MLS 'Core Player' designation explained (and how L.A. can add dos Santos)

MLS 'Core Player' designation explained (and how L.A. can add dos Santos)

Major League Soccer's creation of a "Core Player" is really just a new mechanism to implement allocation money from its new collective bargaining agreement and free up a Designated Player spot, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

ESPN's Taylor Twellman revealed during Sunday's New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC broadcast that MLS was attempting to sign Giovani dos Santos and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, both European-based members of the Mexican men's national team. Twellman said the league would use a new mechanism for this, as the Los Angeles Galaxy had targeted dos Santos but already had three Designated Players.

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But the new mechanism isn't a fourth Designated Player slot as some had speculated. Rather, it's a new player designation called "Core Player," which sounds like a new concept but is really a new way to implement allocation money.

A source told Yahoo Sports that a Core Player is a current Designated Player who makes more than the league's maximum salary of $436,000 but less than $750,000. The rule is up for evaluation next year, a second league source said, when MLS could decide to potentially add more allocation money into the pot for each team.

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But as part of the new CBA signed between the league and the player's union, each team is given an additional $100,000 per year in allocation to be applied to these players who fall between the aforementioned Core Player threshold. Allocation money has always been available for teams to pay down salaries so that they don't count as a Designated Player, meaning that such a player can have allocation money applied to his contract so he doesn't technically count as a DP, thereby freeing up one of three slots for another player. The Core Player rule allows teams to specifically target players in this salary range.

The interesting twist is the money: $100,000 a year per team over the span of five years. It can be used in one lump sum, so, in the case of the Galaxy, that flexibility would allow the defending MLS champions to add Dos Santos to their lineup.

Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane, L.A.'s seven-figures-a-year Designated Players, can't be paid down via this allocation money since they don't fall within the rules salary constraints. But Omar Gonzalez, a regular at centerback with the United States men's national team, could possibly fall into this threshold. Last year, Gonzalez made $1 million in base salary.

With some slick accounting, the Galaxy could use other allocation money to get Gonzalez to the threshold limit, then apply much of that lump sum available to them to get their star defender immediately off the books as a Designated Player. Of course, this would be pro-rated for the rest of the season, but it would be the pathway for teams like L.A. to add another high-priced player.