Trying to assess the salary-cap situations of a MLS team is a pretty dicey proposition. The only public information is made available by the Players' Union, and there are a variety of ways teams can lower the amount a player counts against the salary budget. Designated Players, for instance count no more than $350,000, but can theoretically be paid down to zero with allocation money. Making it even more difficult, there's no publicly accessible way to figure out exactly which players are under contract for next year and for how much.
Still, we can get a general idea of how much wiggle room various teams have heading into Wednesday's inaugural Re-Entry Draft. If we assume a roughly 5 percent raise for all players not exposed to the draft and a $2.67 million salary budget that must cover the 24 senior roster spots, we are left with what looks to be the makings of a very quiet afternoon.
Using those assumptions, just four teams appear to have as much as $1 million of cap space and just one of those teams has more than 17 senior roster spots filled. The San Jose Earthquakes - fresh of cutting ties with Designated Player Geovanni and losing relatively well paid veterans Arturo Alvarez and Joe Cannon in the Expansion Draft - appear to have about $1 million in available cap space and about 20 players already under contract. They appear to be one of the few teams capable of taking on one of the bigger names. Three teams - the Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders - appear to have no cap space.
While the Re-Entry Draft is a nice gesture, as it gives veterans a chance to test the market, the reality is few teams are going to be capable of really putting it to use.
DC United, for instance, would seem to be the kind of team that should benefit from this draft. They were one of the worst teams in MLS history last year, have the first pick and have about 22 players already under contract. But they also appear to have just about $500,000 in available cap space. Just 10 players in the draft made less than $100,000 last year and none of those players are likely to provide any immediate help.
The Houston Dynamo, another team in need of help, have the fifth overall pick and appear to have about $1.5 million in cap space (as far as I can tell, that's the most of any of the non-expansion teams). Unfortunately, they only have 13 players under contract, meaning they have less than half of their salary budget to spend on roughly half of their team.
Of course, all of this is unfortunately based on a host of assumptions, which in itself is another glaring problem. While it's somewhat understandable that MLS wants to keep their contracts under limited public exposure, other leagues with salary caps are far more open. It's hardly novel to request that MLS be more transparent, but I dare say that this is just another example of how the fan experience could be enhanced if it was.
Team (estimated cap room): Chicago Fire ($1.1 million), Chivas USA ($250,000), Columbus Crew ($1.2 million), Colorado Rapids ($350,000), FC Dallas ($530,000), DC United ($500,000), Houston Dynamo ($1.5 million), Sporting KC ($516,000), Los Angeles Galaxy ($0), New England Revolution ($590,000), New York Red Bulls ($0), Philadelphia Union ($1.1 million), Real Salt Lake ($211,000), Seattle Sounders ($0), Toronto FC ($330,000), San Jose Earthquakes ($920,000).