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Union handed $500,000 by MLS - Why you might not want to get excited

A new roster rule announced on July 8th handed the the Union $500,000. Whether or not this is a good thing is in the hands of the Front Office.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a fan of Major League Soccer and want to see league improve then you'll like the newly minted Targeted Allocation Money, the new money provided by MLS that will allow teams to essentially sign a 4th Designated Player. If you are also a fan of the Philadelphia Union and would like to see them hoist a Cup someday, you might want to temper your enthusiasm.

On the good side, MLS has invested over $10M in new players which will definitely improve the quality of the league. On the questionable side is exactly which teams will be able to benefit.

The specifics of Targeted Allocation Money are as follows. Each club gets $100,000 per year to spend for the next five years for a total of $500,000. This money has to be invested in their roster and is outside of their normal salary budget, which stands this season at $3,490,000. The money can either be spent on a player that would make more than the maximum salary budget of $436,250 (otherwise known as a Designated Player) or it can be traded.

This money then essentially helps teams already with three designated players to add a fourth. Call it Designated Player Lite. The new rule unquestionably favors the wealthier clubs in the league, like LA Galaxy (who are very close to using the rule to sign Giovani Dos Santos of Villareal and Mexican National Team fame), the Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC and others. The rich teams just got a little richer.

As for the Union, who currently have just two Designated Players, Fernando Aristeguieta and Maurice Edu, the benefit remains to be seen. At the end of the day it's another asset to use to improve the team. The problem is every other team got the same asset, so it becomes a question of who uses the asset best.

There still appears to be uncertainty about the rule. Some in the know are suggesting that a team must have three Designated Players on their roster before using the money. However the official roster rules linked earlier don't mention or even imply that stipulation.

If three Designated Players are required then the Union would need to sign two Designated Players to make use of the funds, which seems unlikely. More likely they would use the money as a bargaining chip in a future trade. In which case the value of the money is significantly lessened.

If three Designated Players are not required first, the Union would be able to sign a player that costs more than $436,250 and they could lower him below the DP threshold. However, they could also just use their normal Allocation Money, which is a minimum of $150,000 each year, to do that as well. Allocation Money does not have to be used on a player above $436,250 however, so this new currency does provide some extra roster flexibility.

For nearly two decades Commissioner Don Garber has been marching around his league's stone walls trumpeting the beautiful sounds of parity, but those same walls are slowly crumbling. The crumbling is inevitable, even ordained. The American soccer world must grow and some markets are bigger than others and those markets must be fed. The owners in those markets want to capitalize on the opportunity and feed their market better players. The owners of the smaller markets simply can not. Targeted Allocation Money is a small step in the weakening of league parity. It certainly could have been worse. As soccer grows the tension between the rich and the poor will increase along with the difference in quality. This step feels very minor. But more steps are coming and it can't be helped.