Major League Soccer is a living, breathing beast. The league is growing and changing all of the time, and the increasingly complex and layered aspects of the MLS roster are not spared for being subjected to those changes.
Unfortunately for most, MLS is just as secretive a beast as it is a growing and changing one, so when new developments are rumored, the difference between initial reports and any official announcement of a final product is akin to that of a phrase undergoing the rigors of a game of "Telephone."
But when multiple reliable outlets throw their weight behind rumors of a high-profile 26 year-old midfielder joining the LA Galaxy before Steven Gerrard has even played his first match for the club, the list of things that this proposed roster rule change could be starts to dwindle.
According to Spanish publication El Periodico Mediterraneo, LA and La Liga outfit Villarreal are in deep talks over the transfer of Giovani Dos Santos, who would command a $7.7 million transfer fee.
Obviously, that's Designated Player-level money and-curiously enough-the Galaxy currently have all three of their Designated Player slots filled by Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane, and Steven Gerrard. Dos Santos would certainly command a salary of over $1 million in addition to that transfer fee, so the fact that this rumor has the kind of legs-very powerful legs-that it does hints heavily at the possibility of a very important roster rule change.
Goal sources have corroborated the likelihood of MLS adding something along the lines of a fourth Designated Player slot, and it seems that this Gio Dos Santos talk all but confirms it.
Of course, nobody has really heard anything from Major League soccer regarding a possible change until today. MLS gonna MLS.
Today, however, Matt Pentz tweeted out that a conference call was scheduled for tomorrow during which MLS would explain to the league and its owners the mechanisms of a new roster rule. This further legitimizes both the rumors of Gio Dos Santos to LA and added wiggle room for big-money players in MLS.
The prevailing speculation is that the rule change would be the introduction of the "Core Player" tag. This would effectively give clubs a fourth designated player slot, paving the way for more high-profile acquisitions to make their way into the league.
However, the Core Player slot wouldn't foot the bill for, say, Cristiano Ronaldo. This rule looks to be for mid-range players, with outlets suggesting that the salary range would fall between $500k-$1.5m.
As far as all sides of a potential deal are concerned, Dos Santos is worth more than that, which turns the attention toward Omar Gonzalez, who is currently making $1.2 million per season, which falls into the Core Player range.
But maybe those numbers aren't what MLS will tell us after their conference call tomorrow. Maybe it will be something like $750k-$1m. In that case, where is the money coming from? LA can't buy down Omar's contract mid-season, so the attention flips back over to the Gio situation.
Does MLS pay the transfer fee like they did for Dempsey in Seattle? If they don't, how on earth is LA going to Allocation-Money their way to a Core Player tag for him?
If they do pay the transfer fee, do the Galaxy prorate Dos Santos' contract down to under $1m for this upcoming half of the season before reworking Omar's contract during the offseason? (The ol' Sacha Kljestan trick)
Also, if MLS pays that transfer fee, how do they justify continuously crying poor when the players' union wants a slice of the pie?
Right now, two things seem to be as close to certain as MLS rule and transfer speculation can possibly get: Gio Dos Santos is incredibly close to being a Galactico and there's a quasi-fourth DP rule in the works.
How that all plays out regarding Gio and the Galaxy will be tied up in knots through as many MLS loopholes as both parties can find.
So if the most likely aspects of all of this speculation are to be taken seriously, it's not too foolish to get at least a little bit optimistic that the LA Galaxy could be adding even more star power to a suddenly-prolific midfield. With Dos Santos, though, the benefit is more than just talent on the field. In Santos, the Galaxy get the Mexican star that will help them win over a larger portion of the greater Los Angeles soccer fan base. With another team set to be entering the LA market in 2017, that would be an incredibly shrewd move by the Galaxy if they're able to pull it off.
The Galaxy aren't the only team that realizes that. MLS realizes it too, and it's not too far-fetched to think that demographics and hometown heroes haven't played a role in the league's decision to add the Core Player slot. It just makes sense.
How do you keep Major League Soccer's brightest young (American) stars in the league? Slap a significantly fatter contract and a new tag on them and make them the face of your club. How do you attract younger, talented players from overseas that aren't Steven Gerrard-level stars to come and help build and solidify your club's roster for the long haul? Pay them handsomely and give them a tag that accurately describes their purpose for being on the team.
Tomorrow is a big day for the future of Major League Soccer.