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Explaining Why Sporting KC Get Another DP in 2023 Without Losing Players

Pulido, Kinda and Russell are all scheduled to be back in 2023 but Sporting Kansas City appear likely to have more roster wiggle room.

MLS: Austin FC at Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC get to keep Gadi Kinda, Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell but still free up a DP spot in 2023.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 Major League Soccer season didn’t go as anyone hoped for Sporting Kansas City. An atrociously slow start couldn’t be overcome, even by a Supporter’s Shield pace down the stretch for the last couple months of the season.

A huge part of that was the fact that Designated Players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda both had season ending surgery and never played a single minute in the league. A first for a team in MLS to lose two DPs for the entire year without playing any minutes. Teams only get three DPs after all, so the losses at key positions were critical.

We all know the plan is to have Kinda and Pulido back for 2023 and Peter Vermes’ confirmed as much to The Blue Testament’s Thad Bell. However, even with them returning, and fellow DP Johnny Russell on a guaranteed deal for 2023, the team was rumored to be getting back a Designated Player spot.

The rules are somewhat convoluted, but The Blue Testament reported back in January that Gadi Kinda may not be a DP in 2023 because of some convoluted MLS roster rules (shocking). We had a little help from The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio.

While we still don’t know if Gadi Kinda is the player that won’t count as a DP (his salary is certainly low enough), we got confirmation from Peter Vermes that the team will in fact have the spot open based on an interview he gave Soren Petro on The Program (Peter starts around the 16 minute mark).

(Tip of the hat to TBT community member “yodapagoda” for pointing me to this radio interview.)

“I’m still very frustrated with one of the rules in which we could have loaned [out] a [Designated Player] and got a DP,” started Vermes. “We could have [signed a new DP], Sporting Kansas City, from a financial perspective. The problem is the rules didn’t allow us to do that. Whereas, if we would have basically separated ways with one of our DPs we could have gotten a new one. But there was no reason to do that because our guys were under contract for a length of time and the idea is they are going to come [back] after surgery and they’ll be good the next year.”

We could have gotten a DP because next year we would have had a spot open,” Vermes continued. “We could have gotten a DP [during the 2022 season], keep one of our DPs off that had a season ending injury and he would have been off the so called cap, [clearing] a spot on the roster. We had the money to pay for that but the league at this time doesn’t have that rule that we could do that. We were hamstrung from that point of view. Realistically we should have been able to do that and that rule I think is going to be starting next year.”

To clarify, Peter is saying he wanted to add a DP during the 2022 season because the team had a slot opening up in 2023 but the MLS rules simply won’t allow it. However, he thinks starting next year, rules will allow a DP that goes on the season-ending injury list (presumably) to be replaced.

Too late to help Sporting KC, but at least the league is willing to (hopefully) admit the rule is silly and are open to fixing it. That said, you know if this was the LA Galaxy or LAFC they’d have fixed it mid-year.

Explain Again Why Kinda (probably) Isn’t a DP

It’s a bit messy and we don’t know for sure, but it seems to have something to do with the way the transfer fee (his is rumored around $3.7 million) is allocated. No one at Sporting KC was able to confirm to me if that fee was front loaded and allocated more heavily across the earlier years of Kinda’s contract, but they did confirm it’s possible to do so. So it would appear (but we don’t know for sure) that Kinda had his transfer fee front loaded and now he’ll just be on a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) deal in 2023.

Again, unconfirmed, but it’s the only salary low enough to meet that threshold with Russell and Pulido making too much in annual compensation (the maximum salary that can be bought down with TAM in 2023 is $1,651,250).

How Does this Help Sporting KC?

The most obvious way is the ability to bring in a new Designated Player. The offense feels very loaded (Pulido, Agada, Thommy, Salloi, Russell, Kinda and even Walter), but the team could still use some help defensively. It’s pretty rare to use a DP spot in MLS on a center back or a defensive midfielder, but it’s not unheard of, even if most use them on strikers, attacking midfielders and wingers.

It’s worth keeping in mind Sporting KC still have to operate within the MLS salary budget. The “budget” climbs to $5,210,000 in 2023, but there is a total of $9,830,000 available spend across the roster, not counting the amounts above the salary max of $651,250 next year or any leftover General Allocation Money (GAM) they have from deals like the transfer of Gianluca Busio.

In addition to what will be just two DPs (Russell and Pulido), the team has other players on Targeted Allocation Money deals. At least Walter, Thommy (rumored, his salary is unknown), Kinda and Salloi will be TAM players with the possibility of Isimat-Mirin if his option is picked up. There is only so much GAM and TAM to go around, so it’ll be interesting to see how much roster flexibility exists for 2023.

Update: Mike made a good point on Twitter that this new DP needs to be TAM-able aka signed for $1,651,250 or less because of the three U-22 players already on the roster.

Another DP slot is open in 2023. Where do you want to see Sporting KC spend it? Let’s talk about it in the comments.