Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

DP shopping: Which teams could make a splash this summer?


It's nearly time for a summer shopping spree.

The MLS Secondary Transfer Window spans from July 18-Aug. 14, allowing teams to reinforce their roster and pursue a trophy. Plus, MLS clubs historically complete bigger deals in the summer – ones that can entirely alter a club's trajectory.

Here's an overview of teams that could make a splash and capitalize on their three Designated Player spots.

(Edit: While writing this, reports broke that Houston Dynamo FC are nearing a club-record deal for Argentine striker Ezequiel Ponce, who plays in Greece for AEK Athens. Pat Onstad & Co. are cooking!)

Current DPs

  • Thiago Almada
  • Giorgos Giakoumakis*
  • Stian Gregersen (can be bought down)

This summer, Atlanta are poised to sign a DP striker; Giorgos Giakoumakis is nearing an exit for Liga MX's Cruz Azul for reportedly around $10 million. The Greek international produced 22g/5a in 38 matches and was named 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year. But injuries became a concern and the deal makes sense for all parties.

Atlanta have a history of big spending and are trying to resurrect their season after parting ways with head coach Gonzalo Pineda. Will a new No. 9 come to the rescue? Until then, veterans Jamal Thiaré and Daniel Ríos occupy the position.

Another area to watch: There's still transfer interest in Thiago Almada, Atlanta's star playmaker who's set to captain Argentina at the 2024 Summer Olympics. TBD if a European club meets Atlanta's asking price (reportedly an MLS record-setting amount). At the very least, the conversation continues around the World Cup winner.

Current DPs

  • Liel Abada
  • Brecht Dejaegere (can be bought down)

By goals conceded, Charlotte have a top-five defense in MLS. By goals scored, Charlotte are in the bottom five.

That clarifies what's required in the Queen City, where head coach Dean Smith has instilled a strong foundation. Now, more high-end quality is needed around goal – specifically a DP striker and a DP playmaker. The trio of Liel Abada, Kerwin Vargas and Patrick Agyemang is a good start.

One flag: The club's Karol Swiderski situation is slightly murky, meaning there are reports Hellas Verona (Italy's Serie A) won't exercise the Polish international forward's purchase option. That could complicate things, but recent history suggests Charlotte may find a solution – like when outgoing deals for striker Enzo Copetti and winger Kamil Jozwiak created this DP flexibility.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Current DPs

  • Robin Lod (can be bought down)
  • Teemu Pukki

We'll politely call Minnesota's Emanuel Reynoso situation… complicated. Head coach Eric Ramsay and chief soccer officer/sporting director Khaled El-Ahmad inherited a problem that caused far more headaches than solutions, leading to Reynoso's transfer to Liga MX side Club Tijuana.

The bottom line is Minnesota's new regime can now sign a DP No. 10 of their choosing and continue to build the squad in their vision. Or do they keep Robin Lod in the No. 10 role and target reinforcements elsewhere?

All this comes with MNUFC surpassing expectations as the Western Conference's third-place team. The Loons' strength is the collective, not the stars (see Tani Oluwaseyi becoming their starting striker instead of Teemu Pukki).

Current DP

  • Victor Wanyama

Montréal can make big reinforcements this summer. Now, will Montréal do that? The club's track record seeds some doubt, as does sporting director Olivier Renard's exit in early May.

But in the spirit of this column, it's important to note Montréal can add two DPs if they so desire. And simultaneously, it's not like Victor Wanyama is a crucial player under first-year head coach Laurent Courtois – he's not even played 200 minutes this season, making just seven appearances.

Let's also not forget: Injuries to attackers Matías Cóccaro, Josef Martínez and Kwadwo Opoku have limited Montréal's attacking venom in 2024. When they're back, their floor rises considerably.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Current DPs

  • Emil Forsberg
  • Dante Vanzeir

How do the Red Bulls cement their place as an MLS Cup contender from the Eastern Conference? By adding a DP striker.

There's plenty to like about their tactical direction under head coach Sandro Schwarz. Emil Forsberg has delivered and then some in his playmaking role. Lewis Morgan's resurgence is a fantastic story. Homegrowns like John Tolkin and Daniel Edelman keep stepping up. The defense remains solid, anchored by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.

Now's the time to reach another tier, i.e. supplementing Morgan, Forsberg and Dante Vanzeir in attack.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Current DPs

  • Julián Carranza* (can be bought down)
  • Dániel Gazdag (can be bought down)
  • Mikael Uhre

Philadelphia carry an asterisk, as Julián Carranza is reportedly a transfer target for Eredivisie side Feyenoord. If that deal indeed pans out, they'll need a new striker – the Argentine has 34g/15a in 74 regular-season matches for Philly.

The extra context: Carranza is out of contract this winter, and the Dutch side (led by former LA Galaxy executive Dennis te Kloese) are reportedly angling to get him for the start of their 2024-25 season instead of waiting. It also would make sense for Philly to get some compensation for Carranza rather than losing him for free.

In past transfer windows, clubs like Germany's Werder Bremen and Greece's Olympiacos were linked with Carranza. He's long had eyes for European soccer.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Current DPs

  • Alan Pulido
  • Nemanja Radoja (can be bought down)
  • Dániel Sallói (can be bought down)

Sporting KC are trending toward a roster rebuild, as owner Mike Illig detailed in this must-read Kansas City Star story. That'll unfold over several transfer windows, and manager Peter Vermes seems set to play a critical role.

As for DP moves this summer? They've still not replaced Gadi Kinda, who exited last winter for Israeli Premier League side Maccabi Haifa. Logically, a No. 10 is a target position – and Vermes said last offseason how they planned to utilize a DP spot this window.

Whatever awaits, SKC face another mountain to climb. They're seven points out of the West's ninth/final playoff spot and might not pull off a 2023-esque great escape.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Current DPs

  • Andrés Cubas
  • Ryan Gauld

Vancouver seem just one high-end roster piece away from being a force in the Western Conference. Phrased another way, this roster is crying out for an elite player who helps Vanni Sartini's group win the big game instead of bumping against their ceiling.

Where could the Whitecaps turn to?

It's hard to envision them breaking up the Ryan Gauld-Brian White forward duo, so perhaps a center back who shores up the defense. A box-to-box midfielder who pairs with Andrés Cubas could make sense, too.

A few more…

Columbus Crew: We're not saying it will happen, but Columbus can technically buy down Darlington Nagbe and add a third DP alongside Diego Rossi and Cucho Hernández. Let's see what new GM Issa Tall has up his sleeve for the defending MLS Cup champions.

LAFC: Will they buy down Eduard Atuesta and get a third DP? Adding to a group that already has Olivier Giroud, Denis Bouanga and Cristian Olivera in attack is a scary proposition.

Real Salt Lake: Head coach Pablo Mastroeni has addressed RSL's ability to add DP-caliber talent this summer. In other words, Golden Boot leader Cristian Arango could get even more support.

A handful of additional clubs might move on from DPs this summer. Emphasis on might.