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When might DeAndre Yedlin return to Sounders?

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Despite his seeming interest, there are quite a few obstacles.

Southampton v Newcastle United - Premier League - St Mary’s Stadium Photo by Tom Mulholland/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

DeAndre Yedlin made some headlines when he told Steve Zakuani last week that he “100 percent” intends to play for the Seattle Sounders again someday.

“That’s been my plan all along, to hopefully finish where I started,” Yedlin said. “I think that would make for a pretty good career.

“I remember when I left, Schmetz told me, ‘You’re welcome back at any time.’ So, I’m going to hold him to that.”

There’s probably a key caveat in the way Zakuani asked him the question, though, which specifically posited it as a way to end his career. Yedlin, who left the Sounders after the 2014 season, is still just 26 and can probably play for at least another 10 years if he wants to.

Although Yedlin has only played in about half of Newcastle’s games, that’s mostly due to various injuries. The biggest of those was a groin injury he suffered at the end of last year that kept him out until late September. Since then, Yedlin has made 12 appearances, and started eight of the 16 Premier League games in which he’s been healthy enough to participate. There are also new rumors that he is drawing interest from the Bundesliga. In other words, Yedlin probably isn’t looking to make a move to MLS anytime in the near-term future.

Still, it’s at least worth considering how likely his return might be, as MLS exists in a very different place in the hierarchy of world soccer than when Yedlin left. While it was once unthinkable that an MLS team could even come close to matching Yedlin’s reported salary of about $2 million a year, it’s entirely possible the Sounders could afford to pay him like that without necessarily having to make him a DP.

While his salary might be reasonably affordable in the current MLS landscape, his likely transfer fee creates an obvious challenge. Newcastle paid about $6.5 million to Tottenham Hotspur in 2016 for Yedlin’s rights and Transfermarkt estimates his current value is about $7 million. Even if that is a little high, almost any fee combined with a salary anywhere near what he makes now would push him into the DP category.

Even if the Sounders were willing to make that sort of investment in Yedlin — and it’s at least possible they might be — getting him back wouldn’t be entirely straightforward. The biggest obstacle might be MLS rules, which dictate Yedlin would need to go through the Allocation Ranking Order as a player who was transferred away for a fee of more than $500,000. The Sounders currently sit 26th on that list. Although that list resets after every season, it defaults to the reverse order of the previous season’s standings. That likely means the Sounders would need to work some kind of trade to move into position to acquire Yedlin’s rights.

How much might that cost the Sounders? LAFC gave Nashville SC $350,000 in General Allocation Money as well as their second-round pick in the 2022 SuperDraft to move to the top of the ranking earlier this year. Speculation at the time was that LAFC was planning to select former D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar, who has spent most of the past seven seasons with Belgium powerhouse Anderlecht and is coming off an injury that has kept him out since June. Chances are, an active USMNT player would likely command a bit more of a premium from whoever holds the top Allocation Order spot.

All of which is to say that while it might be fun to imagine what the Sounders might look like with Yedlin on the roster, it’s still probably a bit too soon to start making any sort of plans.