The Angle

Designated Report: MLS (Series Overview)

by on 21 May 2016

.As MLS grows as a league, the braintrust keeps referring to a goal to become “one of the top leagues in the world” by 2022. Along with expansion, player compensation has seen a massive overhaul in the past five years. Player salaries are increasing thanks to many undefined mechanisms like GAM, TAM, WHAM!, AM, and MA’AM (only two of those are made up).

However, the most prominent rule adjustment in MLS history was the “Beckham Rule,” later named the Designated Player. As the original name suggests, the rule was used to bring David Beckham into the league by allowing the Los Angeles Galaxy to spend freely outside of the salary cap limitations for a marquee player. You can find better descriptions here and here.

As alluded to earlier, expansion has given the league a major facelift and Minnesota Shruggie FC is expected to join the fray in 2017. If the team is joining for next season, we’ll be bombarded with our own DP fantasies (stop laughing) and be thrown into the rumor mill.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I’m going to look how each of the 21 MLS franchises (viva Chivas USA, baby) have used the DP rule to various levels of success and failure. Analyzing a different team every week, we’ll hopefully be able to see trends that make for successful signings, closing the series with my personal observations and a couple of players on my wishlist.

(Note: I was going to do this alphabetically, but Chicago Fire SC’s history is too beautiful to analyze immediately. That’d be like having a film festival, opening the festival with The Godfather, and showing nothing but Land Before Time sequels afterward. Instead, I’m going to look by league entry date, starting with the Class of 1996. Then, I’ll be working my way toward the present, noticing trends for expansion teams as we get closer to Minnesota making their own announcements.)

The task at hand

Every player will be looked at, starting with their pre-DP careers, their MLS on-the-field production, their off-the-field impact, and what they did after their DP status resolved. Looking at some statistics and their salary averages over the length of the contract, we’ll be able to tell if they were worth it or not. Then, report cards will follow from there.

Players like Chris Wondolowski who were in the league as a non-DP before getting a pay raise will only be analyzed for their DP years.

I was going to do this alphabetically, but Chicago Fire SC’s history is too beautiful to analyze immediately. That’d be like having a film festival, opening the festival with The Godfather, and showing nothing but Land Before Time sequels afterward.

(NOTE: Some players gained or lost DP status mid-season. However, I’ll be considering their stats for the entire season. The timeline of these contracts starting or transferring to below the threshold is often muddled. (For example – Diego Chara was bought down from his DP contract with allocation money in the second half of 2013, but will be shown with his entire 2013 stats.)

All transfer sum numbers from Transfermarkt.
All salaries thanks to MLS Players Union surveys. Let’s get it on. 

DC United: C
FC Dallas: C+
Columbus Crew SC: B
Sporting KC: B-
New York Red Bulls: B-
San Jose Earthquakes: C
New England Revolution: C+
Los Angeles Galaxy: B+
Chicago Fire: C-
Colorado Rapids: B-
Real Salt Lake: B
Chivas USA: B-
Houston Dynamo: D
Toronto FC: B+
Seattle Sounders: B
Philadelphia Union: C-
Portland Timbers: B
Montreal Impact: B-
Vancouver Whitecaps: C
Orlando City SC: B-
New York City FC: B+

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