Yesterday was a fairly busy day for Major League Soccer. They had two clubs in the CONCACAF Champions League, both of whom did very well at home. They signed a former US National team striker in Eddie Johnson, to which club he’ll end up with we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out.
And then there was this amendment to the Designated Player rule.
During a media call, MLS executive vice president Todd Durbin outlined the process by which teams receive a credit on their salary-budget charges if they sign younger players to DP contracts. Players age 20 or younger will count $150,000 against the per-team cap of $2.675 million rather than the regular hit of $335,000, and players 21-23 will count $200,000.
“If you look at it, our Designated Players are anywhere from mid to late 20s to early 30s,” said Durbin during the conference call. “We’re getting good players, veteran players and players with experience but we’ve been out of the market for young, promising players in this area.
“We’re hoping with this rule change we’ll tear down this last barrier of entry and bring in quality players at every place in their career and truly have the ability to get into the market of young players to be able to bring in and grow stars of the future for Major League Soccer.”
This new rule will take effect next season.
Teams will still be bound by the three DP maximum and will not be able to trade slots around to have more than three. That much is good.
In a way I love these new additions to the DP rule. It shows that a lot of MLS clubs want to go after young talent overseas. We’ve already seen two clubs do that this year with FC Dallas and the New England Revolution signing very young DPs.
But what I don’t like about this rule change is that current players in this league or any other in the US cannot be signed using this mechanism. Sure the league doesn’t want teams to sign a home grown or Generation adidas player to this, that’s fine, those systems are in place for a reason. But say a kid like Luis Gil or even a Brek Shea could not be given a DP tag, even though both meet the age requirements for this rule change. Teams can go out and snag a young kid from a foreign league though, like say a Josh Gatt, a player that has been making loads of headlines in Europe already this season.
So rather than giving the clubs an incentive to keep the quality players that they have developed, the league is putting greater emphases on signing talent from outside the league. Hey, at least this time around it is to sign attractive young talent.
I do see this rule changing a lot of the ways that some teams operate their budgets for next season. Teams that we wouldn’t normally expect to sign a DP like a Chivas USA, a San Jose Earthquakes or a Columbus Crew may be more inclined to go out and sign a couple young players to this new rule. Its less of a gamble than taking a DP that is a little older, like what Dallas did with Denilson a while back.
Where does this rule change really come from? In a way it has been worked on for a while but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if a lot of it had to do with the signing of Freddy Adu. See, had he not left MLS back in 2007, he wouldn’t be eligible for this new rule. But since he came back to the league from a foreign league, he falls right into it for next year.