Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Rise of the Designated Player

Prior to this summer MLS teams had signed 13 Designated Players in 3 years. 6 of these guys are no longer in the league (Blanco-old, Denilson-sucks, Luciano Emilio-both, Marcelo Gallardo-homesick, Luis Angel Landin-sucks, Reyna-old) and 2 of whom are still in MLS but are no longer getting paid DP money (Claudio Lopez, Schelotto).

This summer 7 MLS teams have signed a total of 9 DPs:

New York Red Bulls - Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez
Seattle Sounders - Blaise Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez
Chicago Fire - Nery Castillo
DC United - Branko Boskovic
Kansas City Wizards - Omar Bravo
San Jose Earthquakes - Geovanni
Toronto FC - Mista

There a couple big movements I see here.

1) It's great to see teams like KC and San Jose signing Designated Players. These are small market clubs that just spent straight-cash-homey to make their teams better. NY, Seattle, Chicago, DC and Toronto all make sense to me since they are well-funded and/or soccer-crazy. Two teams playing in minor-league baseball stadiums while their new homes get built didn't make my radar as likely DP buyers, but I dig it.

In fact, here are some rankings I put out at the beginning of the season about how likely teams were to add a 3rd DP, not that it's an option.

Definitely would

Probably could
DC United

Little chance
Real Salt Lake
FC Dallas

Never will
San Jose
Kansas City
Chivas USA
New England

It's nice to see two of the teams I don't think will ever take full advantage of the 3 DP limit still willing to go get one. BTW, I don't think New England will ever so much as get 1 DP. Bob Kraft is waaay too cheap. They're gonna end up being like the Pittsburgh Pirates, if you ask me, where the owner just does the minimum and cashes his check due to revenue sharing.

2) The type of player teams are bringing in is changing a little. The three members of the Mexican National Team and Thiery Henry are obviously name players who can draw a crowd just with their jerseys. This is how the DP started and how I think it will continue to operate for the near future.

The other five, though, are guys with legit top league and/or WC experience who will come at a more reasonable price. Nkufo is the only one of these guys whose salary is public and it's $480,000. I would expect the others to be pretty similar, with Geovanni probably being the highest at maybe $800,000 or so. These aren't owner-killing costs and it's bringing great experience and skill to the teams.

Also, the players tend to be older and established (Fernandez excluded) unlike Denilson and Landin who couldn't latch on anywhere after success with their initial teams.

Hopefully these are the types of players that teams continue to invest in. I mean, I love being able to watch Henry okie-doke some fools or Landon Donovan run through entire defenses, but that's not the best thing for most MLS teams since it would destroy their spending power. LA, NY, and Seattle will be able to buy these names and still field deep teams. The rest of the league will have to be smarter.

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