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Player Acquisition and Sounders FC

We have seen players acquired through three methods already - Allocation (Keller), Discovery (Sanna Nyassi) and the unique relationship between the USL Sounders and Sounder FC of MLS. We are starting to see this international roster of "attacking soccer" be established.

What are the other methods of acquisition? What level of talent can we expect to see come to MLS to play in the nation's best soccer stadium? How much does having two billionaires impact the forthcoming decisions?

Here's the basics, with a smattering of the roster construction concepts that have applied in other professional North American sports leagues.

Sounders FC's roster will consist of 28 players; 18 on the Senior roster and 10 on the Developmental roster. On any given day any 18 of those can be active, unless the Developmental player played within the past 24-48 hours (depending on where they played). There is what can be called a "semi-hard" cap. While the cap is just about 2.3 Million dollars, prior to the just ended Transfer Window (different than the MLS trade window) only 5 teams were under the cap. This is not just due to the Designated Player Rule (think Beckham), or those players who don't count towards it (Landon Donovan), but also because Generation Addidas players, Developmental Players and signing bonuses from Allocations or Transfers Away towards current roster players don't count. Also, just a quick reminder, but a team can acquire an extra Designated Player via trade beyond the one that each team is granted.

The roster can only have 8 players who do not carry a US Passport or Green Card, though these slots can also be traded, and are. Most teams have either dealt or acquired one of these slots in just their first year of having this ability.

The next stage of talent acquisition will likely be the 3-10 players in addition to Sebastian Le Toux to join Sounders FC from the USL-1 club. This can not include Nik Besagno as he has been loaned to the Sounders by Real Salt Lake, who holds an option to his Generation Addidas contract. I fully expect about 7 total players to join Sounders FC from the USL side as this would give a solid foundation of players who have chemistry, accelerating the training time of all players.

In November we can expect to see the Expansion Draft. During the last draft there were 10 rounds and each team could protect only 11 total players, though Generation Addidas players were unavailable for drafting. Like all Expansion Drafts expect to see overpaid and underperforming veterans (Jeff Cunningham, Carlos Ruiz) and young relatively cheap players who can't crack the lineup be available (Nik Besagno if he weren't a Generation Addidas kid). At the upcoming MLS ownership meeting they will announce the rules to this year's Expansion Draft.

Also around this time MLS Free Agency will start. As a single entity league, the free agency is complicated because the league pays the players, so the acquiring team is more about recruiting for college football/basketball. The likelihood of wins, the quality of the stadium, the quality of life in the area and the passion of the fans will have a large weight. Another hidden advantage due to the ownership group of Seattle Sounders FC are the Hollywood connections of Joe Roth and Drew Carey.

Sounders FC will enjoy the first pick in the SuperDraft. That draft order is in rapid flux as the MLS Trade Deadline is approaching and deals are going down, but in each round at this time Seattle will have the first pick. Soon I will have the updated SuperDraft order.

Lastly are the rumors that Seattle will seek a HUGE name via the international transfer. Recently reported that there is a list of 9 names with two becoming available during the January window, I would assume that most of the rest would be during the Summer transfer while the Euro leagues aren't competing. One of these targets is strongly rumored to be Thierry Henry which would give Sounders FC immediate sparkle.

We are six months from seeing the team in competition and currently only hold one keeper and two midfielder/fowards on the squad. The average MLS team carries three keepers, nine defenders, ten midfielders and six forwards. A few don't carry the full 28 players, and the numbers above are subject to rounding.

With my first post on the subject, meant more for the casual Seattle sports fan than the MLS afficianado I leave you with this data

Average Spend on Forwards $151,476.19
Average Spend on Midfielders $181,608.07
Average Spend on Defenders $82,571.64
Average Spend on Keepers $70,732.29
Average Spend on Total Team $120,668.09
Average Spend on Players w/o Reserves $175,581.10

Oddly players tend to peak at younger ages when they are more forward. Speculation is that the peaks are as follows;

Keepers - low 30s
Defenders - upper 20s/low 30s
Midfielders - mid 20s/upper 20s
Fowards/Wingers/CAM - low 20s/mid20s

Currently Major League Soccer is a league where they sell peak players overseas (Altidore, Adu), acquire past peak players from Europe (Beckham, Keller) and sign peak level international talent from Latin America (Emilio) and Africa (Nyassi brothers).

An advantage that Sounders FC will have with its USL players is that typically USL players that move to MLS are not paid as much as their drafted and internationally acquired age contemporaries. Since the USL Sounders are built as a defense first team with some age back there those players are likely to be at their peak performance next season, or the one there after while also saving money towards max cap players to play upfront.

Utilizing a stars and scrubs technique would maximize the level of talent on the club while also providing the greatest depth to accomplish the team's goals of competing not just in MLS Regular Season and Playoffs, but as well in the US Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League.

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