Of all the developments to come out of the renegotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the players’ union, the details surrounding the so-called U22 Initiative had the potential to be the most interesting.
The rule is effectively designed to allow teams more flexibility when signing young players and encourage them to think bigger by not counting transfer fees on those players against the salary cap.
On the most basic level, here’s how it works:
- Teams are allowed to sign up to three players under the rule, all of whom would occupy one of the 20 senior roster spots
- Teams can spend an unlimited amount on transfer fees, but can only pay them the equivalent of the Maximum Salary Budget Charge in salary (for Homegrown Players and players selected in the SuperDraft, they can be paid $200,000 above that amount)
- These players will count either $150,000 (age 20 and younger) or $200,000 (ages 21-23) against the salary cap, as opposed to more than $600,000
- Teams, like the Sounders, who have three full DPs are only allowed to sign one U22 Initiative player
The U22 Initiative is broadly similar to the Young DP designation, but different in a couple important ways:
- Young DPs can have an unlimited salary in addition to their unlimited acquisition cost
- If at least one of a team’s three DPs are a Young DP, they can still sign up to three U22 players
Appearing on Sounders Weekly, Garth Lagerwey was asked about how these rules might come into play this summer.
“Our view on it will evolve,” he said. “But for a team that has a number of good young prospects internally, I don’t know that we’re short on bodies right now. If you said we could sign three U22 players this summer, I’m not sure what positions we’d sign those players in.”
Lagerwey also noted that this is all relatively new territory for the Seattle Sounders, who have traditionally only spent significant transfer fees on relatively established players. Adding a layer of complication, it’s been more than a year since the Sounders have been able to scout the regions from which they’re most likely to sign players.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is our analytics,” Lagerwey said. “The fact is you have a lot less information on players between the ages of 18-21. The way you supplement that is by scouting, but we’ve not been able to scout in person.
“It’s an interesting place to be in. You don’t have your traditional ways of evaluating. It’s still a three- to five-year commitment. It has to be a player that fits with the existing group and is compatible when we have Jordan Morris back next year. There’s not an easy answer as to how best to do this. We have to continue to do our homework and be prepared and look at our options.”