It’s been an easily observed reality that the vast majority of Targeted Allocation Money has been spent on foreign imports. That’s by design. When the league released the new funds, it was with the express purpose of raising the overall quality of the league and the easiest way to do that would be bringing in players from the outside.
But that wasn’t the only purpose of the money, as it was also designed to be able to retain players. In order to bring Osvaldo Alonso below the Designated Player threshold, for instance, the Seattle Sounders will have to use TAM funds.
This is creating a bit of tension in MLS front offices, according to a story in The Athletic by well-sourced MLS reporter Paul Tenorio. MLS has gone so far as to reject contract extensions for players already in the league. Among those players, according to the story, are Joevin Jones and Stefan Frei.
In the case of Frei, at least, it could be reasonably argued that the Sounders are as much looking for a way to reduce the goalkeeper’s salary cap hit as they are simply hoping to give one of their team leaders a raise. Rejecting the Sounders request to use TAM on a player who seems unlikely to leave — even if he remains very effective — makes sense on some level.
But rejecting an offer to Jones, who ultimately did leave MLS for 2. Bundesliga side SV Darmstadt 98, is more concerning. Maybe Jones would have left anyway — it seems like he really wanted to test himself in Europe — but he’s highly unlikely to be making more than he’d have been making as a TAM player in MLS and at the very least cast a different light on his departure.
How much Jones could have ultimately changed the trajectory of this season remains to be seen. But it’s hard to imagine what criteria MLS would have been using to reject an offer for a 26-year-old left back in the midst of an 11-assist season.