Hot on the heels of what Major League Soccer is calling a "banner year for player acquisition," the 16-year-old league is set to announce yet another change to the Designated Player Rule. All indications are that this change will have to do with younger players counting less against the salary cap than other DPs.
The poster child for this rule change is FC Dallas' Fabian Castillo, the 19-year-old Colombian. Despite a salary of just $42,000, Castillo counts just as much against the salary cap as David Beckham (who makes $6.5 million) simply because of the transfer fee FC Dallas paid. The new rule is meant to provide an incentive to teams to spend money acquiring younger players. The rule would not go into effect until next year and would likely apply to all DPs who fit the age criteria at that time, whether or not they were signed before the rule was adopted.
The change would simply continue what is already a clear trend in the league. Of the 82 players that were brought into the league this year -- a list which does not included players who came directly out of college -- the average age is 25.9. They have also contributed 97 goals and 78 assists and represented 33 countries, including seven Americans who had previously been playing elsewhere. Eleven of those 82 players were signed as DPs, as many as four of whom could have theoretically been signed under this new rule. Of the 23 DPs currently in the league, six are 25 or younger.
"This is already the largest and deepest group of players that MLS has ever added in a single year, and more could arrive before our Sept. 15 roster freeze," MLS Executive Vice President Todd Durbin said in a league release. "During the past five years, the resources devoted to the on-field product have increased dramatically, and we’re seeing the fruits of that investment in the quality of play. We believe that our League is improving at an increasing rate and we plan to continue that progress until we are among the best in the world."
This will mark the third time the DP rule has changed since it was first created in 2007 as a way to encourage teams to sign big-name players like David Beckham. Initially, teams were given just one DP that counted $400,000 against the salary cap and could trade for another spot. In 2010, the rule was expanded to allow for a third DP, with each counting no more than $335,000. This change is unlikely to be as dramatic, but will at least acknowledge that all DPs are not created equal.