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Younger DP rule slights home-based talent
by Ridge Mahoney, August 17th, 2011 1:27AM

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[MY VIEW] Rather than give its teams greater incentive to keep players it has developed, MLS has instead expanded its Designated Player option to lure more younger players from overseas.

The Designated Player change encourages teams to sign foreign-based young men as DPs at a reduced salary-budget charge.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, 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.

The new rules go into effect next season, and do not supplant the current DP strictures that allow a maximum of three per team, with no trade of slots permitted. Domestically produced players who currently play in MLS or in another North American league are not eligible to be upgraded as a younger DP, but those with foreign teams are eligible. RSL teenager Luis Gil cannot be signed to this kind of contract, but Josh Gatt – and any other age-eligible player in a foreign league – can be.

"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."

Durbin said the new rules would encourage teams to seek and sign younger talent whose track records as professionals may not yet be sufficiently established to risk a full DP salary-cap hit. It may also result in more teams using the full complement of three DPs, as if he is 23 or younger, a third DP will not trigger the $250,000 penalty normally imposed.

The case of Freddy Adu, 22, arose during the conference call. He signed with MLS last week on a free transfer from Benfica and played for the Union Saturday in a 2-2 tie with Dallas. Since his $500,000 salary hits the MLS DP threshold, he would meet the age and salary benchmarks to be classified next season as a younger DP.

The irony is that if the younger DP option had been in force when Adu left MLS after the 2007 season, he would not have been eligible to count less against the cap at a high salary. Only players with foreign clubs, including Americans and Canadians, can be signed by this mechanism.



6 comments
  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 17, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.
    This is a clear sign that the amount of home grown players that go pro are not cutting it. Its easier to sign young talent from overseas. Its better for young pros like Luis Gil and Freddy Adu to start their careers overseas or even in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala for 1-2 years to get a decent contract here. If they start here they will be making $40,000 for 2-3 years before getting a slightly better offer. El Salvador average for foreign players is about $5000-$10000 a month plus a free place to live and food. Guatemala pays even more. That's $60000-$100,000 in these small countries vs $40,000 in MLS with no free lodging or food. Big difference.

  1. R.a. Vizcarra
    commented on: August 17, 2011 at 5:44 p.m.
    My guess is that the reason local talent is not eligible is this: the league is wary that if US based players start getting DP money, it will lead to an escalation in salaries, as teams try to outbid each other for younger talent, that might not be proven, and yet cause higher overall salaries for all local based players. They are afraid they might start to lose control of some of the salaries and are afraid of heading down the path of other major leagues.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 17, 2011 at 10:18 p.m.
    Makes no sense. MLS has figured out that they fill seats with foreign players. The Fire has not been able to fill the same amount of seats it used to with Blanco. Now they have offered free tickets and sold $8 tickets for other games. Pardon was a smart move as the best fan base are the Mexicans. Fire now know this for sure. If they wise up and start signing home grown talent that are Mexicans origin and play them they will fill those seats some more. I m not saying this is ethical but this would be a better option and outcome for USA soccer than signing foreginers for the sole purpose of attracting more customers.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 18, 2011 at 12:44 a.m.
    MLS academies are another money maker. A real academy in any other country practices twice a day 4-6 days a week. Solution for pro prospects from USA. Go to central America and make more than the minimum here and come back after first year to get you're true value offer from MLS. That will then you in a DP. For now boycott MLS.

  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: August 18, 2011 at 10:57 a.m.
    I definitely agree with signing home grown talent of Mexican origin. But also how about signing home grown talent of any origin? The MLS Academy system has to become serious about developing young talent regardless of what their ethnic origin is. If MLS is signing foreign players because they believe that will attract more customers they are shooting themselves in the foot. Home grown talent is eventually what will attract customers including in particular home grown talent of Mexican descent.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 18, 2011 at 2:35 p.m.
    Daniel, you're right about signing all origins. I was talking more about what the business interest is for MLS. They know they are not doing the development the right way a d they know what exactly the true fan base wants to see.


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