For those wondering why the Fire weren't involved in talks to acquire either Charlies Davies or Kenny Cooper, here's a look at the current MLS allocation order. The current "roster rules" require that National Team players returning to or enteriing MLS be subjected to the allocation process.
"The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee."
The allocation process came into play when the Fire acquired the rights to Brian McBride in 2008. Since Toronto FC held the top allocation spot at that point in time a trade was required to grant McBride's wish to play in Chicago. Chad Barrett and a first round pick were shipped north of the border for the US International.
Current Allocation Order (Davies is currently "on trial")
1. DC United (Charlie Davies)
2. Chivas USA
3. Philadelphia Union
4. New England Revolution
5. Houston Dynamo
6. Toronto FC
7. Chicago Fire
8. Sporting Kansas City
9. Seattle Sounders FC
10. Columbus Crew
11. New York Red Bulls
12. Real Salt Lake
13. San Jose Earthquakes
14. Los Angeles Galaxy
15. FC Dallas
16. Colorado Rapids
17. Vancouver Whitecaps (Jay DeMerit)
18. Portland Timbers (Kenny Cooper)
Although DC United's move to get Davies on the squad is techincally a loan deal the allocation rules still applied since he is a National Team player. Cooper has 10 caps which also made him allocation eligible but regardless of his USMNT status FC Dallas received compensation for him when he was sold to 1860 Munich in 2009. The compensation received essentially forfeited Dallas' rights to Cooper upon his eventual MLS return.
The Fire's case for a player like Chris Rolfe, should he return to MLS is slightly different since Rolfe left on a free transfer. The Fire/MLS received no compensation when the forward departed for Denmark and it's unlikely the team received any super secret allocation money from the league to compensate for his loss since the player did not transfer out of the league "for value" as stated in MLS' roster rules. If Rolfe was not a USMNT pool player the Fire would have been able to retain his rights within MLS according to league rules and the CBA. Since he is indeed a capped US player, Rolfe would likely be subjected to the allocation entry process.
Unless of course MLS makes up more allocation rules as they go along allowing Rolfe to return to Chicago without the necessity of a trade. Does a player's status as a US international supercede the fact that he departed the club without the team receiving compensation therefore retaining his rights? According to what's currently in black and white.....as with all things related to MLS rules, it's confusing.