MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Western Conference: Which clubs have DP and/or U22 Initiative flexibility?


With the Primary Transfer Window closing on April 24, some MLS clubs still have the flexibility to make changes (or hold those resources for the summer).

Designated Player and U22 Initiative slots are the most high-leverage ways for teams to spend (both in terms of salary cap assets and literal dollars). They're central to squad building.

Let’s check in with all clubs’ DP/U22 Initiative situation. Eastern Conference updates were on Tuesday.

But first, a macro-view of the rules (and view the 2023 MLS Roster Rules and Regulations for more minutiae):

  • All teams are allowed up to three Designated Player slots. DPs can be paid whatever you want and then hit the cap at a fixed rate. Senior DPs (24 and up) hit the cap at the Maximum Salary Budget Charge ($651,250 this year).
  • Young DPs hit the cap at a much smaller budget charge. Young DPs aged 21-23 are $200,000 on the cap, while Young DPs 20 or younger are $150,000.
  • U22 Initiative signings hit the cap at a fixed rate as well and have to be 22 years or younger for the entirety of the year signed (i.e., if a player turns 23 during the season, he would be ineligible for the slot).
  • The salary for an eligible U22 Initiative player cannot be more than the Maximum Salary Budget charge, but whatever they’re paid, they hit the cap at $200,000 (aged 21-25) or $150,000 (aged 20 or younger).
  • All clubs have one U22 Initiative slot no matter what. Clubs can use three slots as long as all three DP spots aren’t senior players above the Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,651,250).
  • DPs: Sebastián Driussi, Emiliano Rigoni, Alex Ring
  • U22s: Rodney Redes, Žan Kolmanič, Moussa Djitté (loaned)
  • Flexibility: Little to none

Austin FC’s starting point at the top of their roster is star attacker Sebastián Driussi, who finished second in last year’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP voting and signed a long-term extension this past offseason.

The 27-year-old Argentine has 28g/13a in 56 MLS regular-season appearances.

Winger Emiliano Rigoni and center mid Alex Ring occupy the Verde & Black's other two DP spots. Rigoni hasn’t quite found his form in MLS since arriving last summer, while Ring was among the club’s key acquisitions ahead of their expansion season.

Ring’s budget charge is under the max-TAM value, allowing Austin to use all three U22 Initiative slots, which they currently are. Winger Rodney Redes, left back Žan Kolmanič and forward Moussa Djitté make up those slots, though Djitté is on loan at French Ligue 1 club Ajaccio through June 30 with a purchase option.

  • DPs: Kévin Cabral, Andreas Maxsø
  • U22s: Max Alves, Cole Bassett, Gustavo Vallecilla (loaned)
  • Flexibility: DP spot

The Colorado Rapids overhauled the top of their roster this offseason, acquiring two new DPs and one U22 Initiative signing.

First, the Rapids acquired forward Kévin Cabral in a trade with the LA Galaxy; then they signed center back Andreas Maxsø from Denmark's Brøndby. The Galaxy are retaining a portion of Cabral’s salary. He was originally signed from French side Valenciennes for $5.9 million.

Homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett returned from a stint in the Netherlands (on loan at Feyenoord then Fortuna Sittard) and was added to the roster via the U22 Initiative. Brazilian midfielder Max Alves enters his second season with the Rapids.

Center back Gustavo Vallecilla is on loan to the Columbus Crew this year, but still occupies the Rapids’ third U22 Initiative slot. He was acquired in a trade with FC Cincinnati in 2022 before leaving this window.

  • DPs: Jesús Ferreira, Alan Velasco, Paul Arriola
  • U22s: Geovane Jesus
  • Flexibility: U22 spots

FC Dallas have all three DP spots filled via club-record signing Alan Velasco, homegrown forward Jesús Ferreira and US men's national team winger Paul Arriola.

Velasco and Ferriera are both Young DPs. Arriola can be bought down if the club wanted to sign a new DP. He occupies the spot previously held by striker Franco Jara, who's returned to Argentina.

Ferreira had a breakout 2022 season under head coach Nico Estevez, posting 18g/6a as the club’s center forward. Velasco showed his quality as well, with 6g/7a in 26 appearances.

Dallas signed Brazilian right back Geovane Jesus via the U22 Initiative this winter. They can add two more U22 players if they wanted.

  • DPs: Héctor Herrera, Sebastián Ferreira, Teenage Hadebe
  • U22s: Nelson Quiñónes
  • Flexibility: U22 slots

The top of the Houston Dynamo’s roster is led by three DPs: Mexican international midfielder Héctor Herrera, Paraguay international striker Sebastián Ferreira and Zimbabwean international center back Teenage Hadebe.

Herrera arrived last summer after his contract with LaLiga's Atletico Madrid ended. His first half-season in MLS wasn’t ideal, but he’s begun 2023 in much better form. Conversely, Ferreira has found himself on the outside looking in for starts under new head coach Ben Olsen.

