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D.C. United acquires Victor Palsson from Germany’s Schalke

Victor Pálsson made 28 starts last season for Schalke, which earned promotion to the German Bundesliga. (Jürgen Fromme/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

D.C. United on Wednesday used one of its two remaining designated player roster slots on Victor Palsson, an Icelandic defensive midfielder who helped Schalke earn promotion to the German Bundesliga last season.

United paid an undisclosed transfer fee for Palsson, 31, who attended Saturday’s match against CF Montreal at Audi Field but returned to Germany on Tuesday to await a work visa. That process is expected to take about two weeks.

Palsson has made 29 appearances for the Icelandic national team since 2014. He played in six 2022 World Cup qualifiers (five starts) and scored once.

“His leadership qualities and ability both on and off the ball will bolster the spine of our squad and improve those around him,” Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in a statement. “He’s an exciting signing for the club and will play an important role for how we expect to play moving forward under head coach Wayne Rooney.”

Palsson’s contract will run through the 2024 season, with a club-held option in 2025. As a designated player, Palsson will have a salary of at least $612,500, but because he is a midseason acquisition, $306,250 will apply to United’s salary budget this year.

Starting next season, United will look to apply MLS allocation money to his contract and use that designated player slot on someone else, a person close to the negotiations said.

United’s other designated player is Greek attacker Taxi Fountas, the team’s leading scorer. The club is aiming to fill the last DP slot before the transfer and trade window closes Aug. 4.

Elijah Adebayo, a high-scoring striker for Luton Town in England’s second division, is apparently at the top of D.C.'s wish list, but people familiar with the efforts said United will need to increase its $5 million transfer offer to have any shot at the 6-foot-4 player. The club is weighing several other transfer and trade options as well.

Palsson is the third acquisition this summer as United revamps the roster amid a 5-12-3 season that has left the club at the bottom of MLS’s 28-team overall standings. Chilean left wing Martín Rodríguez debuted last weekend, and English-Jamaican attacking midfielder Ravel Morrison, who played for Rooney at England’s Derby County, is awaiting a work visa.

Palsson is no stranger to MLS, having played for the New York Red Bulls in 2012. He then moved to clubs in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark before joining Darmstadt in Germany’s second division in 2019. In his one season with Schalke, Palsson appeared in 28 of 34 league matches, started 21 and was a co-captain.

Eyeing a ball-winner with a physical presence in midfield, D.C. tried acquiring Palsson in MLS’s first transfer and trade window early this year. However, Schalke’s pursuit of promotion to the Bundesliga after one year in the second tier put the potential move on hold.

Palsson’s arrival seems certain to bump Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Drew Skundrich and Moses Nyeman down the depth chart in defensive midfield.