Last week, Seattle Sounders F.C. used its top spot in the MLS Allocation Ranking to pick up former Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa. Seattle had acquired its spot in the Allocation Ranking via a trade with Chivas USA on December 11, 2013, in which Seattle sent Mauro Rosales to Chivas USA in exchange for the rights to Tristan Bowan and swapping spots in the Allocation Ranking.
Under the MLS Roster Rules and Regulations (the “MLS Rules”), the Allocation Ranking is used to determine which MLS clubs have priority to sign certain players who sign with MLS. In this instance, Pappa was assigned to a MLS club pursuant to the Allocation Ranking because he was a “former MLS player who return[ed] to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee.”
MLS clubs will generally retain a right of first refusal to players transferred to clubs abroad, unless the club receives allocation money as a result of the transfer. In August 2012, the Fire and Dutch Eredivisie club Heerenveen agreed to terms for the transfer of Pappa to Heerenveen. As part of the transfer, the Chicago Fire received allocation money from MLS, thereby losing any right of first refusal the MLS club would have had on Pappa under the MLS Rules.
The MLS Rules provide that after a MLS Club uses its spot in the Allocation Ranking to select an available player, the club moves to the bottom of the Allocation Ranking order. After Seattle selected Pappa, the current Allocation Ranking looks like this:
- FC Dallas
- D.C. United
- San Jose
- New England
- Chivas USA
- LA Galaxy
- New York
- Real Salt Lake
- Sporting KC
The Philadelphia Union sits at second to last in the Allocation Ranking after bringing in Designated Player Maurice Edu on loan from Stoke City via the allocation process. Philadelphia had acquired the top spot in the Allocation Ranking in a trade with D.C. United on January 14. Edu was made available for selection by MLS clubs in the allocation process as “U.S. National team player who sign[ed] with MLS after playing abroad.” The Edu allocation process demonstrates a change in the rules for 2014, whereby U.S. National team players are assigned to a team via the Allocation Process regardless of whether those players are signed as Designated Players (a marked change in the rules since the Clint Dempsey signing last summer). Business of Soccer discussed the Edu allocation in more depth here.
Regardless of the confusing MLS Rules, the Pappa allocation to Seattle appears to be the most cut and dry in recent memory. Other notable players who have recently signed with MLS and been assigned to a MLS club pursuant to the Allocation Rankings include Carlos Bocanegara (U.S. National Team player; Chivas USA), Clarence Goodson (U.S. National Team player; San Jose Earthquakes), and Carlos Ruiz (returning MLS player; D.C. United).
MLS announced in connection with the Edu transfer that new, revised MLS Rules will be made publicly available prior to the start of the 2014 MLS season. Whether and how the allocation process will differ in 2014 as compared to 2013 is yet to be seen.