MLS has been serious about adding top dollar talent to the league since the earliest days with the early signings of players like Jorge Campos and Carlos Valderrama. The league formalized big-name signings with the "Beckham Rule" in 2007. The league added a second and third Designated Player for the 2010 season. Now several reports are talking about another rule change to further add top talent. While it's not the rumored "4th DP," the rule certainly benefits the league's spenders.
The latest details come from Kristian Dyer of Yahoo on the new "Core Player" rule. The initial article appear to be missing some specifics, but the broad effect is that it allows certain player contracts to be paid down to below the DP level. DP contracts that are under $750,000 are eligible to be paid down via special allocation money called the "Core Player" rule.
The rule would first be used by the LA Galaxy to complete the signing of Giovanni Dos Santos to a DP contract. The Galaxy currently have three DPs with Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Omar Gonzalez on the books. They now can use the "Core Player" rule to pay down Gonzalez's salary with a combination of allocation money and "Core Player" allocations to lower his "salary budget number" below the DP threshold. The Galaxy would use the immediately open 3rd DP slot to sign Dos Santos.
By those rules, perhaps some teams can target these mid tier players such as Crew SC's Federico Higuain. Higuain's salary in 2014 was $744,000 in guaranteed compensation, a prospective target for the rule. However, Massive Report learned that the "Core Player" rule can only be used by a team with three DPs on the books. Additionally, the rule can only be used if an additional DP signing is imminent.
The only constraint is that the Salary Budget does not expand with the addition of the rule. Teams using the "Core Player" rule will have to fit another full charge player on their books. The 2015 salary budget is $3,490,000 and many teams are pushed up against the limit as the new CBA didn't rise as much as expected. The rule may also have the effect of further hollowing out the mid-tier of the roster as more of the budget is used by fewer players leaving smaller slices of the pie for the rest of the team.
Still, there are several teams in position to use it due to the combination of astute salary management, recruitment, and willingness to spend, starting with Galaxy. It's a rule tailor made for the Galaxy's signing of Dos Santos and applicable to eight other teams in the league. MLS teams with less than the full compliment of DPs aren't eligible to use the rule. That includes Columbus.
The Black & Gold and other teams will either have to spend more money to keep up or find a way to win on the cheap in a league that is increasingly arming the big spenders.