LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane suggested in a recent interview that MLS should expand to five DPs over the next ten years (link). Thierry Henry has gotten on the bandwagon as well recently, saying "If you are in any other league in the world, you keep your good players, right? But not in this league." So what is MLS doing differently this year to keep and acquire talent? (link)
First off the salary budget has been raised 5%, from $2.81 million to $2.95 million as stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. The minimum veteran salary is also up around 5%, from $44,000 to $46,500. The minimum for young players (under 25) is now $35,125 from $33,750.
The Designated Player charge is now $368,750 up from a much rounder $350,000. Midseason DPs come in at $175,000. You DPs (21-23) count $200,000 and even younger DPs (20 and younger) counts as $150,000.
One significant change is now that teams don't get allocation money for leaving the last two spots on the roster open. The primary transfer window is staying open until May 6th, with the summer transfer window going from July 9th to August 8th. Rosters freeze on September 13th. Teams start with eight international slots.
Just about all of this is as expected, and none of it significantly changes MLS' ability to retain talent. There's an incentive to try and keep young talent, but thus far it's still more of a theory than actual MLS practice. Teams have another half a month over last year to go after big transfers. The English Premier League season ends on May 19th, so this isn't a MLS conspiracy for the Galaxy to be able to sign Lampard in the primary window. Unless of course Chelsea has tanked so bad that they don't care about having him for their last two matches.
That we're even having this conversation about MLS talent is a step forward. As Keane said in his interview "When I went back (last month) and trained with Tottenham for a couple of weeks, the lads asked questions and stuff like that. That just goes to show you how the league has grown."
Read that in context with MLS' announcement this week that they now have a partnership with the French Football Federation to train MLS youth academy coaches. Jovan Kirovksi will be one of the ones taking the eight week course, which will see him embedded with a French youth academy.
MLS can't poach young talent attached to European clubs, but I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing youth loans to MLS sides. As MLS' reputation grows overseas, teams will feel comfortable letting MLS develop its young talent, as well as skimming talent off the top. It's not an insult to say MLS is competing with Europe's second tier for this role in international talent movement, it's actually a step forward.