D.C. United announced today that they’ve traded an international roster spot for the 2017 season to the Montreal Impact. In exchange, they’ve acquired $75,000 in general allocation money (GAM). The move leaves United with five international roster spots, four of which are occupied by Julian Buescher, Luciano Acosta, Alhaji Kamara, and Jose Ortiz. The Portland Timbers and New York City FC hold United’s other international spots; like the one sent to Montreal today, those will revert back to Black-and-Red control for the 2018 season.
The move comes at an interesting time for United, who have reportedly tendered an offer to Canadian left back (and former Impact player) Maxim Tissot. If Tissot accepts the deal, that would leave United with all five international spots filled heading into the season. With no other international trialists in camp and repeated statements about being happy with the roster as is, it’s not a major surprise that the club moved a spare international spot, even if they’ll now be up against the limit.
While that may be worrisome to fans thinking of the summer window, it might be helpful to think of it as an educated bit of betting. Getting $75,000 in GAM now, when international-heavy teams like Montreal need to make sure they’re fully compliant with MLS roster rules to start the season, might turn out to be a smart play. Mid-season, when teams aren’t scrambling to make sure everyone on their roster is actually eligible to play, the value of an international spot is likely to be lower than it is today. If United opts to make a summer window signing, they’ll have plenty of time to acquire one while demand is lower.
In this hypothetical, even trading $50-60,000 in the late spring or early summer to prepare for a summer move is still wise. $15-25,000 in GAM doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up. There’s risk, obviously - if other clubs play hardball with United for whatever reason, they could end up losing on the deal - but more likely than not, United is going to gain something out of this deal.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this deal is that, like United’s other international spots, the one sent to Montreal is coming back on 1/1/2018. With United beginning play at Buzzard Point next season, the longstanding thought from fans and pundits alike has been that they’ll try to make a big-name signing at that time. While it seems unlikely that United, with eight international spots, will suddenly turn into an Atlanta or Toronto in terms of spending, it could be that the front office is planning on making more moves next winter than we’re used to.