A couple of days ago word came out that Krisztian Nemeth had a desire to return to Major League Soccer.
The quote read, “I would like to go back to MLS. In Kansas we had a beautiful stadium and it was sold out every week.” In other words, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. In fact, there may be no grass in the deserts of Qatar.
Sporting Kansas City famously (or infamously) sold Nemeth to Al-Gharafa in the Qatari Super League for a reported $3 million transfer fee. That happened late in the preseason of 2016 (a little over a year ago from right now). Sporting KC had signed Justin Mapp and Brad Davis, so they didn’t really make any other moves other than to add Diego Rubio, who would rarely play on the wing and mostly acted as Dom Dwyer’s backup.
The remainder of the season would see SKC fans longing for Nemeth when Davis and Mapp failed to contribute. Nemeth put in 11 goals and the closest person to replacing that production was Jacob Peterson with six goals. In fact, if you add in Davis (two goals), Graham Zusi (two goals) and the lack of goals from Connor Hallisey, Cameron Porter and Mapp, all the other wingers on the team didn’t match Nemeth’s production. It’s easy to see why fans were upset.
Nemeth has played well in Qatar adding another 12 goals, though likely against a much lower caliber of competition. If he can continue to stay healthy, there is no reason a team like Sporting KC wouldn’t want him back. That’s where the problems begin.
MLS Player Allocation
Since Nemeth was sold for a transfer fee north of $500,000, Sporting KC no longer own his rights. SI.com has a great piece on how player signing a player works in MLS (I always love a good flow chart). Basically, because Sporting made so much money on their transfer fee, Nemeth would be subject to the MLS Allocation Process.
The MLS Allocation Process is used for things like a US National Team player coming to MLS (see Brad Guzan to Atlanta United), select elite US Youth National Team players or, like in Nemeth’s case, when a player leaves on a fee greater than $500,000 (this didn’t apply to Roger Espinoza because he left on a free transfer).
Currently Sporting KC sit at the 12 spot in the rankings. It’s realistic to think that one of the 11 teams above them would want the kind of production that Nemeth provided. Specifically the Portland Timbers are eighth and they may want him simply so he doesn’t make them look foolish like he did in the 2015 MLS Goal of the Year.
Now the rankings will change as teams use their spots or if a trade occurs. Also, there is no saying if or when Nemeth would be out of contract and able to return to the states. The Allocation Order resets after the season in the reverse order of how teams finish. Depending on how things go, SKC could be much further down the list (let’s hope so) or way further up it.
What About a Transfer?
It is always possible Sporting could throw a transfer fee back Al-Gharafa’s way to get Nemeth back, but it seems unlikely. If they paid $3 million last year, they won’t let him go for much less than that and the way Nemeth left may mean he isn’t welcome back, though you never know.
The team currently has 11 forwards on the roster (a far cry from the lack of depth last season) and does have one open roster spot after the Lawrence Olum trade. That spot is likely for rookie Colton Storm, so don’t get your hopes up. More trades (or releases) could be made to make space, but it seems unlikely.
In my opinion, the only way this happens is on a free transfer where Sporting KC move up the allocation order via trade to get Nemeth. I can’t imagine his contract is at or nearly up after just a year (though I did hear it may be at the end of the year — but that was unsubstantiated internet babble).
Though Nemeth isn’t likely coming back, at least we know how it will work if he does.