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Twellman: Union wouldn't receive compensation for Zlatan Ibrahimovic's rights

Even though the Philadelphia Union have his rights, the league reportedly wouldn't honor the Discovery Conflict Resolution process were Zlatan Ibrahimovic were he to come to MLS.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

During halftime of today's MLS Soccer Sunday clash between Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC, ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic news on two fronts. Contrary to a report from ESPN FC, Zlatan would not play for the LA Galaxy if he were to sign with MLS this season, according to Twellman. Additionally, he revealed that although the Union have Zlatan on their discovery list, he is seemingly not subject to the discovery process. As a result, Twellman says, teams would be under no obligation to compensate the Union for Zlatan's MLS rights. You can watch Twellman's entire halftime report here.

Even though ESPN FC writer Doug McIntyre, as well as a Union spokesperson and Union Head Coach Jim Curtin, himself, have all verified that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on the Union's discovery list, the Discovery Conflict Resolution process would reportedly not apply in his case. For clarity, here is how MLS's "Roster Rules and Regulations" defines the Discovery Conflict Resolution process (emphasis is mine):

Discovery Conflict Resolution: If one or more clubs try to add the same player to their Discovery Lists, the club that filed the claim first will have the priority right to sign the player. If one or more clubs submit a discovery request on the same day, then the club with the lowest points-per-game in the current MLS regular season (all clubs must have played a minimum of three regular season games) will have the priority right to sign the player.

If a club attempts to sign a player on its Discovery List and is unable to do so, the club retains the Right of First Refusal to acquire the player in the event he is later signed by the League for four full Transfer Windows.

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.

Under normal circumstances, the Union would receive, at a minimum, $50,000 in General Allocation Money for the rights to a player on their discovery list. If they are capable of making what the league considers to be a "genuine, objectively reasonable offer" for said player, they could conceivably hold out for a larger offer, which is what happened when Didier Drogba turned down the Chicago Fire in favor of the Montreal Impact last year. But the Union won't get the chance to cash in on the claim or negotiate with realistic suitors as the league has reportedly voided their claim.

This, of course, blatantly contradicts the league's stated conflict resolution process. Instead of requiring another team to cough up $50,000 in exchange for the player's rights, regardless of the rightsholder's financial wherewithal, the league can seemingly declare a team's claim illegitimate if they cannot make a "genuine, objectively reasonable offer."

To be fair, that's a reasonable way to ensure that teams cannot squat on players' rights in hopes of a payday. But it is unfair - to the teams and to the fans - to make league rules and have no intention of abiding by them. Judging by Jim Curtin's comments on Saturday, he had not been informed that the Union's discovery claim was illegitimate. From ESPN FC:

"Is there a strategic move to have him on there? Possibly," the coach said after the Union's 1-1 draw against Montreal Impact.

"You look at different things and different mechanisms that our league has, different unique ways that players come into our league -- [there are] ways you can be rewarded if you're a little bit out in front of things."


"I credit our whole technical stuff for being a little bit ahead of the curve," Curtin said. "We'll see what happens."

Either Twellman is wrong, which (even though it's entirely possible) is unlikely given his track record with these sorts of things; or the league has allowed the Union to think that their discovery claim on Zlatan was legitimate when it really was not. Considering that the photo of the Union's discovery list was taken a month ago, that's at least how long the league has waited to inform the Union of the sudden rule change.

Garbage like this is why the league is often criticized (and rightly so) for its lack of transparency. When the Union's technical staff has to find out from Taylor Twellman that MLS has decided to invalidate their discovery claim, there's clearly something very, very wrong.