Frank Yallop and Brian Bliss have repeated time and again that the club was working with a tight budget coming into the season. The MLSPU released their spring version of the 2014 Player's Salary report today and shed some light onto just how tight the Fire's cap/budget situation is at the moment. Of course, the numbers shared by MLSPU aren't always reflective of the exact number for each player as it relates to the cap but it does provide a guideline for those of us who attempt to decipher the byzantine world of MLS budget accounting every season.
As always, these numbers are only good enough to get an approximation of what each team's cap situation could be. Allocation, retention funds, home grown rules, transfer fees, bonuses, and loans all can play a part in making it difficult for those trying to comply and adhere to MLS' budget restrictions to make sense of it all (and that's referring to the guys working for each team).
Here's my annual dive into the deep end....
The salary budget for each MLS club this season is $3,100,000.00 for players 1-20 on the roster. The following makes some assumptions on where the Fire might stand (the first number is the listed salary followed by guaranteed compensation):
1. Alex $123,750.00 $133,700.00
2. Amarikwa $ 60,000.00 $ 60,000.00
3. Anangono $175,000.00 $175,000.00
4. Duka $165,000.00 $190,000.00
5. Hurtado $210,000.00 $210,000.00
6. Ianni $150,000.00 $150,000.00
7. Johnson $250,000.00 $253,000.00
8. Joya $ 48,504.00 $ 53,504.00
9. Larentowicz $245,000.00 $251,000.00
10. Magee $350,000.00 $417,500.00
11. Nyarko $265,000.00 $284,500.00
12. Palmer $ 82,500.00 $ 87,000.00
13. Pause $ 75,000.00 $ 75,000.00
14. Pineda $ 60,000.00 $ 66,742.42
15. Reynish $ 74,000.00 $ 78,316.67
16. Segares $160,000.00 $173,333.33
17. Soumare $330,000.00 $370,000.00
18. Watson $ 71,663.00 $ 82,664.99
Players 1-20 make up the "on budget" totals for each club and keeping spots 19-20 open in order to use that space as allocation funds is no longer an option. Instead clubs can spread the cap amount out among 18 or 19 players. Here are the 2014 rules to add to the confusion. The Fire's total for players 1-18 sits at $3,143,759.00 by assuming that both Magee and Anangono occupy the maximum budget charge of $387,500.00 and that Philadelphia is carrying $150,000.00 of Soumare's guaranteed number this season.
The Fire needed allocation money in exchange for Austin Berry in order to get "cap compliant" coming into the season so it's not difficult to see how tight they are considering Chris Rolfe's guaranteed dollars were included in the equation at the time. The Fire were able to clear space by trading Rolfe (whose guaranteed salary is listed at $225,000.00 this year) even though they are reportedly still paying a portion of that. For the sake of this exercise let's assume the Fire are paying $70,000.00 of Rolfe's deal and were able to get $50,000.00 in allocation from DC in exchange. The net hit to the cap would still save the Fire a significant chunk of budget space. Depending on the specifics of the exchange it appears that Chicago has made somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.00 available by moving Rolfe out east.
It's also interesting to note that Sean Johnson's guaranteed compensation is $100,000.00 higher than it was last season. We can speculate that either Johnson's final year of his rookie deal had an escalation, the Fire have used retention funds to increase the wage, or the long rumored contract extension is in the works. Patrick Nyarko's number is $35K higher than it was in 2013, Jeff Larentowicz's is $20K more, as is Jhon Kennedy Hurtado's, and Juan Luis Anangono went up by $55K.
Dilly Duka's guaranteed compensation went the other way, from $273K in 2013 to $190K this year. Logan Pause also took a significant pay cut to stay in Chicago this season. Pause pulled down over $197K last season and re-joined the club for a modest $75K after being left available in the Re-enrty draft.
The Fire also officially announced today that Magee had agreed to a new contract (funny how that timing worked out) but per standard, "terms of the deal were not disclosed." Although MLSPU lists his guaranteed compensation at $417,500.00 which is above the maximum budget hit, he apparently is not considered a Designated Player. Juan Luis Anangono still is a DP by virtue of the transfer fee paid for him last year. Go figure.
These salaries do not count against the cap:
1. Barouch $ 48,825.00 $ 48,825.00
2. Cochrane $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
3. Franco $ 36,500.00 $ 36,500.00
4. Gentile $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
5. Jumper $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
6. Kann $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
7. Kinney $ 48,825.00 $ 48,825.00
8. Ritter $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
9. Shipp $ 70,000.00 $ 95,000.00
10. Ward $ 48,500.00 $ 48,500.00
Giuseppe Gentile has been loaned to USL-Pro's Charlotte Eagles and his salary wasn't big enough to move him into an on-budget spot but his absence does create an opening on the roster. The Fire are currently one man below Yallop's target of a 28 man squad.
As homegrown players Chris Ritter and Harry Shipp aren't counted towards the cap number. I've included Pineda in the "on-budget" category since MLS limits the amount of "off-budget" money which can be allocated to homegrowns although there is no limit to how many you can sign to your roster.
It is also unknown how loan fees for Joya and Ward affect the overall budget.
The Fire have created some flexibility by moving Rolfe according to the technical staff and another move or two to clear some space isn't out of the question. One thing is certain, Yallop and Bliss weren't exaggerating about tight budgets although they may have added to some of the log jam by adding Hurtado and Ianni this offseason.