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What a difference a year makes - Clint, Garber & DP fun

A year ago today Clint Dempsey officially became a Sounder. Something more surprising than Clint Dempsey happened on Don Garber's path to leading a top flight soccer league. It's not about just one player.

This is MLS, right here.
This is MLS, right here.
Thearon W. Henderson

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop, the Garber Zone!

Major League Soccer is a bizarre beast. In some ways it acts like a league. In other ways, due the single entity structure, it acts like a team. That means that players get assigned in bizarre ways. On August third of 2013 one of those bizarre ways meant that Clint Dempsey became a Seattle Sounder.

That didn't occur in normal conventions as understood by even the most ardent followers and media around MLS. Odd signing paths are becoming more common. Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu didn't follow conventions. Julio Cesar's loan made no sense under the salary cap/budget system.

Jermaine Jones and Sacha Klejstan are rumored to be joining the league. Neither of those will come to the league in standard fashion either. The new normal isn't normal at all. It's about capturing as much high-end talent as possible. It didn't stop with the new television contract (some suggested Dempsey/Bradley were just show signings to please ESPN/Fox).

Don Garber set aggressive goals for MLS to become one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. He wants MLS to be a league of choice. The list of players that are choosing that league in the last three transfer windows is immense, potent and an indication of things to come.

Starting with Seattle there was the signing of Clint Dempsey. Huge deal. Great marketing. He's the face of US Soccer and the league. Also within the last three windows Sounders FC retained Osvaldo Alonso as a DP rather than possibly lose him to a foreign league of his choice. Solid moves.

The Chicago Fire signed Juan Anangono. They since loaned him out, but that's kind of a Fire thing.

Chivas USA, Rebrand FC acquired Mauro Rosales and maintained his DP deal. They even have two other DPs, which is surprising enough.

Gabriel Torres signed with the Colorado Rapids as their first ever Designated Player. He was the top scorer in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

D.C. United traded for one time want-away-from-America forward Eddie Johnson and made him a DP.

FC Dallas went all in with three Young DPs within those last three window. Some aren't even regular players, but they acquired future talents through the mechanism.

DeMarcus Beasley isn't quite the name that Bradley or Dempsey are. But he's played in 27 World Cups the most of anyone ever, anywhere. He's now with Houston and he's not their only DP in this past year. They also grabbed Alexander Lopez.

Up in Montreal they nabbed Bernardello and Piatti. They already canned Bernardello, but Piatti is a new signing that could help power the Impact into non-suckitude.

NYCFC already signed two DPs in David Villa and Frank Lampard. They're going to sign another one because they play with Liberace Money.

Orlando City has Kaka under contract and are likely to be adding Robinho and probably another great Brazilian. They also have Liberace Money (other LM members are RBNY, LAG, TFC and SFC).

The Union wanted to get Bradley and couldn't, so instead they signed Maurice Edu and Cristian Maidana.

Down south Merritt Paulson's crack staff signed Liam Ridgewell, Fenando Adi and bought-out the loan of Diego Valeri. Another three DP team and all during the last three windows.

San Jose just signed Matias Perez Garcia. MPG is a brilliant playmaker and indicates a shift away from the cheap by a team wanting to make a splash when it opens an actual stadium.

Sporting KC kept both Matt Besler and Graham Zusi in the league through the DP mechanism. Like Alonso, they could have gone elsewhere. They didn't. The Sporks have a third DP as well.

TFC didn't just grab Bradley. They reinvented their roster and splashed for Jermain Defoe while also grabbing Gilberto (which might not have been a good signing, but they did do it).

Rather than have to sell off Matias Laba TFC/MLS sent him to Vancouver. He's not their only DP in the last three windows, they added Pedro Morales who may be the best Morales in MLS. That also means he may be the best CM in the league.

That's 29, plus OCSC and NYCFC adding one to three more huge names. There's this odd rumor about Ronaldinho come to the league. There's Jones and Klejstand and dreams of greater.

No, this did not start with Clint Dempsey. Some of these players signed before he did. But the push, and funds, from the league that acts like a team acting like a league is adding serious talents at a pace more rapid than ever. There's even a new CBA coming which seems like it could add more DP slots or other mechanisms to add "world class" talent (or maybe just guys that are pretty damn good but not great).

This is the Garber Zone. It's stunning. It's a new dimension of American soccer, but it is only a journey.

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