The one benefit for Philadelphia Union fans in the midst of a playoff-less season will come in the form of the the team getting an early start on acquiring new talent for next year.
According to sources within the Union organization, the club has already taken advantage of the early exit and has already started discussions with some well known players.
As released by Kerith Gabriel in last weekend's Daily Doop, CEO and managing Partner Nick Sakiewicz met with multiple agents of players employed by European teams.
Sakiewicz said while it was "less of a scouting trip," which he said he defers to his technical staff, he did meet with eight top European agents, many of which manage players on clubs he visited. To name a few of those clubs, Sakiewicz said he visited Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Lyon and Monaco (France) and both Inter and AC Milan of Italy.
Sources, who provided the information on conditions of anonymity, told the Brotherly Game that Sakiewicz made headway in identifying at least a few designated player prospects. Of the group, two were strikers, one an attacking midfielder and the other a central midfielder.
Antonio Cassano (Inter Milan) headlined the player discussions, with Steed Malbranque (Olympique Lyon), Mathieu Flamini (A.C. Milan) and Frederic Nimani (AS Monaco FC), one of the sources said. Of that lot, Cassano and Malbranque would draw the most interest from Union fans and fit the team's needs the most.
While incredibly talented, and naturally gifted, Cassano has long been held in contempt by numerous members of the Italian soccer community. Cassano's poor attitude and propensity for outbursts and discontent have moved him around three times in the same amount of years.
Malbranque should be more intriguing to the Union, given that his ability to play as a creative force in the midfield has not stopped despite his post-prime age (32) and a missed 2011 (family issues). He's managed to start seven times so far this year, in Ligue Un play, for a fourth place Lyon side.
Unlike the two previously mentioned players, Flamini does not have much to his name in recent years. After featuring as the main backup central midfielder for his first three years in Milan, Flamini has fallen out of favor and has only appeared four times since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
Flamini would provide a veteran presence to the midfield, but it would come at a high cost - one probably larger than Gabriel Gomez's current salary - and wouldn't necessarily produce on the field at a level that would improve the Union.
The wildcard of the group would be Nimani. The 24-year-old striker had a decent start to his career at Monaco, with nine goals in 39 league games, but has traveled out on loan every season since 2006.
Nimani's loan spells have not proved beneficial, as he's played in less league games combined since 2006 than while solely with Monaco.
Sakiewicz and the Union were also busy away from the team leaked meetings with European agents. A different source told the Brotherly Game that the Union were talking to a player who would give the Union height at striker for the first time - Peter Crouch.
Crouch (Stoke City), a gimmick to some and a weapon to others, at 6-foot, 7-inches would allow the Union to cross the ball into box with some hope of conversion, a feeling that has not been with the team in three years. He's scored 14 times in 41 English Premier League games since joining Stoke from Tottenham Hotspur in 2011.
Another striker the team has held discussions with was Sebastien Le Toux, who will be with the New York Red Bulls Saturday against D.C. United in the Major League Soccer playoffs. One source said that the deal with the Union was all but done, while another said that the two sides were still talking.
Le Toux revealed to Jonathan Tannenwald, of Philly.com's The Goalkeeper, that former teammate Stefano Miglioranzi was his agent and that he still regarded Philadelphia highly.
Eric Hassli was pursued during the season, but then traded to Toronto before the Union could decide on what action to pursue on the French striker.
The Union chose to not comment on this story.