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Remembering the five hours when “League DP” was a thing in MLS

Sep 9, 2013, 8:54 PM EDT

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The subtext of today’s surprise trade between Toronto and Portland was confusion, into which always steps speculation. This time, however, that speculation was aided by reports from The Canadian Press, who reported that a new “league designated player” category now exists, with MLS wanting such players to be playing regularly. Speculation elsewhere held Urruti, limited to 37 minutes during his time in Toronto, may have had his path steered to Portland.

That news was first published around noon Eastern. Five hours later, Major League Soccer was holding a conference call with a small group of reporters, wherein MLS Vice President of Competition and Player Relations Lino DiCuollo denied the report.

Here’s what we DiCuollo had to say:

  • There’s no such thing as a “league designated player.” The league denied The Canadian Press’s report in that regard.
  • Max Urruti is not a Designated Player. He was not a Designated Player when he came into the league, either.
  • The league had no hand in steering Urruti to Portland. Toronto had multiple offers, MLS understands, and made their own choice. The league does not become involved in trade discussions beyond guidance on and enforcing rules.
  • MLS did not pay Urruti’s transfer fee from Newell’s Old Boys. In fact, Urruti didn’t have a  transfer free at all. DiCuollo confirmed Urruti moved on a free from Argentina.

All of which leaves the same confusion that arose this morning: Why would Toronto do this deal?

The pieces seemed to fit when League DPs were a thing and Major League Soccer had an interest in finding playing time for them. But with Major League Soccer denying today’s reports, we’re left wondering what went down between Toronto and Portland. Maybe this really was about getting rid of one of Kevin Payne’s signings?

Don’t expect speculation to die down entirely. For too many, this will be a smoke and fire scenario. Particularly after the Clint Dempsey signing, there’s a certain level of distrust of MLS’s guidelines. Some fans see the league office as willing to bending the rules as needed. If Dempsey needs to come in and wants to go to Seattle, how do they make the story fit? The creation of a “League DP” for the Urruti situation fit that narrative.

Regardless of whether that speculation’s true, it’s a growing perception. The Urruti deal and the short life of a “league designated player” won’t calm concerns.

  1. dfstell - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Yeah….this is the kind of stuff that I don’t like about MLS. I don’t even want to THINK about whether a league is involved in player allocation. I just want it to be an unfettered, free-for-all where teams buy the players they want…..and that’s why I prefer to put my fandom into European soccer. But, I appreciate that there are fans who prefer the MLS model and that’s cool. Different strokes.

    I do with my home league was a little more appealing to me though. It kinda makes me sad every time something like this happens….

  2. hildezero - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Just because of that, you’re not a fan of MLS? Did you not read the entire story? MLS cleared it up. You just don’t wanna believe it, because you’re just an insecure American whose a Euro snob. You should be a shame of yourself.

    • dfstell - Sep 10, 2013 at 5:49 AM

      No, I read the article. They did fix it. I just don’t like that the specter of this sort of nonsense looms over MLS. Even when they’re doing it right, there is doubt.

      MLS just has a blatant desire for a level playing field and they’re always going to do things to help the little guys catch up (or at least some of the little guys). I don’t like that and it’s not how I want my soccer. I actually want a league where the rich get richer.

      The good thing is that we have choice. I don’t have to watch MLS if I don’t want to because there are so many other options available. Plus, we always have local soccer which I LOVE. I just wish that MLS were friendlier to small, local teams (yes…..that means being open to pro/rel in 5-10 years).

      • mdac1012 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        I am a fan of both EPL and MLS, I actually like EPL better. Neither league is perfect, but you should take both leagues for what they are, different leagues that evolved out of very different cultures and not try to make one be like the other. We tried the rich get richer system of soccer here, going all the way back to the original ASL in the 1920’s and the original NASL, it didn’t work. Yeah, MLS goes to great lengths to ensure competitive balance and sometimes they may go too far, but so far it has worked. MLS and soccer in the U.S. is growing and that is due in large part to the salary cap and competitive balance in MLS that has alowed franchises in smaller markets to survive. The NFL, which is the most successfull and lucrative sports league in the U.S. and maybe the world, also has a hard cap, that ensures competitive balance and that seems to be working pretty well for them.

        Secondly, promotion and relegation is not going to happen in MLS and they would be fools to try it. How do you tell a new franchise that just paid 100 million to get into the league that if they have a bad enough season, and being a new team that’s a strong possibility, they are going to get regulated out of the league? Soccer is growing but there is still just not a strong enough infrastructure for soccer in the U.S. to support a team that is relegated out of MLS. Plus the current business model that is MLS wouldn’t allow it legally as it is a single entity, throw on top of that the concept of promotion and relegation is completely foreign in American sports.

  3. mlsconvert88888 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    This whole “League DP” story just seems a little too ridiculous to be believed, even by MLS standards. After the way the Clint Dempsey deal went down, I could see how people think that the league has a hand in steering players to certain teams, but to think that the league is going to get involved in who will get actual playing time just seems inane.
    Just imagine your favorite team’s manager’s response if a league representative said, “Hey we’re going to set up a trade so you can get a young striker who’s untested in this league, and may not be game fit, but you MUST put him the starting line up.”
    The response would probably fit the acronym FTS

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