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Impact of New MLS Rules on Quakes

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

MLS finally released the details of the roster rules under the new CBA, which until now had been exclusively a matter of speculation. While we still don't know a lot of the details, and won't until the MLS Players Union releases its semi-annual survey of player salaries, this new report clarifies quite a lot and allows us to do a bit more informed speculation on how the Quakes have constructed their roster and how they're likely to do so in the future. While the transfer window is technically open until May 12th, I think that any major moves are more likely for summer window, which opens on July 8.

Salary Cap Specifics

When the terms of the new CBA were first leaked, we already knew that the salary cap increase was largely an illusion produced by cutting roster sizes, raising the minimum salary, and raising the DP threshold. This only confirms that, as we get a higher number than expected on the threshold ($436,250) and a lower number than expected on the overall cap ($3.49 Million). The "top 20" rule will remain in effect so that only the top 20 salaries count against the cap.

I have covered the Quakes salary situation extensively (including this article at Football.com) and the primary limitation so far is the fact we know nothing about around a dozen of the Quakes current player's contracts. I used historical precedent in order to attempt to estimate, constrained by the new rules and the unlikelihood that the Quakes went over the cap (it wouldn't make strategic sense here). With the unknown salaried players highlighted by italics, here is my best guess:

Player

Position

2014 MLS Salary

2015 Cap Hit Projection

Notes

Chris Wondolowski

ST

$650,000.00

$436,250.00

DP Cap Applies

Matias Perez-Garcia

CAM

$216,000.00

$436,250.00

DP Cap Applies, 2014 was not pro-rated

Innoccent Emeghara

ST

N/A

$436,250.00

DP Cap Applies

Clarence Goodson

CB

$342,000.00

$342,000.00

Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi

CM

$240,000.00

$240,000.00

Marvell Wynne

RB

$285,000.00

$150,000.00

Dispersal draftee, likely took a pay cut

Steven Lenhart

ST

$257,500.00

$150,000.00

Rumored pay cut in his new deal

David Bingham

GK

$130,285.00

$150,000.00

New deal in the offseason, terms undisclosed

Tommy Thompson

CAM

$145,000.00

$145,000.00

Homegrown player, not exempt from cap despite some speculation on that front

Victor Bernardez

CB

$141,608.00

$141,608.00

Jordan Stewart

LB

$140,000.00

$140,000.00

Shea Salinas

LM

$133,333.33

$133,333.33

Sanna Nyassi

RM

$154,625.00

$100,000.00

Dispersal draftee, likely took a pay cut

Leandro Barrera

LM

$50,000.00

$100,000.00

Impossible to predict due to opaque transfer

Fatai Alashe

CM

N/A

$85,000.00

No info, guess is based on draft precedent

Ty Harden

CB

$71,665.21

$71,665.21

Khari Stephenson

CM

$68,336.02

$68,336.02

Mike Fucito

ST

$60,639.00

$60,639.00

Cordell Cato

RW

$50,400.00

$60,000.00

Raised to new minimum

Shaun Francis

LB

$57,889.00

$60,000.00

Raised to new minimum

Adam Jahn

ST

$48,500.00

$60,000.00

Raised to new minimum

JJ Koval

CM

$48,500.00

$60,000.00

Raised to new minimum

Mark Sherrod

ST

$48,500.00

$60,000.00

Raised to new minimum

Paulo Renato

CB

N/A

$60,000.00

No idea, set at new minimum because of trialist status and previous league likely wages

Bryan Meredith

GK

$36,500.00

$50,000.00

Raised to new minimum for youth at this roster slot

Tomas Gomez

GK

N/A

$50,000.00

Raised to new minimum for youth at this roster slot

The total is $3.51 million against the cap, just barely over, but of course it's only based on my speculations. Obviously, the important takeaway is that it's highly unlikely that the Quakes have any major space to speak of, unless the dispersal draftees took significantly less than I assumed they would and the contract extensions were really, really team-friendly deals. That means we'll need to shed salary to have any room to maneuver except for those minimum-level contracts.

Allocation Order

One illuminating part of the release is that it finally names in precise terms who is subject to the allocation process rather than discovery or "weighted lottery" or one of the other bizzare mechanisms in use. This is particularly important because San Jose currently sits atop the allocation rankings and therefore if anyone on the list becomes a hot property for MLS, they'll either have access to the player or the ability to trade their slot for assets.

You can find the entire list here, and a really good breakdown on the SJEarthquakes Reddit by user MikeFive of how the individual names may apply (or not) to the Quakes.

My speculation is that none of the names are particularly likely to join the Quakes, and in fact any MLS team at all. If they do come back stateside, however, expect San Jose to capitalize on its good fortune and sell the slot off for a worthy reward and shore up the depth on the team.

Allocation Money

Previously, the structure of allocation money was known but only one amount was public: the DP slot purchase amount. Now, we know how much teams get every year regardless (the same, $150k). That means that the Quakes have spent their entire annual pool of money on Innocent's slot, but they have two additional sources: the Sam Cronin trade and the bonus teams receive when they fail to make the playoffs. It's unclear exactly how much money that would be, but I would assume it's less, in total, than $150k. This amount is relevant because Matias Perez-Garica is not making much more than the new Designated Player threshold and therefore allocation money could buy him back into normal player status (like Mix Diskerud in NYCFC). That is almost certain to not occur this year, since we need to clear quite a lot of money off of our books in order to faciliate yet another DP. More likely is that we continue to use allocation money as a trading asset in the continued makeover of the roster.

Conclusion

Although we already knew this, the greater detail makes it clear that the salary structure makes roster compositions quite similar to the NBA: maximum cap hits for 2-3 superstar players mean that the best value deals can be found at the top and the bottom of the spectrum, but rarely in the middle.

The Quakes will look to do the same. MLS rosters win and lose based on the number of minimum salary players (like Adam Jahn, Cordell Cato, etc) who can make a real contribution and lessen the need to overpay for mid-range players (like Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi). Even in those midrange players, the sweetspot seems to be around $150k rather than $300k.

This roster is fine as it is, and it's worth noting that our preferred XI haven't appeared yet together, and won't, in the wake of the Innocent injury. I think that the organization will likely be targeting next year to make a real push, but stay tuned for the salary release.

The author, Colin Etnire, is a staff writer for the Earthquakes and USMNT for Football.com, and host of the Quakes tactical podcast "The Aftershock"

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