The Dynamo can add two more players via the U22 Initiative as they just have Colombian winger Nelson Quiñónes in that slot and Teenage Hadebe is under max-TAM. This winter they moved on from Thiago and Mateo Bajamich, two previous U22 attackers from South America.

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  • Flexibility: U22 slot

The top of the Houston Dynamo’s roster is led by three DPs: Mexican international midfielder Héctor Herrera, Paraguay international striker Sebastián Ferreira and Zimbabwean international center back Teenage Hadebe.

Herrera arrived last summer after his contract with LaLiga's Atletico Madrid ended. His first half-season in MLS wasn’t ideal, but he’s begun 2023 in much better form. Conversely, Ferreira has found himself on the outside looking in for starts under new head coach Ben Olsen.

The Dynamo can add a player via the U22 Initiative as they currently don’t have any in that slot. This winter they moved on from Thiago and Mateo Bajamich, two previous U22 attackers from South America.

  • DPs: Chicharito, Douglas Costa, Riqui Puig
  • U22s: Dejan Joveljić, Julián Aude, Lucas Calegari
  • Flexibility: None

The LA Galaxy have all of their DP and U22 Initiative slots filled.

Chicharito, Douglas Costa and Riqui Puig are the club’s three DPs. All three are senior players, but Puig is under max-TAM so the Galaxy can make use of all three U22 slots.

There may be some movement in the future. Chicharito and Costa are only under contract through the end of 2023. There have been reports linking Costa with a move away from the club (to Brazil's Grêmio), but he’s still there for now.

Chicharito has scored 35 goals over the last two seasons but is yet to make his 2023 debut, still working his way back from a hamstring injury.

LA have all three U22 Initiative slots filled, just as they did last year, but some key changes have unfolded. Right back Julián Araujo was transferred to LaLiga's Barcelona in mid-February. The Galaxy also signed Brazilian right back Lucas Calegari on loan from Brazilian powerhouse Fluminese with a purchase option. Then they moved homegrown midfielder Efraín Álvarez off the slot to sign Argentine left back Julián Aude from Lanús.

  • DPs: Carlos Vela, Dénis Bouanga
  • U22s: José Cifuentes, Stipe Biuk, Diego Palacios
  • Flexibility: DP spot

LAFC, with an open DP spot, can still make another key addition to their roster. Though, where they’re at with U22 Initiative slots, it’d have to be a Young DP.

LAFC’s DPs are star wingers Carlos Vela and Dénis Bouanga, who currently lead the attack. Bouanga has 3g/2a in five MLS appearances, as well as several dominant Concacaf Champions League showings, while Vela has 1g/2a so far.

The defending MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield champions have a hugely successful U22 Initiative group. Ecuador internationals José Cifuentes and Diego Palacios, stalwarts from their title-winning team, remain. It's surprising that neither made a transfer to Europe this past winter.

LAFC went out and acquired rising Croatian youth international forward Stipe Biuk from Hajduk Split for a fee of around $5 million to complete their U22 group. Uruguayan midfielder Francisco Ginella, who's held U22 status, is on loan at Nacional through the summer.

  • DPs: Luis Amarilla, Emanuel Reynoso, Mender García
  • U22s: Sang Bin Jeong, Bongokuhle Hlongwane
  • Flexibility: U22 spot

The big question around Minnesota United remains what happens with Emanuel Reynoso short-term (and long-term, for that matter). The Argentine playmaker hasn't returned to the club after last season (suspended without pay) but is still occupying a DP spot.

As for players currently at the club? Forwards Luis Amarilla and Mender García are the Loons' other two DPs. Garcia is under max-TAM, allowing for all three U22 Initiative slots.

Garcia has two goals in five starts this season. Amarilla also has two goals.

The Loons added South Korean international forward Sang Bin Jeong this spring from English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. He joined South African international forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane as U22 Initiative players in Minnesota. Hlongwane was signed ahead of the 2022 season.

  • DPs: Evander, Yimmi Chará, Sebastián Blanco
  • U22s: Santiago Moreno, Juan David Mosquera, David Ayala
  • Flexibility: DP shifting

This offseason, the Portland Timbers accentuated their attack with the club-record signing of Brazilian attacking midfielder Evander. The No. 10 starred with Denmark's FC Midtjylland, leading the Europa League in assists over the group stage this season before coming to MLS.

Colombian winger Yimmi Chará is the club’s other key DP, while Sebastián Blanco is currently occupying the third slot. Portland could buy the Argentine midfielder down off the spot if they opted to sign a Young DP.

Blanco is yet to make his 2023 debut because of an injury, while Chara has been limited to just 33 minutes due to injury as well.

The Timbers were one of the first MLS clubs to fill all three U22 slots from abroad, adding three talented South Americans: Colombian attacker Santiago Moreno, Colombian fullback Juan David Mosquera and Argentine midfielder David Ayala.

