As the 2023 Major League Soccer season fast approaches, several teams are looking to sign a Designated Player. Per league rules, a team can only hold three DPs at a time.
The Designated Player Rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensation and acquisition costs exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above each player's Salary Budget Charge. Designated Players may be new players signed to MLS via the Allocation Ranking List or the Discovery Process, or they may be re-signed existing players on a club's roster.
Here are the teams will open DP slots ahead of the 2023 campaign.
1. LA Galaxy
The LA Galaxy could be on the hunt for a Designated player.
The Western Conference team has one DP slot open, after trading forward Kevin Cabral to the Colorado Rapids earlier this week. Cabral also occupied a Under 22 Initiative position on the roster, factoring into his previous role at the team.
It’s unlikely the Galaxy will chase after another forward, as attacking players Chicharito and Douglas Costa currently hold the team’s two other Designated Player positions.
But as one of the league’s most-recognizable brands, anything can happen.
2. Toronto FC
Toronto FC currently have one DP spot open, with Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi occupying the other two.
After missing out on the Major League Soccer playoffs for the second consecutive year, team president Bill Manning addressed the possibility of bringing on a third Designated Player to boost the club.
“We’re not going to go out and sign a Lorenzo, but we’re going to sign the right player,” Manning said. “Whatever wiggle room we need to make there, our organization has always been supportive of getting the right player.”
With several high-quality offensive players on the roster, Toronto may just look to an experienced defense to strengthen the backline. Though the team originally tried out the tactic with Mexican center back Carlos Salcedo, his quick departure after six months failed to solve anything.
Toronto FC concluded the 2022 campaign with a goal difference of negative 17, conceding a shocking 66 goals.
3. Chicago Fire FC
The Chicago Fire need a Designated Player to improve.
The team concluded the 2022 campaign in 12th place on the Eastern Conference table, managing just 39 points in 34 to miss out on the playoffs once again.
Though the Fire currently have midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and forward Jairo Torres under DP contracts, the team certainly requires more.
“[We want] someone that's a proven goalscorer because we think that to get to where we want to get, and that's back into the playoffs, we need someone that's a 12-plus, maybe even 15-plus goalscorer,” said head coach Ezra Hendrickson.
The reigning Major League Soccer champions have one Designated Player slot open.
Carlos Vela and Denis Bouanga currently occupy two of the three allowed positions, giving way for LAFC to dream big. Historic signings Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini do not fall under the coveted rank, though the Wales figure can progress to a DP slot.
LAFC will head into the market with no added pressure to win a trophy, after lifting the league title and Supporters’ Shield in 2023.
5. Inter Miami
The team has one Designated Player position open, given Gonzalo Higuain’s recent retirement. But Inter Miami could potentially make another slot available, after a lack of interest on current figure Rodolfo Pizarro.
The Mexican national team player was loaned to Liga MX’s Monterrey for the 2022 campaign with an option to purchase, but Rayados declined the opportunity. Though Pizarro will return to Inter Miami, it is unlikely he’ll stay with the South Florida side through 2023.
Leonardo Campana stands as the other DP occupant.
But things can soon change for the Herons.
The team is in negotiations with Lionel Messi's representatives and are willing to meet the legendary forward's wage demands to bring him to MLS, 90min understands.
The club have been in contact with the PSG and Argentina star's representatives recently and, on top of being willing to meet his wage demands, Inter Miami are also willing to sign a number of players that Messi would want to play with.
One of these players is Luis Suarez, who has recently been linked with the MLS club, as is Sergio Busquets - although the latter seems to be a less financially feasible signing. The South Florida side continues to deal with the sanctions imposed in 2021, seeing a $2,271,250 reduction in allocation dollars for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
6. CF Montreal
CF Montreal currently have no Designated Players. The team can sign three figures this offseason.
After concluding the 2022 campaign in second place on the Eastern Conference table and managing their best-ever MLS season, Montreal will be looking to strengthen an already strong side.
The Canadian giants are no stranger to high-profile names, having enlisted Didier Drogba, Marco Di Vaio, and Ignacio Piatti in the past. It’s unlikely the team will chase after superfluous names, but anything can happen during the transfer window.
7. Orlando City FC
Orlando currently have Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara under DP contracts, leaving one slot open.
The team concluded the 2022 campaign in seventh place on the Eastern Conference table with 48 points in 34 games, before failing to make an impact in the playoffs. Though the team lifted the US Open Cup, the South Florida side has the potential to do more.
8. Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake could soon be in the hunt for a third DP.
The team currently employs forward Jefferson Savarino and midfielder Damir Kreilach as Designated Players, leaving one coveted slot open.
The Western Conference side is headed into its first full offseason with their new ownership group, giving way for unexpected transfers and splurges.
A DP winger to play opposite of Savarino would be the most likely scenario, but a number 9 can serve the team as well. Though the Venezuelan international had seven goals and six assists in a half-season, after arriving from Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, the team has the potential to do more damage on the attack.
The team was previously linked with a DP defensive midfielder, but it never came through.
9. Vancouver Whitecaps
The Canadian giants have one Designated Play slot open, after declining the 2023 contract option for Lucas Cavallini.
Though the number 9 was coming off of his best MLS season since joining Vancouver in 2020, the team decided to go in a different direction. Andres Cubas and Ryan Gauld currently lead the club as DPs, propelling the Canadian side to ninth on the Western Conference table to miss out on playoffs.
Obviously, the team needs more to do better.
The team could easily go for another offensive option, after scoring just 40 goals in 2022, the lowest number in the Western Conference.