MLS 2018: Teams have lots more money to spend -- are they willing?

It's less than four weeks before MLS clubs open preseason camps, and many still have lots of work to do.

Eight teams have less than 20 players under contract -- 30 is the maximum -- and two teams with new coaches -- New England (Brad Friedel) and Portland (Giovanni Savarese) -- have yet to make any offseason acquisitions.

MLS 2018: Rosters

There should be a flurry of activity as teams have been armed with an additional $2.8 million in TAM on top of the $1.2 million they was already allocated for 2018 and 2019.

In 2017, MLS teams went on TAM spending sprees when the amount each team received was increased from $800,000 to $1.2 million. TAM was used with success in multiple ways:

New signings. No TAM player had a bigger impact than Spaniard Victor Vazquez, who took Toronto FC over the top.

In addition to signing of three Designated Players, Atlanta United used TAM to sign four other players and made the playoffs in its first season. New San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelliquickly used TAM to sign four players who helped get the Earthquakes back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

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Victor Vazquez. Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

Player re-signings. Portland, which finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season, re-signed three players -- Darlington Nagbe, Liam Ridgewell and Diego Chara -- to contracts above the maximum player charge.

Both Wil Trapp and Justin Meram, two keys to the Columbus Crew's turnaround in 2017, were re-signed in March.

DP contracts bought down. The Houston Dynamo converted Mauro Manotas' Designated Player contract to a non-DP, allowing it to sign Honduran speedster Alberth Elis.

What will be different about the extra $2.8 million in TAM allocated to MLS clubs for 2018 in 2019 is that the extra TAM is discretionary -- teams aren't forced to spend the money like they are with regular TAM -- and teams can't use it in trades like regular TAM or GAM.

TAM not only boosts the number of players making above the maximum salary charge -- $505,625 in 2018 -- but it increases the amount the teams have to spend on transfer fees. (A player's salary charge is not only his salary but acquisition costs.)

The big unknown in the offseason has nothing to do with TAM spending -- at least not directly. How many clubs will follow Atlanta United and invest in young Designated Players like Miguel Almiron, who cost the Five Stripes an estimated $8 million and turned them into instant contenders?


Miguel Almiron. Photo: Courtesy of Atlanta United.

MLS clubs have been linked with many young South Americans, most notably Atlanta United and Argentine Ezequiel Barco of Copa Sudamericana champion Independiente. Other players who are rumored be headed to MLS are Argentine Alejandro Romero Gamarra (New York Red Bulls) and Paraguayans Jesus Medina (NYCFC via Manchester City) and Josue Colman (Orlando City).

Clubs in Argentina and Paraguay love to have new bidders (real or perceived) to play off against Mexican and European clubs interested in their top players. Until now, MLS owners have been very reluctant to speculate on the international transfer market.

We'll find out soon enough how much that thinking has changed.

1 comment about "MLS 2018: Teams have lots more money to spend -- are they willing?".
  1. I w Nowozeniuk, December 28, 2017 at 9:19 a.m.

    $1.2M in TAM money is not competitive in luring quality young talent. 

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