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D.C. United 2017 contracts and cap-ology

We know more about where MLS teams stand than ever before

As the 2017 season is in its toddler incarnation, I wanted to try and put together a financial and numeric look at D.C. United’s roster. Before getting too deep into the weeds, a couple of notes for stipulation: I’m using the current Roster Rules and Regulations and the April 2017 salaries list the Players Union released.

Listed below is the current D.C. roster. MLS allows a team up to 30 roster spots (of which teams are obliged to fill a minimum of 18) and 20 of those spots count towards the cap, which is $3,845,000 this year. I’ve tried including contract (K) expirations where they’ve been previously reported or included any additional relevant notes, with the ‘on-budget’ players listed first. The term ‘budget charge’ means the portion of a player’s salary that can count against the cap, so homegrown players (HGPs) aren’t included in the math.

Base salary for roster spots 21-24 (what MLS refers to as the “Supplemental Roster”) is $65,000, and spots 25-28 (“Reserve Roster”) is $53,000. None of those apply to the cap, er, salary budget.

D.C. Roster Breakdown

# Name Position Age (Start of '17) 2017 Base Salary/Budget Charge K Expiration (if known) Roster Status Notes
# Name Position Age (Start of '17) 2017 Base Salary/Budget Charge K Expiration (if known) Roster Status Notes
Senior Roster
1 Bill Hamid G 26 $350,000 2017 HGP, Talks on new deal
2 Steve Birnbaum D 26 $474,996 2020 TAM used
3 Bobby Boswell D 33 (34 March) $260,000 2017
4 Sean Franklin D 31 (32 March) $258,756 Extended after '16 K
5 Taylor Kemp D 26 $120,000
6 Kofi Opare D 26 $105,000 Extended after '15 K
7 Luciano Acosta M/F 22 $500,000 2019? INT1 TAM used in '17, DP in '18
8 Nick DeLeon M 26 $255,000 2019?
9 Jared Jeffrey M 26 $105,000 2017?
10 Lamar Neagle M/F 29 $200,000 2018
11 Lloyd Sam M 32 $240,000 Extended after '14 New deal coming
12 Marcelo Sarvas M 35 $360,000
13 Rob Vincent M/F 26 $65,633 2018?
14 Sebastien Le Toux F 33 $125,004 2017
15 Patrick Mullins F 25 $114,125 2019 (club opt '20)
16 Patrick Nyarko F/M 31 $235,000 Extended after '14
17 Alhaji Kamara F 22 $80,000 INT2
18 Jose Ortiz F 24 $129,996 2017 (team opt. to buy) INT3, Loan
19 Chris Rolfe F 34 $275,000 2017 (club opt '18)
20 Travis Worra G 23 $65,625
21 Chris Odoi Atsem D 21 $65,004
22 Maxim Tissot D 24 $65,000 INT4
23 Julian Buescher M 23 $80,000 INT5, GA
24 Eric Klenofsky G 22 $53,004
25 Chris Durkin D/M 17 $70,000 2020 HGP
26 Jalen Robinson D 22 $69,996 2018? HGP
27 Ian Harkes M 21 $90,000 HGP, TAM?
International Spots open: 0 (3 return 12/31/17)
Updated D.C. roster breakdown

As you can see, D.C. has a senior roster spot open, but how much room they have is a little tricky. Depending on the amount, they could use this room to buy a player during the secondary transfer window or possibly add two Designated Players at a half season ($240,312) salary charge, were they to buy out Chris Rolfe. The team had the opportunity to buy out Rolfe’s contract at their expense during the preseason, but did not. As a result, they can still open up a roster spot by buying him out sometime this year (or by adding him to the season-ending injury list), but it would only open a roster spot; his cap charge will still exist throughout the 2017 season.

Moving on, let’s figure out what else United can do. Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) can be used to “ sign a new player provided his salary and acquisition costs are more than the maximum salary budget...”, “ an existing player provided he is earning more than the maximum salary budget...”, or “ convert a Designated Player to a non-Designated Player by buying down his Salary Budget Charge at or below the maximum salary budget charge.” As every MLS team for 2017 gets $1,200,000 in TAM from the league in 2017, it is a use-it-or-lose-it (well, after 4 full transfer windows) mechanism. We know some TAM was used last year when Acosta was first acquired on loan, and is being used to pay his cap hit down this year (along with Birnbaum’s). Using the max budget charge of $480,625 as a barometer, a minimum of $140,000 allocation was used to bring the players down under the charge.

All MLS teams received $200,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) for 2017, plus extra undisclosed money if they met thresholds like missing the playoffs or CONCACAF Champions League success. They also get money from clubs who use all 3 Designated Player Slots: $150,000 per club, distributed equally to the remaining clubs. By rough count, 10 clubs are using all 3 spots, so D.C. gets another $125,000 in GAM. They also got $75,000 from the Montreal Impact recently for one of their free international player spots for the year.

Adding everything (that we know of, this is still MLS after all) up? You’ve got $400,000 in GAM and $1.2 million in TAM before 2017 starts. If we used our existing GAM guestimate of approximately a half million dollars, and accounted for last year’s trades involving Lloyd Sam, Patrick Mullins and Fabian Espindola, and the buy down of Acosta, let’s say they have somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 of GAM. Assuming the club’s response to Grant Wahl about spending 90% of their TAM since its inception is accurate, they have around $250,000 of that to roll into their 2017 total.

One last caveat to all this math: while MLS discloses salaries, roster breakdowns and the salary cap amount, they do not disclose how much GAM and TAM a team has (the amounts are mentioned in trades thankfully), nor are the salaries entirely accurate in terms of cap hit. We’re working with some known unknowns and some unknown unknowns, though including the amounts of GAM and TAM in trades beginning at the 2017 draft is a tremendous help. Also, undisclosed transfer fees that MLS spends to bring in a player from abroad can be amortized over the length of a players contract to take up GAM and TAM. So for instance, while Alvaro Saborio made a DP number in 2016, he was not listed as such, and the inverse was true for Espindola.

By all means, feel free to point out anything that may have been missed or not included. Goodness knows I’m not trying to say this version is exact because it will never be until we’ve reached full transparency.

(Thanks to the Burgundy Wave for serving as the jumping off point to this.)