When Real Salt Lake signed Joao Plata to a new long-term deal that made him a Young Designated Player under MLS roster rules, it indicated a shift in the makeup of our roster as it conforms to MLS rules.
Plata, 22, qualifies for the designated player rule under a specification for players 23 and younger. According to 2014 roster rules — and we say this knowing that things could change in 2015 — a designated player from 21 to 23 has a salary cap charge of $200,000, placing them at just over half the hit of an older designated player.
We know from this that Plata's new salary combined with the salary cap hit of the $1 million-plus acquisition of his multi-party contract places him above $200,000 of salary cap charge. This was sort of inevitable if we wanted to keep Plata, I suspect.
Alongside Plata, our designated players now must have shifted. You can have only three DPs under MLS rules, and at the end of 2014, our three were Javier Morales, Sebastian Jaime, and Alvaro Saborio.
Jaime is there for acquisition cost, Saborio is there because his salary exceeded the DP price tag. We're not 100 percent why Morales made that list at the end of the year, given his MLS Players Union-listed salary puts him at $300,000 — below the cap charge. But there certainly is something, because salary and acquisition cost aren't the only sources of cap charge.
It's likely that Morales has dropped off this list, and it's not entirely improbable that Saborio could, too. We're not completely sure on the extent of Kyle Beckerman's new three-year contract, but he was floating around the designated player area himself. It could well be the case that he's above the hit and Saborio is below, but again, there's a lot that remains to be seen here.
Regardless, our elevating Plata to a designated player slot emphasizes the importance of him to the organization. As we look to build our roster for the future, cast-off players like Plata will be essential, but we can't simply keep them for a low salary once they start bearing fruit. As we look to build a new core group of players — or to transition them in to the team — we'll see this sort of thing more and more.
Of course, it could all be for naught if MLS rules change so significantly that designated player break points shift, or if other roster rules end up changing designations, acquisition costs, and all that. Once the new CBA is agreed, everything could change. Should be fun, right?