The MLS allocation process, that nebulous system that prevents U.S. national team players from handpicking their club, has risen to the forefront again.
In one case, there’s forward Eddie Johnson, who has 42 caps and spent seven seasons in MLS before a series of disappointments in Europe. He signed with the league Thursday and will be made available to all clubs Friday.
The Colorado Rapids have been most interested in acquiring Johnson, 27, but because of his credentials, MLS will use the allocation procedure.
The Rapids will have to wait for 13 clubs ahead of them in the allocation order to pass on Johnson before they can claim him. The team that selects him will also have to agree to take on his contract — he’ll earn at least $100,000 this year, I’m told, with a club-held option of more than $150,000 in 2013. (In 2007, Johnson was earning $875,000.)
The downside of using an allocation pick: The club drops to the back of the line for future allocation-eligible players. That mechanism helps deter — but doesn’t prevent — a team from selecting a player for the purpose of leveraging a trade.
Would anyone grab Johnson before the Rapids? The expansion Montreal Impact is first on the allocation list, and after dealing Brian Ching to the Houston Dynamo on Thursday, might find value in Johnson (41 goals in 127 MLS regular season appearances with Dallas and Kansas City, plus 12 international goals).
Meantime, in a lower-profile case, Luis Robles, an American goalkeeper who has played in Germany for five years, was scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday to discuss a contract. The Red Bulls’ interest in Robles was first reported by the Insider earlier this preseason.
Robles’s only U.S. cap came in 2009 and he would be available for direct acquisition through a discovery claim. At least that’s what MLS told the Red Bulls several weeks ago. So the club arranged for Robles, 27, to travel to the United States. In anticipation of a move, his German club, Karlsruhe, left him off the game-day roster in recent matches.
But then Wednesday, MLS told the Red Bulls that Robles would be, in fact, subject to allocation.
Not wanting to place himself into the random allocation process, Robles decided to cancel the trip and reassess his options.
Robles, from the University of Portland, was drafted by D.C. United in 2007. He chose to sign with Kaiserslautern instead. United was allowed to maintain his MLS rights for two years.
Robles’s only cap came in a 2-2 draw with Haiti in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He was named to the Confederations Cup roster the same summer but didn’t play.
MLS’s online roster rules don’t specify requirements for a player to go through the allocation process. The league evaluates each case individually, with U.S. national team appearances among the factors. In the end, MLS determined that Robles is a known quantity around the league and should be available to everyone.
A similar situation emerged last summer, when forward Sammy Ochoa left Mexican club Tecos after five seasons to sign with MLS. He has never played for the senior national team but did represent the under-20 and under-23 squads. The Seattle Sounders claimed him in the allocation process.
The big issue in the Robles case is that MLS told the Red Bulls weeks ago that they could claim him without worrying about allocation procedures.
The Red Bulls said they didn’t want to comment on Robles’s situation.