MLS Radically changes Designated Player Rules

First off, I want to thank MLS in advance for giving myself, and fellow bloggers, a ton to write about over the next few weeks. This development described below promises to radically change our club and the league as a whole in the years ahead.

First off this is not an April Fool’s joke. MLS has announced today that there will be a dramatic change in the Designated Player rules for the league that come into effect immediately. The release on the MLS web site is a little arcane in the jargon so here goes my attempt to decipher it for you the loyal reader. The major points are bolded below.

Each MLS club team can have up to three DP type players. No more than three is allowed.

The likelihood of TFC at least signing a second DP must be rated now as very high.

The first two DP slots are essentially “free”(minus the salary cap hit and salary of course). If you have a third you have to pay a “luxury tax” that goes equally to teams without DP’s in the form of allocation money they can use to sign non DP players.

Two DP’s and you have no luxury tax. Sign a third and you have to shell out of pocket a quarter million that goes to the clubs not using DP’s as allocation dollars they can use on non DP players. The release did not say if the allocation money eventually expires or not.

Salary cap hit on a DP is now 335k instead of 400k. Half season DP’s cost 185k against the cap.

Again unclear on if De Guzman’s 400K+ salary cap hit would be lowered or if this applies to only the second and third DP positions. A signing of Paul Dickov later this spring summer must now look more likely as well as an attempt to address the striker position. Especially since the cap hit would be relatively low. Remember he has trained with us twice for extended periods in the recent past.

Rules take effect immediately. No expiration date.

Good. Smart way for the league to potentially get a nice “World Cup Bump”

Slots can’t be traded and no team can have more than three DP’s.

No more special “grandfather” rules for LA and New York is a good thing. Like my late Dad used to say: “…you can’t treat chalk of one and cheese of another…”.

Current MLS players playing on non DP money can be signed to a DP contract.

The obvious issue for TFC here is DeRo. Does Mo sign him to a DP contract and lock him up for the rest of his career and fulfill an alleged promise to Dwayne, or does the club go after another player to fill another hole.

The story lines and possibilities here are almost too many to count. And over the next few days as this shakes out I will try and give you more analysis of the issues in smaller chunks as I see it.

The Big Picture

Today I want to look at the big picture. Toronto FC WILL sign a second DP. Of that you can take this as a 100% lock. It will happen folks. My guess is that Paul Dickov will be signed on a one year contract on DP wages after his contract ends at Leeds United and he will be our primary offensive threat from June/July onwards.

He has trained here on two occasions and he was not just another triallist looking for a job. If the Leeds United offer did not come along, and if the cap hit/terms could have be worked out, I think he would have been under contract already. Our club has way too many holes, especially up front for this kind of move to not make sense.

The other aspect is that the continuing salary cap hit for DP’s is in my opinion stupid. You are penalizing the financially successful clubs with implementing the rule this way because they still will have to count the DP’s against the cap, running the risk of having a couple of great players at the top of the roster and nothing of value at the bottom (Look at the 2008 Galaxy as an example of what I mean). And if going for three DP’s is the route you want to go the KC’s and Columbus’s of the league get extra money for choosing to do essentially nothing. That is “competitive balance” run amok.

MLS needs to grow the hell up a little more and realize that financially successful clubs should within reason be allowed to reward their fans with better quality players without having to sacrifice depth and competitive balance on the lower end of the rosters in order to do it.


  1. Highlander

    DeRo must be the 2nd DP.

    A happy DeRo will be way more effective than a pissed off one and signing a second DP under his nose when he thought he would be the first one would be like a slap in the face.

  2. The salarycap is only part of it, though. Yes, for some teams there will be a huge skill gap between the DP playrs and the rest, but for other teams who spend more money on things not covered by a cap – coaching, scouting, everything else – the gap won’t be as big, they’ll be better at filling out the roster.

    A team like New York will be able to make use of the scouting done by the other teams owned by the same company, sharing scouting reports and so on. Anyone can identitfy the DP-worthy players, but the extra scouting will become a huge factor at filling out the rest of the roster.

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