There was a conference call I wasn't on this afternoon. I hear that MLS ExViceP Todd Durbin talked about developments on the player acquisition front. Some of it was of the "Hey! Look at what we did!" variety. Some of it was to announce a change in the Designated Player rule that will allow clubs to identify and sign younger players above the usual salary limits. A tiny bit of it was to reveal that the league has signed Eddie Johnson and that GAM will be allocated by the usual means at some point in the next two days.
Whatever the breakout of time spent talking about each topic actually was, it's the new twist on the DP rule that is obviously the talking point. Owners are naturally adverse to risk, which younger players that require DP designations (usually due to transfer fees hitting the cap) are. Who knows how many times coaches have returned from trips to Central and South America giddy over a young player their club could have had for a reasonable fee, only to be told the cap hit would be too large or the club is holding on to DP slots for "accomplished" names. Maybe not that often, but it certainly happens.
"Fairly regularly particularly over the course of the last 12-to-18 months, we've consistently heard from teams that they've identified players like this," Durbin said.
Hopefully this inspires teams unwilling or unable to go after the Robbie Keanes of the world to do like Dallas and find a Fabian Castillo. Players under 20 will count $150k towards the salary budget, and players 21-23 will count $200k. That's strong a incentive, just as lowering the cap hit and allowing clubs to pay it down further with allocation money was meant as an incentive for clubs to use the DP designations they weren't. It did result in a massive rush to sign big names, but it did give teams the ability to sign players just outside the usual MLS limits. Eric Hassli, for example. It would be hard to argue Hassli hasn't been an asset to the Whitecaps and MLS this season.
The rule change also opens the window for MLS clubs to enter increase the league's profile as a seller. MLS is in a unique position as an upwardly mobile league in a country with a high standard of living that can pluck gems out of the relative obscurity points south. All it takes is a few Fabian Castillo coming good to make MLS an attractive destination for other players like him. If they develop, MLS can sell them on and reap some financial benefit.
The rule change might also mean some young American talent that bolted for Europe and better salaries can be enticed to come back. I'm not sure if this will be much of a factor, but there's always a chance a young American that bounded out of the league's grasp to Scandinavia or competitions similar could return to give MLS a boost on the younger end of the American talent spectrum. Sure, we have Brek Shea. But it might be nice to have Josh Gatt, or Mikkel Diskerud or Alejandro Bedoya, too.
And, thanks to the headline I conjured for this post, I have Michael Jackson stuck in my head. Er, a Michael Jackson song, rather.