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The summer transfers and how they impact the Philadelphia Union salary budget

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A look at the new summer transfer roster additions and how their salaries will impact the Union budget, this year and next.

We love you Carlos! But what will you cost us?
We love you Carlos! But what will you cost us?
Jamie Sabau

The Union front office has been active in this summer's transfer window that officially closes August 6th. They brought in a young Jamaican striker Brian Brown, whose clutch header has already secured a vital point. They signed Algerian World Cup star Rais M'Bolhi to take over the goalkeeping duties, and they welcomed back MLS All-Star and World Cup defender Carlos Valdes. While Brown was brought in on a loan from Harbour View FC, both M'Bolhi and Valdes were signed to new long term deals. And it's safe to say they weren't bargain deals.

Given the recent undisclosed but large outlay, Union fans are wondering if there will be changes to the roster to compensate for the increased expense. The answer to that question is that nothing may actually need to happen, until next year....

Here's an update on what we know and what changes may or may not be coming.

Quick recap of the MLS salary budget process and Union roster changes

The MLS salary budget for this season is $3.1M and the Union count between 18 and 20 players against the budget, with the rest of the players being considered off budget players. The Union can have 10 such off budget players. Generation Adidas and 2 Homegrown players automatically take up off-budget rosters spots. Designated Players can be paid whatever is agreed, but their salary budget is capped. Then there is this great unknown called allocation money which as you'll see in a moment is the final piece of the puzzle.

Since the MLS Players' Union released salaries in April, the Union have made 7 changes to the roster, the three additions mentioned above and four players have either been released or placed on the inactive list. Keon Daniel was released early in the season, Brian Holt was released with the announcement of M'Bolhi and both Cristhian Hernandez and Jimmy McLaughlin are on loan to Harrisburg. Holt, Hernandez and McLaughlin were likely off budget players so their change in salary doesn't impact the Union's salary budget position. However, their new status does give the Union flexibility in moving other players into off-budget roster spots, therefore making room for more salary.

Impacts to the Union salary budget

In the prior post on this topic we had Keon Daniel counting against the salary budget, so removing him saves $91K. But that's the only budget reduction we can see clearly. So onto the new salaries.

Rais M'Bolhi's new transfer fee and salary were both rumored to in the mid hundred of thousands of dollars. Despite the potential expense, M'Bolhi was not announced as a designated player. However, we can assume that his budget hit will be near that level (if he is indeed not a designated player). A summer transfer DP cost is $193,750. For purposes of the discussion I'll assume that expense and it can be adjusted later if necessary. If it's not that it's likely to be very close.

Determining the impact of Valdes is more difficult. We know he can not be a designated player, which means he must cost less than $387,500. The last salary report listed Valdes' salary at $295K. It's certainly possible his deal is worth more. Nick Sakiewicz said that the contract situation with Valdes was a "complicated legal matter", indicating that a salary negotiation may not have been the sticking point. Let's leave Valdes' salary at $295K for purposes of the discussion.

Brian Brown likely cost significantly less. When looking for comparison players, a couple of options jump out. Deshorn Brown is a Jamaican striker for the Colorado Rapids. His guaranteed compensation is $123K for this season, but he is an established striker in the league. Lovell Palmer is a Jamaican defender for the Chicago Fire who makes $83K per year. Again, he is more established than Brian Brown. For discussion, let's place Brown's salary at $70K.

For both Brown and Valdes their salaries will be prorated against half of the season, or even slightly less given the timing of the signings.

The rules around which players can be on the senior roster (on budget) and off-budget are vague. We can assume the Union can be pretty flexible with who is on and off budget. For example, I'm going to assume that Austin Berry gets moved to an off budget position. Half of his $93K salary will get removed from the budget. We also have room to move Brian Brown to the off budget position since he is an unknown. The off budget roster may have players that cost more, but now we have a conservative number that leaves the Union with the league minimum 18 players counting against the budget.

Here is what the 28 man roster with corresponding salary budget hits might look like without allocation money.

Player 2014 Guaranteed Compensation New Projected Budget Number
1 Edu! $650,000 $387,500
2 Maidana! $198,750 $387,500
3 Nogueira $330,000 $330,000
4 Le Toux $262,813 $259,609
5 Wenger $242,000 $216,500
6 Okugo $228,000 $207,250
7 M'Bolhi% $250,000 $193,750
8 Casey $192,500 $192,500
9 Carroll $185,220 $185,220
10 Valdes% $147,500 $147,500
11 Cruz $131,667 $130,000
12 Williams $130,500 $129,125
13 MacMath $120,000 $120,000
14 Lahoud $102,333 $101,500
15 Fabinho $100,500 $99,375
16 White $80,000 $80,000
17 Fred $65,460 $65,460
18 Gaddis $52,313 $52,313
Off Budget Players (estimated)
19 Brown% $35,000 $0
20 Bone $51,325 $0
21 Berry $101,994 $0
22 Wheeler $48,825 $0
23 Blake^ $113,000 $0
24 Pfeffer** $85,000 $0
25 Fernandes** $48,500 $0
26 Hoppenot $54,450 $0
27 Marquez $36,504 $0
28 Ribeiro $36,504 $0
29
30
Totals* $4,080,658 $3,285,102

** Homegrown Player
^ Generation Adidas player
! Designated Player
% Salaries are both estimated and prorated

These assumptions put the Union over the salary budget at $3.29M with total salary compensation over $4M. However, as already suggested, the Union may have moved a higher priced player to an off budget salary position.

The other major change is allocation money. According to the MLS roster rules, a team can use allocation money to buy down the salary budget number of designated players to as little as $150K. So all the Union would need to do to fit under the budget is to have bought down say Maurice Edu to $180K.

The bottom line is, for this season, the Union don't likely need to move any players to create salary space. They may choose to move a player to save money, but it won't be to meet any MLS rules.

What about these contracts in 2015?

When you unwind the allocation money and the prorated summer transfer contracts the Union salary budget balloons to nearly $3.7M next year. That does not include raises which can be between 10-15% on average (including a potentially large raise for one Amobi Okugo). Raises might bring the salary hit to over $4M. That's pretty far away from the $3.1M budget.

But come next season a new CBA will be in place, and the expectation is that the salary budget number could increase dramatically. In addition new allocation money can be used to buy down the salaries. And of course players and their salaries could be moved in the offseason. For example, Brian Carroll and Andrew Wenger are on the outside of this new lineup looking in, yet they combined make over $400K. It's unlikely to be a big factor, but the expansion draft may also reduce the Union's salary.

As of now the Union have added three key players and they haven't given up any existing players. Come next season there might be work to do, especially if they want to keep adding more expensive players.