News has been slow moving this offseason for the Philadelphia Union but it hasn’t been insignificant.
Moves like trading away homegrown rights for Kalil ElMedkhar and Tomas Romero, sending draft picks to Nashville SC coupled with the transfers of homegrown stars Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie have once again armed Sporting Director Ernst Tanner and Technical Director Chris Albright with a war chest to go after players to strengthen the squad.
Last year the number was somewhere around $1.6 million in allocation money (on top of what the league gives to each team) collected through deals that helped paved the way for the acquisitions of regular starters Jamiro Monteiro (permanent transfer), Jose Martinez, Jakob Glesnes and Matej Oravec.
To briefly and attempt to briefly explain allocation money, it’s a league mechanism that allows teams to sign and/or allocate players to get under the salary cap, which is $5,210,000 for 2021.
This year the Union’s allocation money stash — thanks to the $2 million in general allocation money the Union can convert proceeds from the McKenzie and Aaronson sales into — is much larger.
The tally from what we’re able to calculate in general allocation money is $2,950,000 with an additional $275,000 that was negotiated in two previous trades. Note: this is just an estimate based on available info and it is worth also noting that the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union is still unresolved.
Here’s how that breaks down:
- Up to $1,000,000 - Brenden Aaronson sale
- Up to $1,000,000 - Mark McKenzie sale
- $300,000 - Auston Trusty trade
- $200,000 - Qualifying for Champions League (based on previous years)
- $200,000 - Annual allotment from league (based on previous years)
- $100,000 - Expansion year allocation (based on previous years)
- $50,000 - Kalil ElMedkhar homegrown rights
- $50,000 - Tomas Romero homegrown rights
- $50,000 - Two 2021 MLS SuperDraft picks, first round pick in 2022
- Up to $150,000 - Auston Trusty trade
- Up to $75,000 - Fafa Picault trade
- Up to $50,000 - 2020 draft pick traded
The performance metrics aren’t made public so it’s hard to say what the team is getting but Picault did make 18 appearance and log more than 1,000 minutes for FC Dallas in 2020. Trusty made just 8 appearances and logged 525 minutes for the Colorado Rapids. The 2020 draft pick they traded to DC United (to move up in the allocation order) turned into goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre, who made 6 appearances and logged 540 minutes for Loudoun United but is no longer with the organization.
Another note about the Aaronson and McKenzie sales. The $1 million figure is just what can be converted to allocation money so the team can use as much or as little as it likes up to that number.
The remaining balance of the proceeds from the sales can be used “against the expenses incurred by the club in relation to the costs of an existing or new designated player” or with league approval “against an expense that would not otherwise have been incurred by the club; and reasonably represents an investment in the League or club (e.g., youth development and training facilities).”
Does this mean (insert name of high profile European player) is on his way?
The Union model isn’t to acquire big name players whose jersey you may already own — more undervalued ones who fit the Union pressing system — but the track record so far under Tanner has been laudable (Andrew Wooten didn’t meet expectations and Oravec played zero minutes last season so he’s still TBD but otherwise it’s all been working according to plan).
We know from Tanner that a left-footed center back could be announced very soon and an attacking midfielder is on the wish list but he has also said he will be looking for upgrades elsewhere as well so forward depth is another likely spot.
Losing two of the team’s best players from 2020 is still going to be a tough blow — especially in a season with multiple competitions and opportunities for national team call-ups — but the resources are there to build a team that will be able to compete on multiple fronts again in 2021.