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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, March 6, 2015

Making dollars and sense of Union roster

New Union striker Fernando Aristeguieta, left,
is one of two designated players on the Union's
2015 roster to start the season. (AP file)
Despite a lot of disagreement at the bargaining table, MLS’s 2015 season will begin in a matter of hours Friday. While details of the new collective bargaining agreement have leaked out, there hasn’t been much concrete info on the topography of the new CBA’s budgetary structure, with only figures and dollar amounts trickling out thus far.

In the absence of major alterations, it’s likely that the new arrangement will look a lot like the old one, which is what many MLS clubs were forecasting in the days and weeks before Wednesday’s pact was finalized. Union technical director Chris Albright offered Tuesday that, “Everybody’s got their guesses” about the roster ramifications that will emanate from the new CBA.

Regardless, the Union have a more-or-less finalized roster. In addition to their acquisitions in February, the Union this week announced the signing of Dzenan Catic (though that was actually old news) and came to agreements with trialists Eric Ayuk Mbu and fourth-round SuperDraft pick Raymond Lee. 

Those moves indicate that clubs likely have been given a good idea of how to prepare for the new season. As a guide, let’s utilize last season’s roster rules, which is likely what most clubs have done.

As a reminder, here’s what MLS’s Roster Rules and Regulations say about the composition of a roster:


Players occupying roster spots 1-20 count against the club’s 2014 salary budget of $3,100,000, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Salary Budget Players.
Roster spots 19 and 20 are not required to be filled, and teams may spread their salary budget across only 18 Salary Budget Players. A minimum salary budget charge will be imputed against a team’s salary budget for each unfilled senior roster slot below 18.

Players occupying roster spots 21-30 do not count against the club’s salary budget, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Off-Budget Players (maximum of 10 per team).
All Generation adidas players are Off-Budget players.
Players occupying roster spots 1-24 will earn at least $48,500 in 2014.
Players occupying roster spots 25-30 will earn at least $36,500 in 2014.
Clubs may sign up to two Homegrown Players contracts above the minimum salary and similar to Generation adidas player contract amounts.

With that in mind, the Union’s roster, broken into groups of 5 for ease of reading:

Player, position, age, 2014 base salary (per September filings)

On-Budget

1. Fabinho, D, 29, $96,000
2. Fernando Aristeguieta, F, 22, N/A**
3. Brian Carroll, M, 33, $185,220
4. Conor Casey, F, 33, $192,500
5. Danny Cruz, M, 25, $125,000 (Updated: Cruz sent out on season-long loan March. 18)

6. Fred, M, 35, $65,460
7. Maurice Edu, M, 28, $650,000*
8. Ray Gaddis, D, 25, $52,313
9. Antoine Hoppenot, F, 24, $54,450
10. Michael Lahoud, M, 28, $99,000

11. Sebastien Le Toux, F, 31, $250,000
12. Cristian Maidana, M, 28, $185,000
13. Rais M’Bolhi, GK, 28, $240,000
14. Vincent Nogueira, M, 27, $330,000
15. CJ Sapong, F, 26, $95,000

16. Steven Vitoria, D, 28, N/A
17. Andrew Wenger, F, 24, $140,000
18. Ethan White, D, 24, $80,000
19. Sheanon Williams, D, 24, $125,000
20. –empty—

Off-budget 

21. Richie Marquez, D, 22, $36,504
22. John McCarthy, GK, 22, N/A
23. Dzenan Catic, F, 22, N/A
24. –empty—

25. Andre Blake, GK, 24, $75,000***
26. Zach Pfeffer, M, 20, $75,000****
27. Jimmy McLaughlin, M, 21, $66,000****
28. Raymond Lee, D, 21, N/A
29. Eric Ayuk Mbu, M, 18,
30. Eric Bird, M, 21, (signed March 12)

Inactive: Leo Fernandes (season-long loan to NY Cosmos), Zac MacMath (season-long loan to Colorado), Carlos Valdes (season-long loan to Nacional (Uruguay)), Austin Berry (season-long loan to Anyang (South Korea)); Danny Cruz (season-long loan to FK Bodo/Glimt (Norway)). 

*Designated player ** Young designated player
***Generation Adidas ****Homegrown player

Notes: New deals were signed by Gaddis, Pfeffer, McLaughlin, Fred, Casey and Carroll. Despite the new deals, Albright has said that homegrown protection remains for Pfeffer and McLaughlin. Maidana is no longer a DP, with his DP status last year relating to a transfer fee paid. Also note that certain pay thresholds automatically increase. The $36,504 minimum raises to $50k, the $42,500 goes to $60k. Not sure what happens to a salary like Hoppenot’s.

The new CBA numbers still must be officially disseminated by MLS, but what we can glean is this: The Union have roster flexibility to add if they see fit. Trades, which usually abound at this time of year, were halted by the CBA uncertainty and its monopoly on everyone’s energy. But with the players out on loan, I count only 19 on-budget players and only two of three DP slots filled.

I’d consider spot 30 reserved for Eric Bird whenever he recovers from an injury (I’m told the Union can keep him around without formally signing him as long as he’s not on the field). But That leaves openings for one on-budget player and one high-minimum player under age 25 (spot 24). It’s the kind of wiggle room that Albright said he was looking for, not just given the uncertainty but with an eye toward future pickups.

“I think that we would like to have the ability this summer to add to see where we’re at, this summer or earlier,” Albright said. “There’s something that we need to kind of understand better, where the budget’s going to fall, to figure out how many of those moves we can make, but we wanted to leave ourselves some flexibility to be able to add.”

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