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MLS protects D.C. United's interest in AC Milan midfielder

In which Orlando City take on the single entity structure and lose.

The opera that is D.C. United's pursuit of Antonio Nocerino has taken another turn this afternoon, with Steve Goff reporting that MLS has ordered Orlando City to stop their own pursuit of the AC Milan midfielder. This follows reports out of Italy that current Orlando City player Kaka, who played with Nocerino at Milan, had called his former teammate to recruit him to the sunshine state. Lions coach Adrian Heath had also said his club was pursuing Nocerino.

In any other league, this wouldn't be an issue. But this isn't any other league. This is MLS. Here, when a team is interested in a player, it files a discovery claim, granting that team exclusive MLS negotiating rights with the player, for at least some period of time. It doesn't matter if the player is, Messi, Ronaldo, Zlatan or anyone else.  The mechanism goes back to the league's quasi-single entity structure and its desire to minimize the degree to which teams compete with each other for players. Goff goes into nice detail on the discovery process in his article. Go read that - we'll wait.

Actually, one person who may want to read over that process is Adrian Heath. In the just over a year that Orlando City has been playing games in MLS, they've run afoul of league tampering rules twice now. In the first instance, Heath was fined for making comments seeming to try to recruit Dom Dwyer from Sporting Kansas City. And now this. To be clear, United has not filed a tampering complaint with the league, but, according to Goff's report, the team hasn't ruled it out, either.

And that brings us to today's mandate from the league, which, for right or wrong, pushes Orlando City out of the Nocerino picture - at least for the time being. With most European transfer windows closing yesterday or today, the midfielder's other options have dwindled basically to nothing. If the Black-and-Red are unable to come to an agreement with the player, they could very well trade his MLS rights to Orlando, and all of this will have been much ado about nothing. But, at least in the immediate term, United's chances of signing their next DP seem to have gotten a little bump.

Perhaps we'll find out next time, on Beverly Hills 9021Nocerino. (Sorry, had to.)