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Connecting dots on DeAndre Yedlin’s potential return to Sounders

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No one’s reporting that a move is imminent, but there are a lot of signs that point to the possibility.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

It’s Summertime, which means that DeAndre Yedlin is the subject of MLS transfer rumors again. Last August Yedlin was rumored to be on the way out at Newcastle United, with reported interest in a return to the United States. While the Seattle Sounders never declared anything like imminent plans, they’ve never been shy about being open to a reunion. He wound up joining Galatasaray in Turkey’s Süper Lig during the winter window, helping them finish second in the league and qualify for a chance to play in the Champions League. He seems to be on the move again.

Spot at Galatasary is far from settled

Yedlin made 12 appearances for Galatasaray as they barely missed out on winning the league and still have a chance to qualify for the Champions League group stage. Yedlin closed out the season with three appearances in the club’s three wins as he returned from a torn ankle ligament.

Despite his performances, Yedlin’s place in the squad is particularly unstable. First, the reason Galatasary was in the market for a right back was because Omar Elabdellaoui was hospitalized after nearly causing permanent blindness in a fireworks accident. Ellabdellaoui is apparently nearing a return, meaning Yedlin’s starting spot is in jeopardy. As reported by the Twitter account Gala Battalion, Yedlin’s likely out regardless of his teammate’s health, though.

Süper Lig clubs have to navigate rules regarding foreign players that are a little bit stricter than those in MLS. Teams are limited to a total of eight foreign players in their team, while they can only field a total of five and can’t include more than six in a gameday roster. Galatasaray currently have 12 foreign players on their roster, including Yedlin. That situation doesn’t seem to be improving, either, as Galatasaray are currently linked to multiple foreign players, including a right back who made quite an impression at the Euros. That’s trouble on multiple fronts when it comes to finding space on Galatasaray’s roster for Yedlin, and why it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could let him go on a free transfer. Notably, Yedlin moved to Galatasary on a free transfer, so it’s not like they have a big investment they need to recoup, either.

About to be a papa

So Yedlin likely needs a new club. How do we get from there to him maybe, potentially, on a certain timeline coming back to MLS, let alone to Seattle? For starters, I’d refer you back to the rumors from last summer. Yedlin’s camp has floated the idea that he’d like a return to the US, and particularly to the Sounders. He’s made a habit of coming back home to visit family that’s still here — regardless of where he is playing — during the summers since he left to join Tottenham Hotspur back in 2015 and has said he intends to return at some point. He also knows the staff well, having played with or for almost all of the coaches. To make that desire to return home even stronger, Yedlin announced on Instagram that his partner is pregnant, and they’d be far from the first people to move closer to family to raise a child.

It should also be pointed out that Yedlin is in the conversation but definitely not guaranteed to have a spot in the United States national team as they start their World Cup qualifying quest. Simply put, Yedlin can’t afford to spend months looking for a team like he basically did last year. He needs to be somewhere he’s playing.

Fits don’t get more natural

From the Sounders’ perspective, there’s plenty of reason to try to make a move happen. For starters, Yedlin is still a good player and every team wants to have as many good players as possible.

Yedlin isn’t just good, though — he’s also a good fit. First off, he could easily slot in as a more traditional fullback or as a wingback. He’s also a player the organization knows well, both as a person and a player, mitigating some of the difficulty when it comes to scouting players during the pandemic, and the club can feel fairly comfortable that he would fit into the current locker room. Finally, he plays a position of some need. Yes, Kelyn Rowe can theoretically back up Alex Roldan — something we’ll see at least once, when the Sounders face Minnesota United on July 18 — but Rowe has limited experience there.

Beyond that, competition likely would bring out even better performances from Roldan, and would ease any heartache in the event he moves on in the near future. Alex Roldan has the Gold Cup and upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in which he’ll have opportunities to showcase his talent on a larger stage than when he plays with the Sounders. If he can put on good performances against the best Concacaf has to offer, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see him follow in the footsteps of Henry Wingo or other MLS talents who have recently made the jump across the Atlantic. Regardless, another talented player on the right side would certainly help Brian Schmetzer sleep a little more soundly.

Hardly a done deal

There are, of course, roadblocks, or at the very least speed bumps on the way to Yedlin coming home. If he joins an MLS team he’ll do so through the league’s allocation process, and Seattle is a long way from the top of that list. Currently third from the bottom, the Sounders would almost certainly need to make a trade with a team near the top of the list — the current top three are Austin FC, LAFC, and Houston Dynamo.

It’s entirely possible that Yedlin could express an unwillingness to join any team other than Seattle, but even then it’s not going to be cheap. In February 2020, LAFC traded with Nashville SC to move into the top spot, and that deal included a combined $350,000 GAM across 2020 and 2021, LAFC’s natural second-round pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, as well as swapping LAFC’s 24th spot in the allocation order for Nashville’s top spot. That’s, admittedly, quite a haul and that was for LA to move into position to pick Andy Najar.

What can the Sounders offer?

The Sounders are probably going to have to come up with a comparable package, if not exceed that, to get Yedlin. While they’re probably unlikely to pay such a hefty sum from their current coffers, they do have two open international spots and signing Yedlin would likely allow them to trade one. The going rate for those spots is currently around $250,000 in GAM. If they packaged that with their first-round SuperDraft picks in the next two years, that might be enough to get it done.

Should Seattle find themselves at the top of the allocation order, they’d still need to pay Yedlin. Even if he joins on a free transfer, Yedlin’s still earning around $2 million in salary right now. He could take a pay cut — there’s precedent on the current roster for that as both Fredy Montero and Rowe both took significant pay cuts to join Seattle — and even a smaller one would allow him to sign as a TAM player (where he could make as much as $1,612,500 a year). That would still give the team the maneuverability to potentially bring in a U22 signing this season and maybe some Tacoma Defiance or Sounders Academy signings to help fill out the roster.

All of which is to say, Yedlin could absolutely, possibly be coming home. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s likely, but anything could happen. This sums it up just about perfectly: