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MLS looking for creative ways to add talent without busting budget

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Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

There may be a new spin coming on the Designated Player. Dubbed the "Core Designated Player" in the Metro US story, the mechanism would be designed to allow teams to sign reasonably highly-paid players who don't have the name recognition of the marquee signings that have so far been the focus of the rule. Effectively, someone like Osvaldo Alonso would probably fit the criteria.

The league source speculated that the max-salary number for this mechanism could be somewhere between $750,000 to $1 million. Nothing is definite yet, the source said, but it is something being strongly considered by the league and is tentatively being referred to as a "Core Designated Player."

The league officially shot it down, and fast.

But it's worth considering that this is hardly the first time such a mechanism has been talked about. Taylor Twellman's been on the idea for quite some time. Brian Dunseth elaborated on a different system with similar intent back on his May 18th radio show with Matt Gaschk.

Here's how the various proposals look:

Core DP would be for a 4th DP that is under a million, but still a DP. It would mean that the league has roughly 32 open DP slots (~21 would be current version of DPs and ~11 would be Core, these numbers depend on how some current DPs are slotted including Alonso). Heading into a summer transfer window with those kinds of openings gives a lot of potential to sign players like Javier Hernandez (his agent indicating today that he would accept an MLS deal) or Tjarron Chery (who the Sounders nearly grabbed despite not having cap space that transfer fee), or Drogba, or Pirlo, or yeah, the list goes on and on. The league currently has 48 DPs on its 20 teams. There's not a lot of space for those juicy rumors. This change effects that while also shifting roster quality up a single notch.

Four-to-Nine: Dunseth's rumor is a different sort, but solves similar issues about quality. It wouldn't add high-brand players, but instead look to strengthen the guys just under the DP level. Although Dunseth was careful not to call it "allocation money" it sounds as though it would effectively work the same way, but be earmarked for starting-quality players. This would allow MLS teams to have roster depth, at least among starters, that's closer to Liga MX quality.

Where the Core DP concept would add a tiny bit of depth with a bunch more marketing juice, the 4to9 would add a lot of roster depth but just a touch of marketing panache.

With Don Garber's declared goals of being a top league by 2022 one of these is a decent step (both would be the best, but let's assume that they don't have that much cash). There is momentum as the acquisition of Giovinco and the return of top American talents shows. Just five years ago there was only 1 DP and then Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg suggested he needed two more high quality players and the DP rule became three strong. Later, the Have Nots convinced the League Office that they needed a way to get great talent and not crush their budgets, the Youth DP was born. Retention Funds were added for the barely over DP threshold types.

Further loosening makes a lot of sense. The timing makes a lot of sense. The only thing that doesn't make sense is denying that something will happen, which is probably why Courtemache's denial was suspiciously specific.

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