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The Beckham buzz-kill (cont.)

Posted: Thursday July 19, 2007 5:21PM; Updated: Thursday July 19, 2007 5:42PM
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Red Bulls star Juan Pablo Ángel will take up twice as much cap room as Beckham.
Red Bulls star Juan Pablo Ángel will take up twice as much cap room as Beckham.
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Real Salt Lake is currently pursuing a designated-player signing, and one team source said it's neck-and-neck between Nigerian midfielder Jay Jay Okocha and an as-yet-unnamed Argentine player. Coach Jason Kreis spent three days in Argentina this past week on a scouting trip. Meanwhile, Okocha was supposed to have finalized his U.S. visa application on Wednesday in Nigeria.

• Have you wondered how the Galaxy was able to make so many recent additions and still fit in under the salary cap despite Beckham's $400,000 cap value as a designated player? Well, that's in part because Beckham's cap value isn't $400,000. Although MLS never announced the change, all midseason designated-player additions (like Beckham and Chicago's Cuauhtémoc Blanco) are only counting $200,000 against the cap.

MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis told me MLS owners voted unanimously to allow the change for midseason DP arrivals in an effort to encourage more teams to sign big-name players without blowing up their rosters. It's a big reason why FC Dallas is "very likely" to sign Brazilian forward Denilson (according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations) and why Real Salt Lake is in talks with Okocha and the as-yet-unnamed Argentine DP prospect.

(Quick background: Under the designated-player rule, aka the Beckham Rule, announced last fall, each DP was supposed to count for $400,000 against a team's salary cap, with all of the player's salary beyond $400,000 paid for by the individual MLS team owner. A DP slot could also be traded, although each team would not be allowed to have more than two designated players. The second DP for a team was to have a cap value of $325,000.)

Gazidis did say that Beckham, Blanco and other midseason DP arrivals will count for $400,000 against the team cap (estimated at $2.4 million) starting next season. From a competitive standpoint, the team that has the most legitimate beef with the DP cap-value cut is the New York Red Bulls, the only team that acquired designated players in the previous transfer window at the start of the season. Those two players -- Juan Pablo Ángel and Claudio Reyna -- are still counting $400,000 and $325,000 against the cap, respectively.

When I spoke to a member of the Red Bulls coaching staff, he told me the coaches weren't happy with the decision and the way it puts New York at a competitive disadvantage on the field this season. But he noted that it also means the Red Bulls won't have to make a lot of big cap-related player moves in the offseason (as the Galaxy and Fire may have to do) and that the decision was probably good for the league in the big picture. (Keep in mind, the change came on a unanimous vote by investors, including Red Bull.)

I'm all for MLS signing more big-name players, but it would be nice if the league were more transparent about the salary cap, which has a huge impact on player acquisitions but often seems governed by needlessly murky rules that fans can't understand.

Through-balls

Congratulations to long-time reader Dave Wasser of Austin, Texas, who was the first person to provide the correct answer to our recent trivia question: Who was the last U.S. men's player to receive the indignity of being subbed out in the first half of a national-team game for non-injury reasons? The answer is Mike Sorber, who was subbed by Steve Sampson in the first half of the U.S.'s 1-1 tie against Jamaica in a 1997 World Cup qualifier. In fairness to Sorber, currently a U.S. assistant coach, the move was a tactical one that resulted from Jamaica fielding an unexpected formation ... Great news for the league that the San Jose Earthquakes will begin play as an expansion team in 2008 under owner Lew Wolff. Wolff told a fun story here yesterday about attending a Galaxy game in the box of owner Phil Anschutz and being inspired by how animated Anschutz became while watching the game. Anschutz may be a reclusive billionaire who never talks to the media, but he's sure one fascinating individual ... MLS teams will be allowed to field five senior international players for SuperLiga games. The limit for MLS games is four.

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