Updated on Tuesday, May 20: A spokesperson for the Union told me that Vincent Nogueira will not become a Designated Player as there was no extra payment to Sochaux after the team was relegated from France's Ligue 1. I was not, however, given any concrete information about the terms of Nogueira’s contract. So I am not yet able to prove what the truth is. If I find out more I will let you all know.
A proverbial tree fell in a forest of season-ending European soccer games over the weekend, and the Union heard it loud and clear.
Philadelphia Union midfielder Vincent Nogueira's former club, Sochaux, was relegated from France's Ligue 1 on Saturday after suffering a 3-0 rout at home to Evian.
The game was effectively a relegation playoff, as the two teams were battling to finish 17th out of the league's 20 teams. The bottom three teams drop down to Ligue 2.
"I'm very sad for them, because they fought hard and had a chance to save themselves with one game," Nogueira told me after the Union's game at PPL Park Saturday night. "We can come back - well, they can come back, I still think of myself as a Sochalien - but I'm sad, because they worked hard and now another fight awaits them to get back into the first division. It's always to come back up after going down, and it's going to be complicated, but I hope with all my heart that they do it."
The 26-year-old native of Besançon - about an hour west of Sochaux's stadium began his professional careeer at Sochaux in 2007. Until he moved to Philadelphia it was the only club he ever knew. So you can forgive him for still having some hometown ties.
But the news didn't just matter to Nogueira. It also mattered quite a bit to the Union's front office.
Soon after the original deal was done in January, the MLS Transfers blog reported that the Union would owe cash-strapped Sochaux a $150,000 transfer fee if the French club was relegated. Late last month, Kevin Kinkead of KYW and Soccerly reported the same thing.
That expense has ramifications beyond the Union's bank account. Combined with Nogueira's salary - $330,000, according to the MLS Players Union - the transfer fee makes Nogueira a Designated Player. A player qualifies for that status based on a team's total expenditure on him, including both salary and transfer fee. This season's threshold is $387,500.
There have been conflicting reports as to whether Nogueira was originally signed on a free transfer or not. Whatever happened, it came as a surprise that he wasn't a DP after multiple reports that he would be.
Unless the Union have a lot more allocation money on hand, Nogueira has become a Designated Player. He's the team's third, joining Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu.
Carrying a third DP requires the Union to pay a one-time fee of $150,000 to Major League Soccer. All teams get two DP slots, and if a team wants a third, it has to pay that fee unless the player is 23 years old or younger. The money is dispersed among all teams that do not have three DPs.
So there's another factor in the Union's ability to sign new players in the summer transfer window.
After posting my initial report Monday morning, MLS Transfers reported some more details of the Nogueira transaction.
@thegoalkeeper and source says Union already paid the second transfer $, non negotiable. It was closer to 100k than 150k.— MLS Transfers (@MLSTransfers) May 19, 2014
For those wondering: yes, MLS Transfers is an anonymously written blog, but it has a track record of being correct. As such, I'm fine with passing its reports along.
John Hackworth has acknowledged that the Union are shopping for a new striker, and it sounds like they're looking overseas as well as within MLS. As Kinkead pointed out, the money the Union have to give up could help in either circumstance.
If Nick Sakiewicz is in Europe looking for a striker, then Hack is good until at least the Summer.— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) April 29, 2014
Honestly, if Sochaux survives relegation this week, the Union could take the $150k and package it into a deal for an MLS striker— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) May 16, 2014
(The first of those tweets was posted a while ago, as you can see, and Hackworth's situation has become less stable since then.)
Over the last few days, I've spoken with some sources who'd know details about Nogueira's contract. None would confirm the specifics of the matter, but they wouldn't deny Kinkead's report either. I get the impression that there may still be some negotiations going on.
What I have been able to confirm is that if Nogueira is re-classified as a DP, that information will be made public by Major League Soccer. The league keeps an official list of all of its DPs here. Nogueira's name will join Maidana's and Edu's if the deal unfolds as has been reported.