always inevitable. We’ve also seen Nery Castillo sign with the Fire in Chicago, and rumors have Mexican captain Rafa Marquez as the next target and for probably the Red Bulls. More signings are expected, but the rule adjustment has made things more interesting and created more buzz amongst the transfer talk and MLS does finally have a ‘silly season’ even though it just so happens to be during the middle of the season.

One thing does remain the same though with this rule and it’s that we haven’t seen anyone apart from the usual suspects try and bring in a DP and take advantage of the ruling. Markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC are the main attractions to foreign players if they were to come stateside for obvious reasons, and that’s not to say the other cities that have clubs in the league aren’t wonderful cities in their own right because they are, it’s just some have more of a pull and glamour over others. Some clubs have actually done just fine without even considering using the DP rule: New England, Salt Lake, Houston (before Luis Landin joined, and left), and Columbus (although Guillermo Barros Schelotto was a DP for one season and deserved that tag). The league’s newest side and my local club, the Philadelphia Union have come out and said a DP will not be signed unless they can find a player who is committed in the long run to the club, fan base and local community. Markets like New York will demand star power, it’s just the way it’s always been. Same can be said for Los Angeles. Some of those other markets don’t necessarily need it, and it’s shown in the past with the last few clubs to win MLS Cups that never had a DP on their rosters. Seattle is one of those markets that does have the pulling power like a New York, but doesn’t necessarily need a DP for marketing reasons because fan support will always be there, and as long as their fan base has a winning team, that’s really all they will care about. Same can be said for Toronto in that regard.

So even though changes were made to this rule, the only thing different that’s happening is more big name players are being linked with the MLS which is not bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. You just won’t see clubs that have been successful in the past without even considering the rule changing course. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.


  • Jul 29 2010
We in DC wish that DC was indeed a destination for foreign players, but, alas, because of RFK and that utter travesty we like to call a soccer team, no one wants to come play for us anymore. Sigh.
  • Jul 30 2010
We also will have the first big game of the year that will focus on MLS, with N.Y. Vs. La.. It will be nice to see if this game can move the ratings for the league. Five years from now is when the league should settle at 20 and this is when I think the league takes it's place as part of the big 5 in the U.S.A., hopefully pulling even with hockey.