Moreno had a breakout 2022 season with 7g/8a, while Mosquera has grown into the senior Colombian national team and is a subject of much interest from abroad.

  • DPs: Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach
  • U22s: Andrés Gómez
  • Flexibility: A fair amount

Real Salt Lake still retain a lot of flexibility to make changes at the top of their roster. Currently, they have a DP spot and two U22 slots to potentially use.

Venezuelan international winger Jefferson Savarino and club captain Damir Kreilach are the two DPs. Kreilach missed most of the 2022 season due to a back injury, and Savarino returned to the club about a year ago from Brazil's Atlético Mineiro.

Kreilach, who turns 34 in mid-April, has been at RSL since 2018 and has 44g/24a in 129 regular-season appearances.

RSL could go either way with a third DP spot. If they go for a Young DP, they can use two more U22 slots, but if they don’t, they’d still be roster compliant.

Andrés Gómez, 20, is RSL’s club-record signing after arriving in January from Colombian power Millonarios FC for a roughly $4 million transfer fee. The Colombian winger has made two starts so far as he adapts to life in MLS.

  • DPs: Cristian Espinoza, Carlos Gruezo, Jamiro Monteiro
  • U22s: Cade Cowell
  • Flexibility: Not a ton

With three DPs, all through the midfield, the San Jose Earthquakes have all their DP spots accounted for via a winger (Espinoza), a No. 10 (Monteiro) and a No. 6 (Gruezo).

Gruezo came from German Bundesliga side Augsburg this window in a club-record deal, beating the previous club record it took to acquire Espinoza. Monteiro was added in a trade with the Philadelphia Union last year.

Their lone U22 Initiative slot came from within, as academy standout and rising USMNT winger Cade Cowell signed a contract extension to make him a U22 signing.

  • DPs: Raúl Ruidíaz, Nicolás Lodeiro, Albert Rusnák
  • U22s: Léo Chú
  • Flexibility: None

The Seattle Sounders have done some shuffling around with their DP spots in recent years, though the squad has found stability.

João Paulo was previously a DP, but the Brazilian midfielder was bought down to make room for the free-agent signing of Albert Rusnák. That move was key in the club winning a historic 2022 Concacaf Champions League title.

Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro are longtime stars of the club. Ruidiaz has 59g/11a in 101 regular-season appearances since joining in 2018, while Lodeiro has 40g/73a in 164 appearances since debuting in 2016.

With three senior DPs over max-TAM, Seattle can use one U22 slot, and that slot is filled by Léo Chú.

The Brazilian winger, 23, struggled for playing time and productivity over his first 18 months at the club but has exploded with 1g/5a in his last two appearances.

  • DPs: Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, Erik Thommy
  • U22s: Logan Ndenbe, Marinos Tzionis, Robert Voloder
  • Flexibility: None

Sporting KC’s high-leverage roster spots are set, with all three DP and all three U22 Initiative slots filled.

SKC have Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda and Erik Thommy as their three DPs. Pulido and Kinda missed the entirety of the 2022 season with knee injuries. Pulido just recently returned to action, while Kinda is still awaiting his return.

Thommy is in his first full season with SKC after being acquired from German Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart in June of last year.

The club’s three U22 Initiative signings all were acquired ahead of the 2022 season.

  • DPs: João Klauss, Eduard Löwen
  • U22s: None
  • Flexibility: DP spot, three U22 spots

St. Louis CITY have two DP spots currently filled in their debut MLS season.

João Klauss and Eduard Löwen are DPs predominately because of the acquisition costs that brought them over from the Bundesliga (as transfer fees factor into budget charges).

The duo have led the team to a historic start, the best in MLS history for an expansion club. Klauss has 5g/2a in six matches, while Löwen has 1g/4a. They've been regulars in's Team of the Matchday presented by Audi.

Also: Former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki is on a big-money deal, but our understanding is he's not technically a DP. And STL currently aren’t using any U22 Initiative slots, so there's flexibility on multiple fronts.

  • DPs: Ryan Gauld, Sergio Córdova, Andrés Cubas
  • U22s: Déiber Caicedo, Pedro Vite
  • Flexibility: U22 slot

The Vancouver Whitecaps have all three DP spots filled, after adding Venezuelan forward Sergio Córdova earlier this window from German Bundesliga side Augsburg.

Córdova joins midfielders Ryan Gauld and Andrés Cubas as DPs. Gauld has 12g/15a in 51 appearances for Vancouver, while Cubas joined last year from French second-division side Nîmes and quickly became among the league’s better defensive midfielders.

Cubas is under max-TAM, so the Whitecaps can use three U22 slots. Currently, South American attackers Déiber Caicedo and Pedro Vite occupy two of those.

Caicedo suffered a season-ending injury in 2022 and is being reintegrated into the first team now. Vite is working to win more consistent playing time under head coach Vanni Sartini after an encouraging end to last year.