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State of every MLS roster: Which teams have DP, U22 flexibility ahead of the summer

We're putting on our general manager hats while playing with MLS's new "roster profiles".

13 min read

MLS did something cool and fun today. 

They released roster profiles for all 29 teams, finally communicating key bits of information like which players are occupying Designated Player and U-22 Initiative spots, which players can be moved off those DP spots, contract years, international slots, and more.

Those of us who are way too invested in how and why decision-makers across the league build their squads have been fiending for this kind of transparency for years. With so many complex roster rules, it’s hard to have productive conversations about what teams can and can’t do to reshape their squads. It was close to impossible to have those conversations when teams couldn’t be bothered to accurately list their DPs and whatnot on their own roster pages.

Other much more popular sports leagues in the United States have complex roster rules. But they also tend to have more transparency than we’ve ever seen in MLS, giving fans and us folks in the media the power to debate potential trades and free agent signings.

“We’ve got to appeal to a broader audience, and the way that we’re going to do that in mainstream America is by giving everybody the information,” Atlanta United president Garth Lagerwey said on Extratime earlier this year. “Very few people have been a GM, but they all assume they can do the job better than Lagerwey or [Tim] Bezbatchenko or [John] Thorrington or whomever,” he added.

Thanks to these roster profiles, which you can find here, we’re closer than ever to putting on our collective GM hat. Of course, Lagerwey also called for each team’s salary cap information and allocation money stash to be public. Those things aren’t included in these roster profiles, but I’ll go ahead and celebrate the incremental wins.

Now that we’re armed with this new data on how teams are using their top-end roster spots, why not put it to good use?

Today, we’re taking a high-level look at each club’s roster flexibility ahead of the summer transfer window. The winter window closed last week, which means the eyes of chief soccer officers around the league really have turned towards the summer.

For the sake of this piece, we’re assuming that the new roster rules initially reported by The Athletic that have since been discussed publicly by figures around the league will be going into effect ahead of the summer transfer window. These rule changes will allow teams to have up to three fully fledged DPs and up to three U-22 Initiative players.

Though there are plenty of other ways to build a roster that don’t involve using three DPs and three U-22s, I’m using that structure as a rough framework to parse out what teams can and can’t do this summer.


Okay, one more thing. It’s the last caveat, I promise. My forecasting for the summer window is obviously subject to available cap space and allocation money. As mentioned, we don’t have access to that info in the public sphere right now.

I told you that was the last caveat and it is. Legends don’t count as caveats…do they?


* = Player can be converted from a DP to a non-DP with the use of allocation money

Italics = Player is on loan and can be (or has already been) replaced by another player with the same roster designation

Underline = Player is on loan and can’t be replaced by another player with the same roster designation

^ = Player is on the season-ending injury list and can be replaced by another player with the same roster designation

Onwards for real.

Atlanta United

Designated Players:

  1. Thiago Almada (Young DP)
  2. Giorgios Giakoumakis
  3. Stian Gregersen*

U22 Initiative Players:

  1. Franco Ibarra
  2. Edwin Mosquera
  3. Santiago Sosa

What they can do in the summer: 

Even if Thiago Almada stays, Atlanta can shift Stian Gregersen out of his DP spot using allocation money and sign another big-money piece. If they’re going to spend, I’d spend on the wings. 

As for the U22 situation, Atlanta United are currently the only team in the league that aren't getting their U22 spots back while their players are on loan. That’s not a permanent thing, but because the Five Stripes are still paying part of the salaries for Franco Ibarra and Santiago Sosa, those two are stuck in their roster designations until someone else is footing the entire wage bill.

I had to confirm that distinction, because it’s not clear in the roster profiles distributed by the league which loaned players count towards their previous roster designations and which ones don’t. If MLS is looking for feedback, clarifying which loanees take up what would be great in the future.

For now, though, I’ve been told that every other DP or U22 who’s on loan has left their DP or U22 spot open.

Austin FC

Designated Players:

  1. Sebastian Driussi
  2. Emiliano Rigoni
  3. Alex Ring*

U22 Initiative Players:

  1. Moussa Djitte
  2. Zan Kolmanic

What they can do in the summer:

There’s tons of flexibility here for sporting director Rodolfo Borrell. He can shift Alex Ring out of a DP spot to create room for a high-priced addition. Borrell also has some U22 wiggle room, with one spot fully open. Moussa Djitte’s loan in Turkey also takes him out of the U22 equation.

…at least until his loan expires in the summer, at which time he’ll hop back on the books in Austin.

Look, I said things were more transparent now. I didn’t say they were simple.

Charlotte FC

Designated Players:

  1. Liel Abada (Young DP)
  2. Enzo Copetti
  3. Brecht Dejaegere*
  4. Karol Swiderski

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