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Everything you need to know about the MLS Summer Transfer Window

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Yes, this should be an active one for the Sounders.

Kelvin Leerdam Training
This could become a regular scene.
Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

The MLS Summer Transfer Window officially opened today, meaning teams are now free to add players. The window will remain open until Aug. 9, and applies to incoming transfers as well as trades within the league.

Seattle Sounders fans should be well-versed in all of this by now — few teams have been more active during the so-called “secondary” transfer window — but we wanted to put together a primer of sorts for the uninitiated or those who may have forgotten some of the vagaries.

You’ve already lost me. What’s a “transfer window”?

Pretty simple really, it’s the time of the season when teams are allowed to add new players to their roster. While it is possible to add players outside of the window, only players who were already out of contract when the previous window closed can be added. For instance, for a player to have been added prior to July 10, he’d have had to be out of contract when the “primary” transfer window closed on May 8. Similarly, if a team wants to sign someone after Aug. 9 — when this window closes — they’d have needed to be out of contract before that date.

Wait, didn’t the Sounders already sign someone?

They did! They announced the signing of Kelvin Leerdam last week, but he was not eligible to play until today.

Tell me about that guy.

Leerdam is a 27-year-old right back who most recently played for Dutch side Vitesse. Before that, he played for Feynoord, another Dutch team. In all, he spent nine seasons in The Netherlands’ top division, mostly as a starter for teams in the top third of the standings. He’s an attack-minded right back, more in the mold of a Joevin Jones or a DeAndre Yedlin than a Tyrone Mears or even a Brad Evans.

Oh man, what’s that mean for Evans?

Guess we’ll find out. From the sound of it, the Sounders still have plans for Evans, but he’s probably going to return to the utility role he was so interested in putting behind him. It’s a tough situation for him, but he’s only been healthy enough to play 303 minutes this year, and right back is the position at which the Sounders have struggled most to find consistency.

Should we expect other moves?

Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey has made it known he plans to sign at least two or three players during this window. The Sounders have as many as seven open roster spots — including one for an international player — some salary cap space, and one report suggested they have $900,000 in Allocation Money. In other words, yes, we expect other moves.

Time out, you’re going to have to explain “Allocation Money.”

Wow, you really are new! Anyway, there are two forms of Allocation Money, General and Targeted. If you’re really interested in the difference, you should read this. But the tl;dr is that this is money MLS gives teams to effectively expand their salary cap by allowing them to “pay down” how much a given player counts toward the cap. They can also trade it for players, draft picks, international roster spots or other random bits of MLS silliness.

What kind of players are the Sounders targeting?

The expectation is that the Sounders are looking to add at least one player at the Designated Player level. The name most prominently mentioned has been Derlis González, a 23-year-old Paraguayan international who’s currently playing for Dynamo Kiev. He seemingly checks all the boxes the Sounders are looking for: young, fast, capable of playing across the midfield. We’ve been tracking this rumor for a bit.

Don’t the Sounders already have three DPs?

They do! But remember that thing about Targeted Allocation Money? Well, they can use that to pay down the cap hit of Osvaldo Alonso and free up his spot.

Any other moves we’re expecting?

Lagerwey has said the team would like to add three players, ideally one defender, one midfielder and one forward. They’ve already added a defender, and their DP signing is expected to be a midfielder. That leaves a forward. Chances are they aren’t looking for a starter here, but more of a depth player as they already have Will Bruin enjoying a very good season and adding a midfielder probably means more time for Jordan Morris at forward. They’re also probably looking at players who won’t take an international roster spot. That shrinks the pool considerably, potentially opening the door for a signing from the USL or possibly a trade. Either way, this player is less likely to have a massive influence than the other two.

Is anyone expected to leave?

The Sounders don’t have to move anyone to make room, as far as we know. That said, Roman Torres has made some noises suggesting he might want to leave. We don’t think that’s particularly likely, though. If the Sounders have to make a trade, it would likely involve draft picks and/or allocation money.

Is there a reason the Sounders waited until now to do all this?

To be sure, this has proven a contentious issue. Historically, midseason signings have a harder time integrating (for any number of semi-obvious reasons). Lagerwey has even admitted he’d rather sign players earlier in the season than later. Still, there are hard-to-dispute benefits, the two biggest of which are that higher-quality players tend to be available in the summer (it’s the offseason for most leagues), and players tend to be cheaper. This is when the Sounders signed Nicolas Lodeiro last year — after unsuccessfully trying to sign him earlier — and when they signed the quartet of Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz, Nelson Valdez and Roman Torres two years ago. All five of those players started last year’s MLS Cup final, which is to say that sometimes summer signings work out just fine.

Anything else I should know?

Don’t let the lack of rumors lull you into thinking this will be a quiet window. In the summer of 2015, we hardly heard anything until the ink was basically dry on all four moves. Maybe the Sounders get everything done early, but history and the tea leaves say this should be an active window regardless.