Skip to content

MLS gets cloudier, not more transparent, with Clint Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders deal

Aug 5, 2013, 7:44 PM EDT

Clint Dempsey, Adrian Hanauer AP

SEATTLE — Question marks surrounding United States captain Clint Dempsey signing with Seattle Sounders FC persisted on Monday. Major League Soccer owners appear happy to have fans and media in the dark about much of their process.

“I think we’re in our adolescence as a league,” Sounders general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer said during Dempsey’s introductory press conference at CenturyLink Field on Monday. “I sit on the product strategy committee (and) the competition committee, and we talk about transparency, and we want to continue to have more and more transparency in the league. I think that’s a good thing for fans. It is something that we’re working towards.”

After the press conference, he continued the train of thought by reiterating MLS’s goals within its single-entity structure.

“The objective is that we have a partnership of owners, and our goal is to improve the league and the profile of Major League Soccer in this country and globally, or our profile vis-à-vis the rest of the world,” Hanauer said. “We’ve created a rule structure that we think best allows our league to grow in a rational way. You can ask me about a specific rule, but we have a decent level of transparency in some areas. In others, maybe we have less transparency, but we’re just trying to build the game and do what we need to do to run a healthy enterprise.”

During the conference, Hanauer offered some insight into how the Sounders were able to sign Dempsey without being subject to the allocation process, but he declined to comment further on why media and fans continue to be left clueless on many facets of the player acquisition process.

“We have different mechanisms by which players can come into the league,” he said. “You can’t come in through multiple mechanisms. You can’t come in as a Designated Player and an allocation player and a Discovery Player. So he came in as a Designated Player.”

Seattle’s biggest rival, the Portland Timbers, holds the top spot in the allocation order. If any United States national team player signs with the league, the team at the top of the order is supposed to have the right of first refusal to sign him.

(MORE: A brief look at MLS roster rules with regard to Clint Dempsey signing)

On Saturday, after Dempsey’s deal became official, MLS executive vice president of player relations and competition Todd Durbin released a statement saying Dempsey was not subject to allocation because of his Designated Player status.

“For new players signed by an MLS club as a Designated Player, the allocation process does not apply,” Durbin said. “Examples of this include previous high-profile player signings like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and U.S. national team player Claudio Reyna when he signed with New York.”

Reyna signed with the Red Bulls in 2007, in the first year of the Designated Player rule. The rule allows each MLS franchise to sign up to three players for more than the league maximum salary of $368,750 for a player over age 23.

Designated Players only count for the maximum amount toward determining a team’s salary cap situation. If a U.S. national team player signs as a Designated Player, then he is not subject to allocation because of the special nature of the deal.

Common wisdom surrounding player acquisitions in MLS suggests that if a deal would raise the profile of the league, especially on a global stage, then team owners are usually willing to make concessions to the player involved.

“Let’s be realistic: A player of Clint’s quality and pedigree has a say in where he ends up,” Hanauer said. “That’s just the reality of certain players that end up in our league.”

Hanauer said Monday that Seattle has courted Dempsey for at least the last two years. It’s unlikely that any other team was willing to shell out Dempsey’s reported $8 million annual guaranteed salary.

(MORE: Report: How Dempsey’s move came together, new details on Deuce’s Seattle deal)

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that MLS, not the Sounders, paid Tottenham Hotspur the $9-million transfer fee — but Hanauer declined to confirm both the number and who paid it, except to say that “the league generally won’t pick up transfer fees.”

The key word in that sentence: “generally.”

Even that brief sentence seems to indicate that the set of guidelines team officials use flex much further than the MLS Roster Rules and Regulations published to the world. Never has MLS’s single-entity structure seemed as insular as this week.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: Could Manchester United and Real Madrid benefit from the De Gea deal collapsing?

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-ARSENAL Getty Images

    If both sides really wanted to make this transfer happen, they could have. Is it possible neither team wanted the deal to get done?

