Former MLS player and current MLS pundit Alexi Lalas tweeted some interesting information out earlier Friday. It's of interest to those who follow Chivas USA:
Loans to @MLS: Rule is, as long as player isn't from "parent club", salary cap charge is based only on what league is paying player.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) February 14, 2014
He explains a bit more here:
League told me they'd have to be DPs due to connection. (Chivas, Colorado & NYCFC) RT @Aljarov What about players on loan from parent club?— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) February 14, 2014
See the distinction? For 17 of the 19 MLS clubs currently in existence (that is, fielding teams and competing in the league), loans are straightforward -- all players are actually owned by MLS, not the individual teams, and that goes for loaned players as well. If the league brings in, say, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, and he goes on loan to Toronto FC (that happened today, by the way), Lalas explained that the team is only on the hook for the $250,000 salary of the player in their salary cap, as opposed to the full $6 million salary Cesar apparently makes at Queen's Park Rangers.
Therefore, Cesar is not a Designated Player, and TFC don't have to worry about adding yet another DP to their already over-capacity number of four (MLS teams are currently only allowed to have three DPs at a time).
But the second part is what is interesting from Chivas' standpoint. Last year, one of the key player personnel strategies for the team was to bring players in on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara. Eight players came on loan to the team at one point or another during the season: Mario de Luna, Edgar Mejia, Julio Morales, Erick Torres, Jaime Frias, Martin Ponce, Giovani Casillas, and Joaquin Velazquez. Only one of those players, Torres, was a DP in 2013 for the Goats.
So how does that go with what Lalas tweeted? Well, it's clearly contradictory, and when I asked him about that, he gave me a response that I think is supposed to be humorous:
I don't believe Lalas is making up the information he shared, and I think he is poking fun at the contradictions inherent in MLS roster rules. We all know they are seldom made clear, that they seem like they are changed on a whim to benefit certain teams, and that leads to understandable frustration.
But while I don't know if the league is closing a big loophole with regards to loans, it actually makes sense. See, if a team had deep pockets, a subsidiary club in the league and wanted to exploit the MLS salary cap system, they could exploit it (or perhaps could have) to the hilt.
I suspected last year that the loaned players from CD Guadalajara were making quite a bit more than their salary cap numbers, and since the same organization took part in both parts of the transaction, there wasn't any "free market" in play between parties to try and find an equitable situation that would be present in loans between other clubs.
Frankly, Jorge Vergara could have brought over Marco Fabian and paid him $45,000 through MLS to play for Chivas USA, while paying him $1 million through Chivas de Guadalajara. It is a massive loophole, and one that went mostly unexploited as far as I can see. Whether that's because Vergara is a sporting gentleman and didn't want to circumvent the rules or because he just didn't really want to invest in the club, period, is a mystery, though I'm pretty sure it's the latter.
With New York City FC joining MLS in competition next year, the chances the owners, who also own Manchester City, would/will actually take advantage of a loophole with loans within the organization is theoretical, but more than plausible. Why wouldn't you loan players to your team if you could beyond the DP regulations, leaving those slots open to buy DPs, and then under-report the salaries of the players on loan in order to fit in the salary cap?
Of course, this is all pretty shadowy, and I'm not even sure we'll hear more publicly about forcing teams that bring in high-priced players on loan from within their own organization to tag them as DPs. But you'll notice that along with the many other changes to Chivas USA's player personnel policy so far this season, only one player remains on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara, Torres, and he's already a Designated Player. I don't see many other loans from the mothership, if any, in 2014.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!