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Salary Caps, Guarantees and Inflexibility Entering Secondary Window

Remember, just because an MLS team signs a DP doesn't mean that he'll actually be playing for that team.
Remember, just because an MLS team signs a DP doesn't mean that he'll actually be playing for that team.

When your local side is struggling, and the league changes the rules to allow up to 3 Designated Players per MLS team, people start to dream. Sounders fans look to DC United's signing of a Montenegran and want a better player. They look to the Kansas City Wizards offering Eidur Gudjohnsen, and want someone even flashier. With Thierry Henry coming to New York Red Bulls, and rumors of Ronaldhino there is a serious case of the wants going on in these parts.

Keep wanting.

The team you have, plus Blaise Nkufo, is the team you have. You see, back when the salary data was released we could get an educated, but not 100% accurate look at the Salary Cap room that each team has. Seattle is in the group of teams that do not have cap space. Sure, there's a chance they have allocation dollars left, but that seems highly unlikely.

Here we find a chart with rough estimates, generally erring on the side of less flexibility by each team. I have adjusted for the KC announcement, but you'll note that several teams are not prepared to enter the Secondary Window with space to add players. Team's would need a prorated portion of $335,000 in order to have enough room to sign a DP (meaning whatever percentage of their season is left at the time of the signing).

Team

Cap Room

DP Slots

Chicago Fire

$200k

2 +1

Chivas USA

$700k

2 +1

Columbus Crew

$400k

2 +1

Colorado Rapids

$300k

2 +1

FC Dallas

$350k

2 +1

DC United

$0

1 +1

Houston Dynamo

$300k

1 +1

Kansas City Wizards

$50k

1 +1

Los Angeles Galaxy

$0

0 +1

New England Revolution

$0

2 +1

New York Red Bulls

$0

0 +1

Philadelphia Union

$700k

2 +1

Real Salt Lake

$350k

2 +1

Seattle Sounders

$0

0 +1

San Jose Earthquakes

$425k

2 +1

Toronto FC

$175k

1 +1

Why would a team enter the Secondary Window without flexibility? Probably because the rules changed after the season started. Just prior to the start of the season, Seattle signed Pat Noonan and made an offer to Jeff Parke. If neither of those players had signed then they would have cap space now, but at the time Adrian Hanauer couldn't know that the DP rule was going to change. Likely, at the time, the thought was that Noonan and Parke were the best use of that cap space. 

At the time, at least one of those signings was a good idea, and the other could be at least justified.

Now, though, Seattle has to deal with little to no Cap space and a likely absence of allocation dollars as well. With the CBA granting guaranteed contracts for players over the age of 23 and with 3 years of service, cutting players just for Cap space isn't really an option. No combination of players without guarantees make enough for Seattle to get DP level room under the Cap.

The only real option for the Sounders to add someone besides Nkufo would be for Fredy Montero to be transferred to another league. This would give Seattle Cap room, and up to $600,000 in allocation dollars that can be spent on player acquisitions. That's really the extent of their options, though.

Anyone else brought on will need to be at the league minimum, and is unlikely to be a difference maker.

Sounders fans will have to watch other teams signing name players and others that are going to be good, though unfamiliar, while Seattle just adds Nkufo and someday gets players back from injury. So when we continually ask whether the problem is the level of Talent on the team, the Tactics implemented by the coaches, failure in Execution or Chemistry we fans must be hoping that it isn't the level of Talent to blame because that isn't going to get a dramatic change.

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