Overlooked in the American World Cup hype was the move by Seattle to sign their young striker Freddy Montero to an extension which also makes him a designated player. Montero, 23, becomes Seattle’s third DP, joining Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez. More importantly, the signing prevents the young talent and 2009 Rookie of the Year from moving to Europe for more money and allows Seattle to keep their nucleus of talent in tact.
The designated player rule was originally known as the “Beckham Rule” because it was supposed to allow clubs the financial flexibility to sign international stars like Beckham (and later Thierry Henry) outside of the normal salary cap. Later, the Galaxy used the rule to compensate Landon Donovan and keep him in Los Angeles, compensating him for his talent and PR value. But a club like Seattle is now using the DP rule to build the club from within and avoid losing high-priced players, as well as finding international talent. Consider:
- Nkufo is a former Switzerland international who was a leading scorer for FC Twente in the early 2000s. Seattle used the DP rule to lure him to the U.S.
- Fernandez is a Uruguay international who began his career in a variety of South American clubs, but is reaching his peak in the U.S. after signing with Seattle in the summer.
- Montero was originally loaned to Seattle from Deportivo Cali before MLS negotiated his transfer to Seattle. He is now firmly on Seattle’s payroll as a DP.
Also joining the growing designated player list is Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake’s first DP. Saborio’s rights were transferred from Swiss club FC Sion after scoring 12 times in MLS play for RSL and being named Newcomer of the Year.
Looking at the current designated players (current defined as players who are playing in MLS and have a DP contract) you see a definite trend emerging of teams using the DP rule to lock-up their own players or players-on-loan to them rather than going out and grabbing big international names. A good reason for this is the lack of huge stars that would find MLS clubs with DP spots available as attractive places to play. But another is a smart use of the rule – clubs can lock up their own talent, control the player’s contract, and pay them somewhat their worth.
So who’s next for the designated player tag?
The obvious choice would be Colorado’s Omar Cummings, who despite scoring 28 goals since 2008 only made about $80,000 this past year. Colorado recently said they would strive to keep the forward after Estudientes and possibly some European clubs have targeted him. But to increase his pay to a level to tempt him to stay in the U.S., they would almost have to slap a DP tag on him.
Who do you think will be the next current MLS player to become a designated player?