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Managing the International Player Slots on the San Jose Earthquakes roster

Quakes GM Jesse Fioranelli says that everything is under control

San Jose Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli talks to fans prior to the team’s open training session at Avaya Stadium
Lyndsay Radnedge | Center Line Soccer

With their MLS season opener just over a week away, the San Jose Earthquakes are deep into their preseason preparations. The roster, with 26 players under contract and the league maximum of three Designated Players, is almost set ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline requiring teams to be compliant. But there are still some details to be ironed out.

According to the 2017 MLS roster rules and regulations — which will in some way be modified for this season, though those updates have yet to be published publicly — teams can have up to 30 active players under contract to start the season, so the Quakes still have room to sign any or all of their four 2018 MLS SuperDraft selections: Paul Marie, Danny Musovski, Mohamed Thiaw, and Kevin Partida. All four players are still in preseason camp with the club, so it is likely they will earn contracts — though not all necessarily with San Jose.

The Earthquakes USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC is a potentially landing spot for the the Quakes draft picks that don’t sign MLS deals. Reno’s roster is controlled by the technical staff in San Jose, and adding these players to the USL club’s squad keeps them within the organization. Another option is to sign them to the first team and loan them to Reno, potentially on a long-term basis, such as was done with Matheus Silva and last year’s draft pick Lindo Mfeka, who played all but one minute his rookie season with the Nevada club. He was released by the Quakes this off-season and was signed directly by Reno soon after.

Any of the draft picks that are signed will not have their contracts count against the “salary cap,” which last year was $3,845,000 and will be slightly higher in 2018, as that figure is distributed among the top 20 earners on the team, collectively referred to as the club’s On Budget Senior Roster. In 2017, the Earthquakes filled all 20 spots on their 20-man salary budget roster — though one slot was filled by Marvell Wynne, who never was cleared to play by the league following heart surgery — and the possibility is that they will likely do so again this year.

League rules allow teams to fill out only 18 of those 20 spots without penalty, as long as they can fit their remaining players (up to 10) on the off-budget portion of the roster — a group that can include players that are Homegrown Players, Generation Adidas signings, and those making the league minimum. In 2017, the Quakes filled eight of those spots; however, with the addition of three more Homegrown signings this offseason — JT Marcinkowski, Jacob Akanyirige, and Gilbert Fuentes join Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima with such a status — that number could grow. Add in the potential league minimum salary rookie contracts some of the SuperDraft picks might get, as well as the trio of off-season signings from Reno 1868 FC — Jimmy Ockford, Luis Felipe, and Chris Wehan — and the Quakes easily fill all 10 positions, pushing some onto the Senior Roster.

The other compliance issue that has gotten the most attention this off-season involves the number of International Players the Earthquakes carry over from 2017 and have added to the roster this off-season. MLS rules allow the Quakes to have eight players on their active roster that carry the International designation. Currently, their official roster shows 10 players with such a designation, two over the limit. Before preseason camp started, when asked of the discrepancy, general manager Jesse Fioranelli said that he was confident the team would not have an issue with roster compliance.

“There is a combination of several thoughts that we have,” said Fioranelli. “I can tell you that we addressed this at the end of last year, and I am happy where we stand right now regarding the entire roster structure, including International Slots, the composition of the balance inside the roster between older and younger players, American players, Homegrown players, International players. From a compliance standpoint, this is something that we have set before and we are optimistic about.”

With just over a week to go to until the Earthquakes MLS season opener on March 3 against Minnesota United, the team has yet to make any formal announcements as to how it will be compliant with league rules. Options include helping current internationals qualify for green cards, trading for International spots from other teams in MLS, or sending players on loan. When contacted for comment, an Earthquakes spokesperson confirmed that a plan was in place for the team to be fully roster compliant by the league’s end-of-the-month deadline, but the spokesperson could not comment on just how that would be accomplished.

The most probable route is to have two or more of the longest serving internationals gain green card status and count as domestics on the 2018 roster. The mechanisms for achieving such a status are varied, but other players around MLS have earned green cards in as little as one year of tenure in the league. Of the current 10 International Players listed on the official Earthquakes roster, the logical candidates are Anibal Godoy, Harold Cummings, Jahmir Hyka, and Florian Jungwirth. Both Godoy and Jungwirth have at some point this preseason returned to their native countries, Panama and Germany respectively, for visa-related issues. In addition, Hyka missed the first two days of camp as he returned from Albania. The club spokesperson would not go into detail when asked if those visits were directly related to obtaining their green cards.

Nonetheless, if Fioranelli’s comment from earlier this year portends a roster compliance that is only missing a formal announcement, then the Earthquakes should be ready to go for the season opener, and the details of how they reached that compliance will be announced in short order.

San Jose Earthquakes 2018 MLS roster (as of February 22)

Goalkeeper (3): Matt Bersano, JT Marcinkowski (HG), Andrew Tarbell.

Defender (9): Francois Affolter (INT'L), Jacob Akanyirige (HG), Harold Cummings (INT'L), Florian Jungwirth (INT'L), Nick Lima (HG), Paul Marie (UD), Jimmy Ockford, Yeferson Quintana (INT’L), Joel Qwiberg (INT’L).

Midfielder (13): Eric Calvillo, Fatai Alashe, Magnus Eriksson (DP, INT’L), Luis Felipe, Gilbert Fuentes (HG), Anibal Godoy (INT'L), Jahmir Hyka (INT'L), Kevin Partida (UD), Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili (DP, INT'L), Shea Salinas, Tommy Thompson (HG), Chris Wehan, Jackson Yueill (GA)

Forward (5): Quincy Amarikwa, Danny Hoesen (INT'L), Daniel Musovski (UD), Mohamed Thiaw (UD), Chris Wondolowski (DP)

(HG) = Homegrown Player Signing, (GA) = Generation Adidas, (INT’L) = International Player, (DP) = Designated Player, (UD) = unsigned MLS SuperDraft pick

Center Line Soccer roster status projections (as of February 22)

On Budget: Senior Roster (spots 1-20)

  1. Francois Affolter (INT'L)
  2. Fatai Alashe
  3. Quincy Amarikwa
  4. Matt Bersano
  5. Eric Calvillo
  6. Harold Cummings (INT’L)
  7. Magnus Eriksson (DP, INT’L)
  8. Anibal Godoy (INT’L) — projected to be domestic status for 2018
  9. Danny Hoesen (INT’L)
  10. Jahmir Hyka (INT’L)
  11. Florian Jungwith (INT’L) — projected to be domestic status for 2018
  12. Jimmy Ockford
  13. Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili (DP, INT'L)
  14. Yeferson Quintana (INT’L)
  15. Joel Qwiberg (INT’L)
  16. Shea Salinas
  17. Andrew Tarbell
  18. Chris Wondolowski (DP)
  19. Open
  20. Open

Off Budget: Supplemental Roster (spots 21-24)

  1. Luis Felipe
  2. Chris Wehan
  3. Jackson Yueill (GA)
  4. Open

Off Budget: Reserve Roster (Spots 25-30)

  1. Jacob Akanyirige (HG)
  2. Gilbert Fuentes (HG)
  3. Nick Lima (HG)
  4. JT Marcinkowski (HG)
  5. Tommy Thompson (HG)
  6. Open