Major League Soccer has received mass media attention from all corners for their designated player recruitment this summer.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Giovani Dos Santos have signed lucrative deals to play in MLS; and rumors of more big names in 2016 are floating around.
MLS has even attracted some former Premier League and Bundesliga stars in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tranquillo Barnetta on non-designated player contracts. Although both are making healthy salaries.
With new eyes and ears tuned into MLS in 2015, those new fans may forget about the past talent that came through the league or the talent already on display. Even if their reputations are not of household name status.
In 2015, two MLS players have stood out as either definitely in need of a DP contract or likely to move to Europe sooner rather than later.
Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber currently sits third on MLS’s assist chart with eight and is tied for team lead with seven goals. The 30-year-old is having a career year with Sporting and has already surpassed his previous totals in both goals and assists.
Feilhaber’s base salary for the 2015 season is $350,000, according to the MLS Players Union data. That makes the former Derby County midfielder fifth on Sporting’s payroll behind DPs Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, as well as non-DPs Roger Espinoza and Dom Dwyer.
The 2015 MLS All-Star is deserving of the DP tag, but with the emergence of Hungarian Krisztian Nemeth this season (tied with Feilhaber on seven goals), Sporting may have to address the salary cap next off-season.
Last winter Sporting had to trade Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong to make cap room, leaving avoid in the team that has been filled so far. However, with their third DP slot still open and the new the Target Allocation Money mechanism at their disposal, Sporting may well be able to keep all their important pieces for 2016.
All headlines in Orlando ahead of their inaugural MLS season were on Kaka and the possible arrival of other Brazilians (Robinho, anyone?) While fans focused their attention on Kaka’s Brazilian brilliance, the Lions selected Connecticut’s Cyle Larin number one overall in the MLS SuperDraft.
While SuperDraft players aren’t always ready to make a step up to the MLS level, Larin has excelled. The Canadian international is currently fourth in MLS’s golden boot race, and last weekend tied the rookie single season record of goals with 11. In addition, Larin and Kaka have combined to score 20 of 31 goals for Orlando this term.
To say Larin has been more instrumental in Orlando’s season than designated players Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez isn’t hyperbole. Although it must be noted Larin does make considerably more than Rivas in 2015.
Larin’s Generation Adidas status means his base salary of $125,000 will not count against the salary cap. However, keeping the 20-year-old Canadian international in Orlando and away from European teams may be more easily said than done.
Feilhaber has already experienced the highs and lows of playing in Europe. Larin will, most likely, in the near future. Both are perfect examples of the types of players MLS needs to keep for the long term. Feilhaber for his continued quality and Larin for his potential stardom. These are the domestic stars MLS needs to market more and tell everyone just how great they truly are.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Bleacher Report, MLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, British football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.
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