Paul Arriola transfer to MLS breaks new ground

D.C. United pulled off one of the biggest signings in league history when it acquired 22-year-old Paul Arriola from Mexico's Tijuana, across the border from his hometown of Chula Vista, California. No American so young has returned home for so much money.

Arriola, who started for the USA in the 1-1 tie with Mexico in World Cup 2018 qualifying in June and the 2-1 win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup final in July, confirmed he had left Xolos in a thank-you letter to their fans on Wednesday night.

Paul Arriola at Tijuana:
Liga MX (2013-14)
5/0 Liga MX (2014-15)
27/1 Liga MX (2015-16)
31/2 Liga MX (2016-17)
1/0 Liga MX (2017-18)

D.C. United has not announced the agreement but confirmed plans for a press conference Thursday at 10 a.m. ET at RFK Stadium to discuss "marquee signings." In the last day, United confirmed the signings of Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber and American Russell Canouse from German clubs.

There are three money parts to the deal, as outlined by ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle:

MLS Rights: The LA Galaxy in whose academy Arriola played in his senior year in high school held his MLS rights, so United has to pay around $500,000 of allocation money.

Arriola turned down an offer to sign with the Galaxy to sign with Tijuana out of high school, but the Galaxy's offer allowed it to retain his MLS rights even if he never qualified for HG status.

Transfer Fee: D.C. United will pay Tijuana in excess of $3 million for Arriola.

Most of the Americans for whom MLS has paid transfer fees (estimates here) are national team veterans:

-- Michael Bradley ($10 million to Roma from Toronto FC in 2014),
-- Clint Dempsey ($9 million to Fulham from Seattle in 2013),
-- Jozy Altidore (Jermain Defoe plus cash to Sunderland from Toronto FC in 2015),
-- Alejandro Bedoya ($1 million to Nantes from Philadelphia in 2016); and
-- Tim Howard ($600,000 to Everton from Colorado in 2016).

Salary: D.C. United will pay Arriola more than $1 million per year.

Only five Americans -- Bradley ($6.5M), Altidore ($4.9M), Dempsey ($3.9M), Howard ($2.5M) and Bedoya ($1.2M) -- were among the 28 MLS players listed as making more than $1 million by the MLS Players Union.

Context: Arriola enjoyed his best season at Tijuana in 2016-17 when Xolos won the first phase of both halves to the Liga MX season, but Tijuana is off to a horrible start this summer, having lost all three games, two at home, by shutouts.

There was no guarantee that Arriola would keep his starting job in a league heavy on imports, so a move to MLS with a very nice contract might be his best bet to remain in the national team picture with a possible trip to the World Cup on the line next year.

The move will not be without pressure. Arriola will be one of the cornerstones of a D.C. United team being rebuilt as it prepares for a move into its new Audi Field in 2018.

14 comments about "Paul Arriola transfer to MLS breaks new ground".
  1. Mark Buckley, August 10, 2017 at 7:29 a.m.

    Vamos United

  2. :: SilverRey ::, August 10, 2017 at 9:53 a.m.

    Well, after leaving the team to tank the 2017 season, it's good to see that the owners still care. Who knows, there may still be time to turn things around too. This is a great start and hopefully they add a few more key players in January to get ready for the new stadium!

  3. don Lamb replied, August 10, 2017 at 4:21 p.m.

    H - And yet, they are completely revamping their team and getting younger. If they were being relegated, they would simply throw their hands up and have a fire sale. Look at Chicago. They went from bottom of the table to heavy investors and are at the top now. If they had been relegated, they would not have had reason to invest and given the fickle fan support and lack of stability in the lower leagues, that could have been all she wrote for professional soccer in Chicago... Good thing we have a stable system in place until we have the infrastructure and cultural depth to be able to handle promotion and relegation.

  4. don Lamb replied, August 10, 2017 at 7:51 p.m.

    Which lower division clubs are waiting to step into MLS with first division facilities and development systems that should take the place of Chicago and DC? Things should change drastically next year for DC when their new stadium is ready. Bailing on that market and that franchise before that happens would have been a huge mistake that would set the game back a long way in that area.

  5. don Lamb replied, August 10, 2017 at 11:24 p.m.

    There should be no sarcasm with that comment. Of course the lower division teams need time to develop their infrastructure and everything else that it takes to run a professional team. Is your solution to just throw them out there? Replace Chicago with Rochester and DC with Oklahoma City? Just for those markets to go right back down? That sort of volatility would tank MLS. Once the lower divisions are established, it should be in the plans, but we are a ways off from that.

  6. don Lamb replied, August 11, 2017 at 10:48 a.m.

    lol. Are you referring to the time that one of the Mexican heavyweights was going to be relegated, but then they bought their way back into the top division? Way to hold them accountable for losing, Mexico!!

  7. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 11, 2017 at 11:11 a.m.

    I agree Kumar. Once we have the infrastructure we should introduce pro/rel. Probably not for another 15-20 years but someday we should. Not yet though. As always, patience is needed but that is simply not your strong suit. In your world we should immediately become as good as Brazil or Germany just because we want to. In real life, it's a lot harder than that.

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 11, 2017 at 12:49 p.m.

    Kumar - the namecalling is why you keep getting banned. I haven't heard that one since Beavis and Butthead about 25 years ago. Nice job. Anyway, 15-20 is an estimate based on how expansion has been occurring in MLS so far. I think we need 40 teams so we can have 2 stable 20 team divisions in order for pro/rel to work properly. Look at the venues these NASL teams play in. They are not "major league" in any sense of the word.

  9. don Lamb replied, August 11, 2017 at 1:39 p.m.

    H - Name one good candidate that could replace DC United in the first division. That would be a colossal mistake to lose markets like DC, Houston, and Chicago, which would have all been demoted last year or this and that would almost certainly lead to the demise of the league as a whole. In good time, sure,but to demand relegation at this point is a huge mistake. Fortunately, there are more mature and savvy people in control of this thing than you.

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 11, 2017 at 3:59 p.m.

    Well there you go - if having an acceptable stadium is a requirement I don't think any team in NASL would be eligible for promotion. Also, please stop the name calling. Thank you.

  11. don Lamb replied, August 11, 2017 at 9:49 p.m.

    H - Just stop, buddy. And, you're welcome.

  12. frank schoon, August 10, 2017 at 12:59 p.m.

    Oh, so the big news is that we bought a rising US star that perhaps couldn't get playing time... Wow , what a spin on that take....

  13. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 11, 2017 at 11:09 a.m.

    He was a regular in the Clausura last year when Tijuana finished top of the regular season table.

  14. Simon Provan, August 10, 2017 at 5:47 p.m.

    Editorial note: Dempsey transferred from Fulham to Spurs and then Spurs to Seattle. Not Fulham to Seattle.

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