MLS: LA Galaxy fourth DP spot critical question of balls

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - March 11: Giovani dos Santos
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - March 11: Giovani dos Santos /

LA Galaxy currently have four Designated Players on the roster. As the March 1st compliance deadline approaches, MLS’ balls will be questioned.

The Los Angeles Galaxy currently have four Designated Players on their roster: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos.

In Major League Soccer, Designated Players, or DPs, are players that earn an average of more than $504,375 million per year across their contract. DPs that earn more than $504,375 per year but less than $1.5 million can be bought down using Target Allocation Money, but players that earn above $1.5 million per year must be classed as DPs and cannot be bought down.

For the Galaxy, all four of their current DPs are above the $1.5 million TAM limit. That means that none can be bought down below the $504,375 salary charge for a DP. Essentially, either their DPs are on the roster as DPs, something in their contract changes, or they are not on the roster at all.

Each team is only allowed to have three DPs on the roster by the March 1st compliance date — it is why Atlanta United sold Miguel Almiron earlier this offseason. For LA, that means that something must change.

The Galaxy will not rid of Zlatan or Alessandrini. And reporting around MLS claims that Giovani dos Santos is the player that Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese is wanting to deal with. I say ‘deal with’ because it is rather convoluted.

As this excellent article by Paul Tenorio of The Athletic highlights, there are three ways that the Galaxy can ‘deal with’ dos Santos to comply with league rules:

  1. Re-structure dos Santos’ $6 million contract so that it comes under the $1.5 million TAM limit and then buy him under the salary charge using TAM.
  2. Pay him off-book through some dodgy endorsement deals
  3. Wait for MLS to change their DP rules so that they can keep four DPs on the roster.

The only option that isn’t outrageous is the first. But as Tenorio reports, there has been little suggestion that dos Santos would be willing to give up $6 million in guaranteed money and the contract manoeuvring that would have to be done would be blocked by the MLS Players’ Association, who do not believe in surrendering guaranteed money to clubs. So that seems highly unlikely if not impossible.

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And so, we come to the two utterly ridiculous but actually more probable solutions to this problem: The LA Galaxy break MLS’ rules. Whether it be through allowing the Galaxy to have a fourth DP on the roster at the last minute of the offseason, thereby disadvantaging every other team in the league by not allowing them the offseason to scout and sign another DP, or turning a blind eye to some rather egregious dealings, the Galaxy mishandling of their DP situation will put pressure on MLS.

In the past, MLS has folded under this pressure. Many argue that the brilliant Galaxy championships of 2011, 2012 and 2014 should come with an asterisk — I will not get into that here, but there is a sound argument to be made that MLS has repeatedly bent for the Galaxy where they would not for other teams.

But back then, the league was not as established as it is now. They relied on the brand of the Galaxy to help fund the league and grow the publicity of the sport. That is no longer the case. MLS has developed, grown, flourished, even. But with that comes a responsibility to have integrity, to be honest and transparent, to run a fair and compliant competition that offers every team an equal chance of winning.

Next. MLS: 3 players primed for 2019 breakout. dark

LA Galaxy’s fourth DP spot will question the balls of MLS officials. Can they stand up to the biggest organisation in the league? Sadly, I have my doubts.