A picture of a whiteboard located within the Union's training facility was posted on Twitter earlier today, and it appears to list the players to whom the Union possess discovery claims. Brotherly Game has heard rumors about the list in the past, but they've been unsubstantiated until now. A Union spokesperson declined to comment on the situation.
@UnionRumors @UnionHulk saw this leaving a game a few weeks ago. Top of board said Discovery List pic.twitter.com/EUpo8MurK3— Jack Hoffman (@hoff1199) May 11, 2016
EDIT: The tweet was deleted, but the photo it featured is displayed below.
Two names immediately pop out: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain and John Terry of Chelsea. Both stars will be free agents come July, but their world-class ability and marketability will probably bring them to a club with deeper pockets and a larger reputation than the Philadelphia Union. Even if the Union aren't able or aren't willing to lure Ibrahimovic and Terry to Philadelphia, they may still profit simply by adding them to their discovery list. From Major League Soccer's Roster Rules and Regulations:
If a club wants to sign a player on the Discovery List of another team, it may offer that team $50,000 in General Allocation Money in exchange for the right to sign the player. The team with the player on its Discovery List will then either (i) have to accept the General Allocation Money and give up the right to sign the player or (ii) make the player a genuine, objectively reasonable offer.
The Union are essentially betting that Ibrahimovic and Terry will come to MLS, and if they do, the club stands to bring in $100,000 in General Allocation Money. While the former looks a lot less likely to arrive stateside, it appears that Terry and MLS held "preliminary discussions" a few months ago. It's a smart play by the Union, who could bring in additional funds just by putting some names on a list.
The other five players on the board are more realistic targets. They are: Aron Sigurðarson, an Icelandic winger with Tromsø; Christian Santos, a Venezuelan striker with N.E.C; Michael de Leeuw, a Dutch striker with Groningen; Thievy Bifouma, a Congolese striker with Stade de Reims; and Jorge Aparicio, a Guatemalan defensive midfielder with CSD Comunicaciones.
Sigurðarson, 22, might ring a bell if you follow the USMNT. He scored this stunner against them back in January. The young winger moved to Tromsø only two weeks later, so don't expect to see Sigurðarson in a Union jersey any time soon.
Aside from Zlatan and Terry, Christian Santos is probably the best player on this list. The 28-year-old scored 23 goals last season to help his side win promotion to the Dutch Eredivisie. N.E.C. finished mid-table this year thanks to Santos's 16 goals, the eighth-highest total in the league. Santos, who was named to Venezuela's preliminary 40-man roster for the Copa América Centenario, will be available on a free transfer this summer. Considering that he was drawing attention from the English Premier League in the winter, the Union would face stern competition for his signature.
Groningen's Michael de Leeuw is the other Eredivisie striker on the Union's discovery list, but a report from Fire Confidential says that the Dutchman is in talks with another MLS side: the Chicago Fire. As per the above excerpt, Chicago would have to send $50,000 in General Allocation Money to the Union in order to acquire his discovery rights.
23-year-old Thievy Bifouma is a speedy Congolese striker who is also capable of lining up on the wings. He's only made 32 appearances for Espanyol since joining the club in 2010. His current loan stint at Stade de Reims is his fifth since 2012. If acquired, Bifouma would be a smaller, faster striker than we've become accustomed to over the past few years.
Jorge Aparicio, 23, has appeared in 115 games for Comunicaciones over the past three season. The defensive midfielder made Guatemala's 23-man squad for last summer's Gold Cup, where he made one appearance.