Will Portland be able to sign Mikael Silvestre or not? (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

Will Portland be able to sign Mikael Silvestre or not? (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

Oh Major League Soccer. Your rules frustrate and confuse even those who have been watching you since day one. I get it though. You want to cover your butts as much as possible and keep the parity party alive and well. Again, I get it.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a fair amount of discussion around the league on the ol’ discovery claim system that the league uses in regards to signing foreign players. Lately we’ve seen the likes of veteran internationals like Mikael Silvestre, Nigel Reo-Coker and Djimi Traoré all come and play part in various MLS camps. And that is where the trouble lies. 

MLS has their discovery claims system set up for the large part to keep teams from stacking the deck. Some could say it was also added to give the smaller market clubs a chance to compete for signing some big names against the New Yorks and LAs of the league. But in all reality it was to keep two or more teams from getting into a bidding war over a player. Due to the fact that players sign with the league and not just the club itself like everywhere else in the world, this mechanism was added to keep the power in the league’s hand rather in the player’s hand (who are normally free agents). Typically free agents have more say in where they go simply because if one team isn’t interested they can look else where.

But that isn’t the case in MLS.

Clubs may make discovery claims on players not yet under MLS contract who are not subject to the allocation ranking or lottery mechanisms.

Each club has the opportunity to make six discovery signings per season (expansion teams may make 10 discovery signings in their inaugural season). A club may have up to 10 discovery claims on unsigned players at any time and may remove or add players at any time. The last day for discovery player signings is September 15, 2012 – coinciding with the roster freeze date and trade deadline.

The six discovery signings can be used to fill senior roster spots only. If multiple clubs claim the same player using a discovery, the club that filed the claim first will have first rights to the player. Discovery claims expire following each season. If the League and player are unable to reach an agreement during the season, the club that first filed the discovery retains the right of first refusal in the event the player is later signed by the League.

So say team A and B like Silvestre and team B brought him in to their preseason camp only to find out that team C had the discovery claim on him first. Well that would frustrate you as well. That is the case today as Portland is interested in signing the veteran defender while Seattle has the discovery claim on him.

The same situation can be said for Reo-Coker who was wanting to sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps earlier this winter before finding out that New York and Portland were also interested. At the end of the day it was said that Portland laid the discovery claim Reo-Coker even though they lost interest in wanting to sign him.

If multiple clubs claim the same player using a discovery, the club that filed the claim first will have first rights to the player. – MLS rules on discovery claims So now deals have to be made between the clubs. Seattle holds the keys in the Silvestre deal even though they are said to be zeroing in on signing Traore. Portland will have to give up something to sign him.

Last year we saw that Houston had the rights to Kris Boyd first before Portland signed him. The result, the Dynamo got first round pick out of the Timbers in exchange for the rights to the Scottish striker. Now Boyd was a Designated Player so highly doubt the Sounders will get a first round pick for Silvestre but there is some precedence set here with last year’s Boyd trade. More than likely a conditional SuperDraft pick will be involved.

From the sound of things in Vancouver, the Reo-Coker signing doesn’t appear to be going any further. Which is unfortunate considering the fact that the Whitecaps could use a player like him.

At the end of all this you want to see the league grow and attract names like this but you would also like to see a better method for getting them added to the various clubs within the league. I’m not saying this system has to completely go but there certainly needs to be some sort of checks and balances added to improve it. Teams that lay discovery claims on players need to either sign the player or be penalized in some form should they decide not to, or in the case one decides to hold the rights to the player hostage so another team has to trade for it .

Some day either this rule will cease to exist or it will be improved upon. It is just a shame that it probably has driven away so many talent players from joining the league over the years due to its silliness.