It was especially thrilling for MLS fans to watch an exciting young American player - who had come through a club academy system and the homegrown player initiative - raise his game to impress at an elite level and on a global stage. He was hailed universally as a U.S. star of the future.
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But for his club, the Seattle Sounders, DeAndre Yedlin should soon become a name of the past. His stock has never been higher, and with European clubs circling and a valuation rumored to be around $5 million, right now he's far more valuable to the Sounders as a salable asset than as a starting right back.
As a homegrown player, 75 percent of any transfer fee paid for Yedlin would go to the Sounders as allocation money. More than simple cash, allocation money is most valuable for its utility to "pay down" contracts, causing them to count less against the salary cap or reducing the salary hit for players on designated player salaries so they no longer count as occupying a DP slot. In short, allocation money is roster flexibility. And selling Yedlin could make Seattle the most flexible club in the league.
It could not come at a more opportune time. At the end of this season, the collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Union will come to an end. The league's minimum salary is likely to increase substantially, and the salary cap will jump. Several rich, new clubs are being added in coming years; New York City and Orlando have already signed David Villa and Kaka, respectively, as designated players. A massive new television deal will give clubs more resources than ever to add quality.
Seattle is one of the league's flagship clubs. It has the league's highest average attendance by some distance. It's one of the biggest television draws. It has the league's highest-paid player and its fourth-largest total payroll. But it will be fighting for supremacy with a number of clubs as deep-pocketed new owners push the league to loosen the mechanisms that encourage parity. Success now could mean the difference between entering this new era as a big club and entering it as the big club.
A transfer would also be in the best interests of the player. Yedlin would get a significant bump up from his current $80,000 per year base salary and would get to push himself at a higher level than MLS can offer right now.
It's possible that Yedlin's departure wouldn't even hinder the Sounders to any noticeable degree. Club captain Brad Evans, who had his national team spot at right back usurped by Yedlin in training camp, would be a natural replacement and is better than most right backs in the league. A talented midfield containing Osvaldo Alonso, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda and Lamar Neagle could cope with the shift.
Proceeds of Yedlin's sale could be used to make immediate upgrades to the team; despite leading the league in goals, Seattle's defense has been average, while starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei has been prone to embarrassing errors. If the Sounders technical staff thinks the best team in the league is good enough for now, it can hold the funds, perhaps to make offseason signings ahead of next year's CONCACAF Champions League campaign.
When it comes down to it, the best DeAndre Yedlin can be for the Sounders is the best right back in MLS. That's certainly a very good thing to have, but for moderate drop-off in his one marginal position, Seattle could give itself a competitive advantage for multiple years at a crucial point in the league's history.
Portland — Owner Merritt Paulson may be guaranteeing a playoff place, but his employees aren't exactly carrying out his vision. Since returning from the World Cup break, Portland has lost at home to Kansas City and given up a lead in the 86th minute against fellow Western Conference playoff aspirant LA Galaxy. With the midweek Open Cup defeat to Seattle, the Timbers are running out of ways to make 2014 resemble a successful campaign.
Coming up: Just them boys in Rave Green again. The Timbers head up north for a game against Seattle on which "MUST WIN" has been stamped in bold, capital letters. Sunday, July 7, 7 p.m. PT - ESPN2.
Seattle — Sigi Schmid allowed the points cushion to deflate a little bit as he fielded a pretty threadbare team against Vancouver last week, but it was worth it as a somewhat stronger and more rested lineup overcame the Timbers in extra time to qualify for the semifinals of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Coming up: Seattle tries to make it two rivalry wins in a week as the Portland Timbers look for revenge. Sunday, July 7, 7 p.m. PT - ESPN2.
Vancouver — The 'Caps took advantage of an understrength Seattle side, getting the job done and collecting three points with a 1-0 win. Sebastian Fernandez scored with an absolute screamer when Seattle's defense gave him too much space.
Coming up: Two fun games for the BC boys in a busy week. First, Vancouver will try and stop the three-game winning streak of Chivas USA — wait, Chivas USA? On a three-game winning streak? And these are professional soccer games, right? Huh. Saturday, July 12, 7 p.m. PT - MLS Live.
Midweek, the Whitecaps travel to Toronto FC, which is looking to get back to winning ways after a dip in form has seen the league's most expensive payroll fail to win any of its last three matches. Wednesday, July 16, 5 p.m. PT, MLS Live, TSN
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