Tenorio: TAM funds cause domino effect for international slots, MLS trades

2018 adidas MLS ball - generic image - from SuperDraft

The trickle-down effect of Targeted Allocation Money continues to reverberate around the league, and one area that seems to have profited is the market for international spots.

There are only six open international spots around the league – one each owned by New England, Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC, Portland and Vancouver – and while several teams have the maneuverability to open roster space with loans or by waiving players, the price for the international spots is going up.

Whereas in past years international spots have been traded for between $50,000 and $75,000, this year has seen international spots traded for around $100,000 in value and as much as $175,000, when New York City FC acquired one from Philadelphia right before the season started.

It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. With the influx of TAM into the league this year, more teams have shopped on the global market to find players, and thus more international spots are occupied.

“There’s this big infusion of cash we haven’t had [before],” one-high ranking team official told MLSsoccer.com. “Everyone is out looking [on the global market] now and I get calls this year more than any other previous year from teams looking for international spots.”

The result is a higher cost of business for signing players from abroad, though some teams have built-in maneuverability within their own rosters. Season-long loans to USL teams are an especially efficient way of freeing spots, and teams like Columbus, Chicago, Orlando and San Jose have players on their supplemental or reserve rosters taking up international spots. If a team was desperate, those players could be sent on loan to free up a spot. 

One other domino effect: As the market value for international spots goes up, so too does the trade value of quality domestic talent.

With most of the international spots being used around the league, the ability to find quality domestic players, or players with green cards, who can contribute to the starting XI or add depth in the matchday 18 is critical. General managers said it is becoming harder to trade for those players simply because teams are reluctant to move them due to the higher replacement costs on the global market.

“Teams are looking to upgrade spots and there are limited opportunities within the league, period,” the team official said. “Teams that have quality players don’t want to move them.”

With the primary transfer window set to close on May 1, we could start to see some movement – on waivers, loans and trades for international spots – as teams look to make additions. For those teams not looking to add players, however, the deadline will be more important because of the secondary market for international spots and the opportunity to collect some allocation money.