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A brief look at MLS roster rules with regard to Clint Dempsey signing

Aug 2, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT

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One of the biggest obstacles to Clint Dempsey signing with Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer seemed to be the fact that the Portland Timbers, Seattle’s biggest rivals, held the top allocation spot.

Usually, the league uses allocation ranking to determine which club will acquire United States national team players when they sign with MLS:

The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee.

After Chivas USA traded spots with Toronto FC to acquire Carlos Bocanegra in July, the Timbers and Sounders took up the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively. So when rumors first circulated that Dempsey could sign for Seattle, red flags went up.

Dempsey meets both requirements for going through the allocation process. When he left the New England Revolution to join Fulham in the Premier League, he was sold for $4 million.

However, the price tag attached to Dempsey was massive. NBC ProSoccerTalk’s Richard Farley reported that Seattle paid a $9 million transfer fee and guaranteed him $32 million over the next four years, making his base salary the largest in league history.

Dempsey will make more than Beckham did on the field, although Beckham’s contract also guaranteed him a portion of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s overall revenue.

If no other club was willing to shell out that kind of cash for Dempsey, then Seattle likely had a clear path to him. No other Designated Player has gone through the allocation process for the same reason: if a club isn’t willing to pay the price, then it cannot claim the player.

However, none of these caveats are in print with the rest of the roster rules. Once again, MLS has some explaining to do.

  1. bellerophon30 - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    So there isn’t a DP rule that trumps both those provisions?

    That said, I can see how Portland wouldn’t be able to afford this signing, given the size of their stadium.

    • talgrath - Aug 3, 2013 at 5:31 AM

      Yeah, actually Designated Player trumps all of this. Since Dempsey is/will be a Designated Player, the rules don’t apply. Allocation only applies to players who will not be signed as a DP.

  2. ndnut - Aug 3, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    As a Sounders fan, this worries me. Portland could take a collection from the Timbers Army and be able to afford Dempsey, and still have cash left over.

    • talgrath - Aug 3, 2013 at 5:32 AM

      Worry not. Dempsey will be a designated player, which trumps the rules above; mystery solved.

  3. tariencole - Aug 3, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    Indeed, the author of the article didn’t bother to review the exceptions to the normal allocation process in the current CBA. Also, a 2nd answer is right in his own statement. Portland can’t a afford a 9million transfer fee, and Seattle isn’t going to pay that to ship Dempsey to another team, which would allow for a Commissioner’s Exemption even if the DP rule wasn’t in effect.

  4. hildezero - Aug 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    The allocation process does not have an effect in this transfer.

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