The current MLS rules regarding injured players and the salary cap, create a serious problem for the league.
This week, the LA Galaxy lost the services of Omar Gonzalez for at least 4-6 months when he ruptured his ACL during a practice for Nurnberg. This injury is the latest in a series of high profile injuries that have plagued star MLS players over the past few seasons. Last year Steve Zakuani, OBW, David Ferreira and Javier Morales all suffered significant injuries that cost their teams their services for most of the season. The year before that the Sounders lost the services of Hurtado to a knee injury. Sports stars will be injured. This is a fact of life. This isn't the problem.
In the MLS, the problem is the impact that losing a star player to injury has on a team's salary cap. Even if the player is moved to the injured reserve, their salary still counts against the team's salary cap unless the team totally cuts the player. Placing the player on injured reserve does free up a roster spot. But the team must then fill his spot using whatever cap room it still has available. In a league that is this cap restricted, losing a star player can have devastating consequences for a team's season. One of the most amazing aspects of the past two Sounders seasons has been how successful the team has been in the face of major injuries to key players. But even with this success, the problem is real.
Long term the league needs to develop a mechanism for teams to at least look for a reasonable replacement to a player who is lost for the rest of the season. Say allowing the team to add a player making up to the league average salary. Not an ideal situation but certainly better than the lack of a system that currently exists.
But until the rules are changed, there is an option; Allocation Money. As I was contemplating the situation with Gonzalez, I realized that a team could potentially opt to bank some Allocation Money each year as an insurance policy against losing a star player to injury. If the Sounders hedge their payroll with 100-200k of AM held in reserve, they have an insurance policy against another major loss to injury.
Thoughts? Should the Sounders or any team consider this option? And how much should they set aside?