"One of the things very important to us is with our policies in place we allow our teams to get the best possible players on the field," says MLS vice president Todd Durbin, who oversees all player matters. "Allowing teams to having players on loan helps our teams do that within the confines of our salary budget.
"Part of the dynamic and part of the process of getting a player on loan, is you negotiate a transfer price at the end of the loan period. What the league and the team need to be thinking about is if the player becomes the player we hope he's going to be while on loan, is that we have the opportunity to bring him back with the transfer. That involves managing allocation money and your salary budget in the out years."
But not every loan deal can be converted into a permanent move so quickly, even if a transfer price has been stipulated in the loan agreement. The league must also negotiate a salary with the player, and to cite just one example, Seattle fans are anxiously awaiting word if striker Fredy Montero and defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado will be back next season. Coach Sigi Schmid has referred all questions about them to general manager Adrian Hanauer.
They are two of more than two dozen players on loan to MLS teams this year, and with teams having notified players entering option years if their options for 2010 have been picked up, there will be intense negotiations until deals can either be finalized or terminated.
This process is somewhat hampered by the on-going collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and also by the uncertainty regarding what the salary cap will be next year.
In the case of Chivas USA, which plans on importing more players from parent club Guadalajara next year, it must decide what to do with loanees Maicon Santos, Jesus Padilla and Yamith Cuesta, who joined the club in midseason. Cuesta gained the most starts, yet other changes might prompt new head coach Martin Vasquez to keep them around longer, maybe on extended loans.
"In some situations, you would have a loan until the end of the season with an option for 2010," says Durbin. "[That] option might be for a further loan, with the option for a permanent transfer after that 12 months. Another way the deal could be structured is a loan for six months, with an option for a permanent transfer at the end of the year."
The Chivas USA players came to MLS on six-month loans, while striker Luis Angel Landin, whose salary next season will be high enough to make him a Designated Player, will be on loan to Houston until the end of 2010, after which he can be signed to a permanent contract or returned to Mexico. Planning, and budgeting, as is the case in all things MLS, are critical.
"That's part of the planning process; when you're negotiating the transfer price or looking at what your salary budget is going to look like in 2010 or 2011, you have the ability to keep the players who have become an important part of your team, and can keep them long-term," says Durbin
"It's a complicated issue. Clearly, our object is to make sure we have the best possible product on the field. When we try to put our competition rules together, that's our goal is to ensure that our level of play is increasing each year."