Is MLS Ready For A 4th DP Spot?

Is MLS Ready For A 4th DP Spot?

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 20, 2013
  • 2013 MLS Season, Designated Players, Features
Landon Donovan has been a model DP for MLS. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Landon Donovan has been a model DP for MLS. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Ever since last week’s announcement of Omar Gonzalez re-signing with the LA Galaxy as their third Designated Player, the thought kept coming up in my head, is MLS ready for a fourth DP spot?

Obviously the point of the single-enity system that MLS uses is to keep costs down as much as possible and not have any one team become a juggernaut due to high spending. It was only a couple seasons ago that the league went to allowing two DP spots on each roster with the option to buy a third spot.

Right now there are only three teams that actually use up all three DP spots on their rosters. FC Dallas has two Young DPs to help keep some of the costs down, while LA and Seattle both use up all three spots with big name players. 

Most teams right now in MLS use just two spots. Many aren’t wanting to spend the extra money* that it takes to buy that third DP spot or they are just unable to find a Young DP to fill it.

(*Each club has two Designated Player slots and clubs are allowed to “purchase” a third Designated Player slot for a one-time fee of $150,000 that will be dispersed in the form of allocation money to all clubs that do not have three Designated Players. Clubs will not have to buy the third DP roster slot to accommodate Designated Players 23 years old and younger.)

As MLS moves forward into a league that will become 24 teams by the end of the decade, the question has to be ask, when will MLS be ready for an extra DP spot for each team? If you put that rule into place today, it is argued that only two or three teams would even consider using up all four spots.

To me, I think the league is ready. But only if it is done in one of the following ways.

To Keep A ‘Omar Gonzalez’ Type Player

With the addition of retention funds this year for each club, I see adding a fourth DP spot as a way to expand the usage of retention funds. In other words, don’t charge each club for this roster spot like what is currently being done with the third DP spot. But encourage teams to use this spot to promote from within more. In other words teams like Dallas could use this kind of spot to keep a guy like George John, or maybe say Portland in a couple years with a guy like Darlington Nagbe. Either way, it is designed to keep a guy from testing those European waters too early.

Re-shuffle the Young DP slots

Right now, Young DPs cost less, which is good. Also, Young DPs can fill all three spots without extra charge unlike what LA and Seattle have to spend to use that third DP spot. So why not open up a fourth DP spot to where two spots are always meant for players over 24 years old, one spot for both Young DP or 24 years and older, and one that is designed to encourage teams to use it only for a Young DP. Possibly charge less for this Young DP spot at first, maybe no more than $100k on the salary cap (A Designated Player 20 years old or younger** counts as $150,000 against the club’s salary budget and a Designated Player 21-23 years old counts as $200,000 against the club’s salary budget.).

Go All In

Or finally, go all in. Charge teams double what is currently being charged for the third DP spot and go all in on a big name player. Again, only a couple teams would be willing to go this route but the league is about to face new TV deals so why not allow clubs the ability to bring in more exciting players? It is a gamble for sure but it could be a good one for the league as it continues to grow.

  • Tim WV

    I can see a 4th spot being added, or even a reshuffle as you mention.


    4 with a young DP or even 1 must be an American DP – no green card status or loop holes, but a USMNT player, add a cap tie count to the name if you must.

    Yes, ultimately a 4th spot throughout the league would be beneficial. I can’t wait for the new CBA to be done, the cap is too low across the board. Lack of depth, relating to cap money, has shown to be a boon to teams competing in multiple competitions too many times now.

  • James

    I’d be for it if every team had full DP slots and needing more but this isn’t the case. adding a traditional 4th DP would only help the top teams pull away from the rest of the pack. I’d be for raising the salary cap or like you mentioned, adding some sort of “special” dp that all teams would benefit from.