MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

FC Cincinnati's options and plans with the top allocation slot | Tom Bogert

DeAndre Yedlin - US national team - May 28, 2016

The No. 1 slot in the Allocation Order is a lucrative asset in MLS, but it comes with a timer given the order resets at the end of every season. FC Cincinnati are on the clock. 

Cincy have held the top spot all transfer window, and with about a month left before the Secondary Transfer Window shuts (ends Oct. 29), the club still holds the asset. When the order resets, it goes in reverse order of the previous season's Supporters' Shield standings and playoff finishes. Expansion teams jump to the top of the order, too, so Austin FC will have the top slot when they enter MLS in 2021. If the season ended today, Cincy would have the sixth spot in the Allocation Order. 

The No. 1 slot is deemed lucrative because when a club is sitting at the top, they either have the inside track at signing a key player or stand to receive a solid chunk of allocation money for a club that needs to climb the rankings in order to sign a player from the Allocation List. Those available through this acquisition mechanism are US men's national team players, elite US youth national team players and former MLS players who left the league for a transfer fee greater than $500,000.

Earlier in 2020, LAFC acquired the slot from Nashville SC for $350,000 in General Allocation Money and a second-round draft pick. LAFC then signed right back Andy Najar this summer with the No. 1 slot. Inter Miami then moved to the top spot and signed Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. Previous trades in 2019 for the top slot have fetched $300,000 GAM (D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids) and $400,000 Targeted Allocation Money (LA Galaxy and Orlando City SC at the No. 2 slot). It was used in packages in Cincy's acquisition of Nick Hagglund in 2019 and LAFC's addition of Walker Zimmerman in 2018.

The simple version: It's a valuable commodity. 

Bringing it back to this season, Cincy have a few options to cash in on this asset. They've explored both signing a player from the Allocation List and potential trades, a source tells, and are still remaining flexible. Currently, around five teams have reached out about potentially acquiring it. A source also added that Cincy have been close on a couple of trades, but the deals never got completed. 

It all hinges on whether Cincy or another MLS club strike a deal to acquire a player on the Allocation List, of course. Let's run through the most likely options.

DeAndre Yedlin

Earlier in the summer, reported that DeAndre Yedlin had an interest in returning to MLS and a Newcastle exit was likely with his contract expiring next summer. A return to MLS wasn't likely at the time, given the hurdles.

There figured to be interest in him across Europe, and outside back isn't a position MLS teams typically spend heavily on. Just one fullback currently occupies a Designated Player slot (Vancouver Whitecaps left back Ali Adnan) and Yedlin would have to take a huge pay cut from his current deal in Newcastle to qualify below a DP charge. Plus with the 2022 FIFA World Cup upcoming, it made more sense that a homecoming to MLS would be after that.

But those hurdles may not be insurmountable. Yedlin is currently in talks with two MLS teams over a potential deal in which he would be below a DP charge, a source told A deal would only be possible for this window if Newcastle acquiesce to him to leaving on a free transfer. Chris Waugh of The Athleticreports that Newcastle hope to get a fee for the 27-year-old. MLS clubs wouldn't be in a position to pay a transfer fee for Yedlin because it would eat into his budget charge on the salary cap, thus further lessening Yedlin's offered salary.

Yedlin could also sign a pre-contract agreement with a club starting in January and leave for free upon the expiration of his Newcastle contract next summer. 

The USMNT defender is on the Allocation List because his transfer from the Seattle Sounders to Tottenham in 2014 was greater than $500,000. The move was a reported $4 million deal. 

Kemar Lawrence

The former New York Red Bulls stalwart departed MLS for Anderlecht only this offseason, but there had been links with him making a quick return to the league. 

A source flatly told that while there is interest from MLS clubs in acquiring Lawrence, he's not coming back this window. Things can change, perhaps, but it's very unlikely that Lawrence is in play. 

Lawrence, who just turned 28, was widely considered to be one of the best left backs in MLS during his time with the Red Bulls. He won two Supporters' Shields with RBNY, was named to the 2018 MLS Best XI and made 118 appearances with the club. Lawrence joined Anderlecht at the end of January, but only made one appearance before the Belgian league shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fabian Johnson

Johnson, a former USMNT regular, has been without a club since the summer after leaving Borussia Monchengladbach when his contract ended. He's been linked with a move stateside, though rumors have gone quiet in recent months.

In June, various reports from Ives Galarcep and Kristian Dyer stated that Johnson was negotiating with multiple MLS clubs about a potential move. The reports contradicted whether or not he would be seeking a DP deal or not.  Cincinnati actually almost signed Johnson ahead of their inaugural season, according to reports. That was long before current general manager Gerard Nijkamp was hired, though. 

The versatile 32-year-old made 140 appearances in all competitions for Gladbach, adding 15 goals and 19 assists. Johnson has 57 career caps for the USMNT, scoring two goals, but hasn't played for the senior team since 2017. 

Anyone else?

  • Chelsea are expected to loan USMNT defender Matt Miazga, but that hasn't yet materialized. No reports on where the former RBNY center back's future may lie. 
  • Italian forward and former Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco had been loosely linked with a return to the club. Ditto for Victor Vazquez, who said it "would be great" to return to Toronto after a move to Qatar. However, the playmaker signed with Belgian side K.A.S. Eupen last month.
  • Could Club Tijuana winger Fabian Castillo follow former teammate Gonzalez Pirez from Xolos back to MLS? The 28-year-old former FC Dallas star spent 2019/20 on loan elsewhere in Liga MX. 
  • Former Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin spent 2019/20 on loan with Zulte in Belgium, though is back at Besiktas so far this season.