  2. VIDEO: Manchester City has spent more than $500 million under Manuel Pellegrini

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnjmtjlmtrmyznjyjzkyziwmwm1owmzndhiogfmnmiz AP

    Based on the Citizens’ form to start the season, it looks like money well spent.

  3. Arsenal Supporters’ Trust issues statement calling for review of club’s transfer policies

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    After spending just $20 million this summer on a goalkeeper and a teenager, Arsenal fans want to know what’s going on in the boardroom.

  4. Full list of every transfer made by Premier League clubs during the Summer Transfer Window

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:19 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2015 - Manchester United v San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Considering Premier League teams spent more than $1.3 billion on transfers this summer, it’s quite the list.

  5. Five deals that didn’t get done over the Summer Transfer Window

    Sep 1, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG--PR-EVERTON-MANUTD Getty Images

    We all thought they would happen, but with the transfer window now closed, we’re left scratching our heads.

  6. WATCH LIVE: Premier League Deadline Day Show

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:34 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Clear your schedule at 7 p.m. ET for two hours of coverage detailing a wild and crazy Deadline Day in the Premier League. Watch live on NBCSN or online, right here.

  7. Complete list of every transfer in the Premier League on Deadline Day

    Sep 1, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO-BASTIA Getty Images

    Take a look at every transfer made in the Premier League on a wild and crazy Deadline Day.

  8. Aaron Lennon inks three-year deal with Everton

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:32 PM EDT

    Everton v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Tottenham man spent the end of last season on loan at Goodison Park, and now the move has been made permanent.

  9. Leicester City signs Nathan Dyer on loan from Swansea City

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Swansea City v York City - Capital One Cup Second Round Getty Images

    The winger was flown into Leicester on the owner’s helicopter as a last minute signing for the Foxes.

  10. Manchester United fires back on De Gea saga, laying blame at feet of Real Madrid

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Alexander Buttner, Gareth Bale AP

    Let’s hope these guys match up in the UEFA Champions League, where time can be kept on the field.

  11. GRADES: How did each Premier League team fare in the Summer Transfer Window?

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor gives each team a grade after a busy summer in the transfer market.

  12. West Brom chairman reacts to Berahino furor over rejected Spurs bids; Takes shot at Levy

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on August 10, 2015 in West Bromwich, England. Getty Images

    West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace is speaking out on the Saido Berahino saga at the Hawthorns.

  13. USMNT Hyndman stays put at Fulham, will have trials to determine next home

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

    Hyndman Getty Images

    Frustrated at Fulham, American teen Emerson Hyndman looks set to stay at Craven Cottage through the final year of his contract.

  14. One for the future: Chelsea buys Jamaican defender, loans him back to Reading

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    chelseafc.com chelseafc.com

    Hector earned his first six caps for the Reggae Boyz and participated in all three of Jamaica’s matches at the Copa America in Chile.

  15. Watford adds from Roma, Palace, Brugge; Sends Mexico’s Layun on loan

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Colombia's forward Victor Ibarbo eyes the ball during the 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match against Argentina, in Viña del Mar, Chile, on June 26, 2015.   AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO        (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The captain of Algeria, a veteran of Colombia and a Belgian U-21 player are heading to the Premier League side at Vicarage Road.

  16. Saido Berahino slams West Brom, tries to force move to Tottenham Hotspur

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    150119-saido-berahino-280

    Young striker is not happy at all as Baggies continue to block Spurs’ advances.

  17. Spurs, USMNT winger DeAndre Yedlin finds his loan destination at Sunderland

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Honduras v United States Getty Images

    Yedlin joins American prospect Lynden Gooch on the Premier League squad, where Jozy Altidore spent a tumultuous season-and-a-half.

  18. Bournemouth adds longtime Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu4othjmdgxmtq5mwvmzmniywvlmjflmju3mdizn2ji AP

    Crystal Palace feels ready to move on from their longtime striker, with Connor Wickham having joined Palace this summer.

Featured video

MOTD: United's offensive struggles