In a trade that prompted eye-rolls from many followers of MLS, the San Jose Earthquakes on Thursday sent Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and an International Player Slot to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for General Allocation Money (GAM). The amounts of both TAM and GAM that were swapped were not disclosed, as per league policy.
As a single-entity structure, Major League Soccer manages all player personnel matters involving contracts, while the twenty individual clubs operate within a set of roster rules that govern the make-up of their 28-man rosters. TAM and GAM are mechanisms by which these teams can organize their player expenses within the constraints of a salary budget -- known familiarly as "the salary cap." And while the cap amount is published, the amount of TAM and GAM "funny money" that is circulating within the league is not, which is where most fan frustration on the matter is centered.
Thursday's trade does appear to give the Earthquakes and general manager John Doyle some flexibility in how he is able to get the club's roster compliant with league rules before the March 1 deadline. One very clear violation is that the Quakes have four Designated Players under contract -- one more than league policy allows. GAM has the flexibility to be used to buy down contracts and pay off transfer fees, something TAM does not allow for.
The Earthquakes may look at the contract of Matias Perez Garcia as a target for modification, as his DP status is in part due to a transfer fee paid to bring him to MLS. If Doyle is able to utilize some of the acquired GAM to bring down the amortized transfer fee payment, Perez Garcia's contract can be reclassified, and the Quakes will be down to the maximum three DPs on their roster.
The trade with Colorado also sent the Rapids an International Player Slot, of which each team in MLS is allotted eight. While the Earthquakes do feature a dozen players with international pedigrees, enough have secured green cards so that they count as domestic players under the MLS roster rules. The Quakes will not need to make any roster moves ahead of March 1 to decrease the number of foreign-born players on their roster.
With only days remaining until the Earthquakes need to finalize their roster ahead of the MLS season opener next Sunday, the team boasts 28 players under contract. One of those, forward Steven Lenhart, is not expected to play again for the club, so the decision will need to be made whether his contract is bought out or he is put on the season-ending injury list. Both options would open up a roster spot for one of the three draft picks still vying to make the team: Tyler Thompson, Patrick Hodan, and Kip Colvey. Colvey, a defender from New Zealand, is the favorite of the three to receive a contract at this late point in the preseason.