The player has yet to sign with United, one source cautioned, but a deal could be reached as early as next week.
Argentine reporter Lucho Torres Toranzo tweeted Acosta was close to joining United.
Just 5 feet 3, Acosta possesses the creativity and technical skills that United has coveted all winter. In 2013-14, he made 25 league appearances for Boca Juniors, the fabled Buenos Aires club. Loaned to Estudiantes last year, Acosta played in 27 league matches (11 starts) and scored once. He also appeared in seven Copa Libertadores matches (two starts).
United officials have remained firm throughout the offseason in not commenting about potential signings.
Sources said that, during a mission in Argentina last month, United General Manager Dave Kasper expressed interest in Acosta, who had just completed his Estudiantes loan. He was told Acosta was not available. So United turned full attention to Estudiantes midfielder Leonardo Gil. After weeks of negotiation, Estudiantes pulled him off the market.
While United officials were in Italy to initiate talks with AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino, Acosta’s name resurfaced.
United attempted to place a discovery claim — an action that furnishes exclusive negotiating rights — but were told by MLS that he was already on the New York Red Bulls’ discovery list. At that point, with a second interested team, New York was required to make a formal offer or yield to United. The Red Bulls backed down, allowing D.C. to begin talks.
The pursuit of Acosta does not mean United has given up on Nocerino and, sources said, the club could end up signing both players. If that were to happen, Nocerino — and perhaps newly acquired Marcelo Sarvas, as well — would provide support for Acosta in the heart of the lineup.
United is awaiting an answer from the former Italian national team player on a guaranteed, multi-year offer worth an estimated $700,000 annually. Orlando City allegedly violated MLS tampering rules by also tendering an offer to Nocerino. In a league that owns individual teams and player contracts, MLS clubs are forbidden from competing with one another for such players. United submitted a discovery claim first.
Should Nocerino turn down United, Orlando could acquire his MLS discovery rights via a trade. The Florida club was prepared to offer the player more than $900,000, a source said.
Because both Nocerino and Acosta would earn above the designated player threshold of $436,250 in MLS, D.C. would have to apply targeted allocation money — which is used to soften the financial impact of signing high-priced players — or declare Nocerino a designated player. With DPs, team investors are responsible for the balance of a salary exceeding $436,250.
The initial proposal between Boca Juniors and United would send Acosta to Washington on a one-year loan and include an option to purchase his contract at the end of the MLS season. The initial price is $2 million, but such fees are often negotiable.