Which MLS Star Will be the Next Designated Player?

Freddy Montero celebrates after his second goal during a 3-0 Seattle Sounders victory over the New Your Red Bulls, Thursday, March 19, 2009. Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Overlooked in the American World Cup hype was the move by Seattle to sign their young striker Freddy Montero to an extension which also makes him a designated player.  Montero, 23, becomes Seattle’s third DP, joining Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez.  More importantly, the signing prevents the young talent and 2009 Rookie of the Year from moving to Europe for more money and allows Seattle to keep their nucleus of talent in tact.

The designated player rule was originally known as the “Beckham Rule” because it was supposed to allow clubs the financial flexibility to sign international stars like Beckham (and later Thierry Henry) outside of the normal salary cap.  Later, the Galaxy used the rule to compensate Landon Donovan and keep him in Los Angeles, compensating him for his talent and PR value.  But a club like Seattle is now using the DP rule to build the club from within and avoid losing high-priced players, as well as finding international talent.  Consider:

  • Nkufo is a former Switzerland international who was a leading scorer for FC Twente in the early 2000s.  Seattle used the DP rule to lure him to the U.S.
  • Fernandez is a Uruguay international who began his career in a variety of South American clubs, but is reaching his peak in the U.S. after signing with Seattle in the summer.
  • Montero was originally loaned to Seattle from Deportivo Cali before MLS negotiated his transfer to Seattle.  He is now firmly on Seattle’s payroll as a DP.
SANDY, UT - JULY 31: Alvaro Saborio  of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal against DC United during the first half of an MLS soccer game July 31, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Also joining the growing designated player list is Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake’s first DP.  Saborio’s rights were transferred from Swiss club FC Sion after scoring 12 times in MLS play for RSL and being named Newcomer of the Year.

Looking at the current designated players (current defined as players who are playing in MLS and have a DP contract) you see a definite trend emerging of teams using the DP rule to lock-up their own players or players-on-loan to them rather than going out and grabbing big international names.  A good reason for this is the lack of huge stars that would find MLS clubs with DP spots available as attractive places to play.  But another is a smart use of the rule – clubs can lock up their own talent, control the player’s contract, and pay them somewhat their worth.

So who’s next for the designated player tag?

The obvious choice would be Colorado’s Omar Cummings, who despite scoring 28 goals since 2008 only made about $80,000 this past year.  Colorado recently said they would strive to keep the forward after Estudientes and possibly some European clubs have targeted him.  But to increase his pay to a level to tempt him to stay in the U.S., they would almost have to slap a DP tag on him.

Who do you think will be the next current MLS player to become a designated player?

15 Responses to Which MLS Star Will be the Next Designated Player?

  1. Matt says:

    Rumour has it the Crew may want to DP Andres Mendoza…I don’t endorse it, but I guess they really like him…

  2. Joe says:

    I don’t think he’ll be next by any means, but I think Juan Agudelo is coming. If MLS can hold onto a youth academy product and watch him develop into a star, that’ll be a huge positive for the league.

  3. Joe in Indianapolis says:

    Is it true that the contracts of players who come from the youth academies won’t count against the cap? Or do they simply not need to be drafted to be retained by a club? Can someone clear up what the altered rights of an academy product are with regard to the team that trained them?

  4. Charles says:

    Might not be much help Joe, but there are a few things that don’t count or partially count toward cap. I haven’t found anywhere that understands them completely. Gen Ad players coming out of college are in the same boat as the acedemy players.

    I believe they don’t count as cap while they are very young. As in some Gen Ad players “graduated” this year.

  5. Charles says:

    I think that Seattle is the perfect example on how to do the DP signings and how NOT to do the DP signings.

    Ljungberg and NKufo – No
    Montero – Yes

    If the idea is to sell jerseys I am sure there was noone better than Ljungberg outside of Beckham. Probably sold them world wide to some degree.

    But the play of Ljungberg and NKufo has been ineffective to be kind.
    More truthfully it was pathtic and they couldn’t/can’t handle MLS
    Whatever the reason, the greatest in Europe has not transferred to MLS, probably MLS fault.

  6. Charles says:

    I have tried to post this twice, hopefully I am not double posting:

    Seattle is the example on how to and how not to sign DPs.

    Ljungberg and NKufo – No
    Montero – Yes

    Ljungberg and NKufo have been ineffective to be kind.
    Pathetic is more like it.
    If the idea is for Ljungberg to sell jerseys to Euridiots, he was probably great. On the field for whateve r reason he has not been able to handle MLS play. NKufo looks the same to me. Euro greatness just doesn’t transfer over very well with older players like this.

    Montero is the type they should be keeping. Landon another example.
    Players coveted by Europe who will succeed in MLS.

  7. Dave C says:

    It’s probably a much wiser use of money – they may be paying these relative youngsters at a higher-than-average rate by MLS standards, but they’re still way cheaper than getting some big name in the twilight of his career. And what’s more, you know these guys are already settled in – they’re not going to get homesick or whatever in 3 months.

  8. Clampdown says:

    Omar Cummings is very good, but DP money? I guess that depends on how much. Could you really see allocating more than $200K to Cummings? I can’t.

  9. AdamEdg says:

    I have no idea who is next, but I LOVE the Montero move. I’m no Sounders fan, but locking up this kid was brilliant. He still has his entire career in front of him and unbelievably talented – reminds me of Donovan in that regard. Obviously he has become fond of Seattle and excels in MLS-style play. Hopefully he receives more Columbian NT caps and does well for them also; that will help convince more young stars that MLS can be a good option.
    While I fully endorse the promote-from-within DPs like Montero, I also think that the league should continue with smart DP moves like Henry & Beckham. Both players expressed strong desires to join MLS and continue to play strongly. Their reputation has helped the league in many ways ranging from marketing & sales to increasing legitimacy & awareness. Finding more guys of this quality who have the desire to play and make an impact (as opposed to those thinking the league is a soft payday) compliments the up and coming DPs.
    I also think an additional, special DP spot should be allowed for US/Canadian players. Bring in some domestic big names to really push growth and development a bit. Or to keep the budding young talent home.

    • The original Tom says:

      Extend that special DP for all CONCACAF countries. If we can get the best Central Americans and Carribeans; it will help attendences, help our league, and help our national teams (by playing better opponents).

  10. Jleau says:

    Really like the idea of some DP spots reserved for Americans. I hate to see the league lose players to Euro benches. It would be better for the league to have guys like Kenny Cooper and Beasley playing instead of riding the pine for a better payday.

  11. Andy says:

    I think that Union should give Le Toux a rise and sign him as a DP.

  12. Dan says:

    Omar Gonzalez & Edson Buddle are the obvious 2 in LA that will probably leave for more money if they have another stellar year. Gonzalez is pretty much guarenteed to leave eventually, he is THE next USA defender.

    • Joe says:

      I think Buddle’s joke of a World Cup probably means he’s not going to get much overseas interest. I may be wrong, but that’s the feeling I get for him, especially with the level of contribution that Jozy Altidore has made to Villareal (none).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *