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A Look at Sporting KC’s Spending Flexibility this Offseason

Sporting Kansas City has some room to spend, but it may not be as much as you want or think. Let’s look at where they can spend for 2024.



Credit: Thad Bell

The following is a guest post from Drew VanderPloeg, host of the Home and Away Podcast

MLS Roster rules can often seem as easy to understand as a thesis paper from an Associate Math Professor at Harvard finalizing their PhD. There are so many different mechanisms, gotchas, and caveats, that it can leave you looking like the Charlie Day Pepe Silvia meme trying to explain it.  Thankfully, based on some of the commentary from Don Garber during his media availability at MLS Cup this weekend, it appears change may be coming to help alleviate that confusion.

Until that happens, Sporting KC still has to abide by the current collective bargaining agreement as it looks to build its roster in the coming year.

In the latest episode of the Home and Away podcast, Cody Welton and I go pretty deep into the particulars of the roster building process, the different mechanisms available, and the limitations at play. That said, I understand that numbers and spreadsheet data aren’t always the easiest to consume in an audio medium, so I wanted to share some of the work I have done to hopefully help provide more clarity on what options Sporting KC likely have in the upcoming year.


You’ll note I said “likely” in my last comment. Due to the opacity of the publicly available data regarding cap charges, much of the math you’ll see here is what we like to describe in the business world as “directionally correct.” None of these numbers should be viewed as hard and fast, rather a reasonable estimation of what Sporting KC’s current available options are. The only publicly available data we have on player compensation is what the MLSPA releases twice a year. The figures you will find below are from that latest release and use the guaranteed compensation figure from that data as guaranteed comp is what a player’s cap charge includes per the CBA.

Final 2023 MLS Salaries Released

The problem is, we know that these numbers aren’t necessarily a player’s exact cap charge. There are other items that can impact it (transfer fee being the biggest one), as well as the fact that the cap charge is averaged over a player’s contract term, so if their comp changes significantly from year to year, that change gets leveled out.

We’ve also seen comp figures vary drastically from release to release, making it quite murky as to what a player’s actual charge figure is. Nemanja Radoja is prime example of this, as he was listed at a guaranteed compensation figure of $1,530,000 in the April 2023 release from the MLSPA but was down to $890,000 in the September 2023 release. Confused yet?

The point is that when you get down to individual player level, it is not difficult to find potential discrepancies in the data. Peter Vermes has been vocal in the past about how the guaranteed comp figures in the MLSPA release are not necessarily accurate with regards to a player’s individual budget charge. We have to accept that this is an inexact science given the data at hand, but when viewed at an aggregate level, still gives us a general idea of what options the club has this off-season.

Lastly, you will note I have allocation money applied to various player’s budget charges in this data. I have no inside knowledge of where and how much Sporting KC is applying allocation money to become cap compliant. These are merely guesses on my part based on my knowledge of the CBA and what makes sense to me. Where allocation money is applied is not the most important piece of this discussion, it’s rather looking at Sporting KC’s total allocation money allotment, combined with the 2024 cap, to create a total budget for the year regarding salary spending.

What does all this mean?

With all those caveats aside, let’s get into what this means for SKC. As the roster currently sits (not accounting for players out of contract that SKC may still be negotiating with), Sporting KC has roughly $9.3M in salary budget spending against a total salary budget of $10.725M. Three notes here:

  • Sporting KC has an open Designated Player (DP) slot, that will consume $683,750 of that $1.4M gap when used.
  • The actual 2024 budget (cap + allocation money allotment) is $10.455M, but I have included the $270K in 2024 General Allocation Money (GAM) SKC received from Nashville when they traded an international roster slot to them last summer.
  • You’ll note I’ve only included Senior Rostered players as they are the only players relevant to the cap exercise.
PlayerDesignationSalaryTransfer fee?Budget ChargeGAM SpentTAM SpentFinal Charge
2New DP SigningDP$ -$683,750$683,750
over/under$630,000$ -$121,992

How can SKC be active in the coming year?

One item that comes up regularly is the fact that Erik Thommy occupies a DP slot, but his charge is below the Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) maximum, meaning theoretically, that charge could be bought down and give SKC two DP slots in the coming year. That would be extremely difficult to accomplish for SKC because of the number of TAM players (players making between the max charge of $683,750 and $1,683,750) they have.

Those players are eating up a large percentage of SKC’s available allocation money leaving very little to buy down Thommy’s charge to get compliant and free up another DP slot. See below (I’ve hidden a bunch of the players to make it easier to read).

PlayerDesignationIntlSalaryTransfer fee?Budget ChargeGAM SpentTAM SpentFinal Charge
2New DP SigningDP$ -$683,750$683,750
3New DP SigningDP$ -$683,750$683,750
over/under$ -$ --$904,258

SKC would be well over the cap in this circumstance and is extremely unlikely they are sitting on an additional $1M in allocation money to get compliant.

In other words, I would find it very surprising for SKC to have a means to sign two DP’s this year.  Realistically, they could sign one DP and spend somewhere in the $700K-$1M range on the rest of the roster when allowing for some variance between my calculations and the real ones. When you consider those figures, all of a sudden, their decision regarding Gadi Kinda becomes more informed.

Kinda was a DP for his tenure at SKC mainly due to his $4.3M transfer fee, which brought his charge over the TAM maximum for his time in KC to date. His compensation over that time was under $1M/year, meaning there is potential he could be re-signed as a TAM player, and still allow SKC to go get a DP. That said, they would need to sign him for similar compensation to make that work per the math above and would offer little flexibility elsewhere on the roster. For both of those reasons, I do not think it is likely that Gadi would re-sign as a TAM player.

What should SKC do?

This is the key question in the MLS “Hot Stove” season coming up, and we will all have our own opinions on the most important areas of the roster and where to invest most aggressively. I think that in one way or another, the midfield needs to be addressed, by either replacing Kinda or re-signing him (which seems less and less likely every day). This is the most likely area the open DP slot will be used for all the reasons I have already laid out.

Whether you feel Kinda should continue on as a DP for this club or not is a matter of opinion, but I would remind everyone that DP midfielders do not grow on trees, and the promise of a new DP can often blind ourselves from actual reality of the player himself. That said, there is a personal life aspect to Kinda’s decision which I think is playing an outsized role in this conversation and may be the primary factor in how this plays out.

If we assume a new DP midfielder is coming in, there is one name I floated on the Home and Away podcast episode mentioned earlier that is hitting free agency: Kellyn Acosta. This may not be the big, splashy DP name many readers are hoping for in the vein of a Luciano Acosta or Hany Mukhtar, but he is a known commodity, has positional versatility, and would be an ideal fit for this club and system. He’d also add a level of bite that this midfield has seriously been lacking as Roger Espinoza’s involvement has waned. While he was a TAM player at LAFC, I expect his services to be in high demand in free agency, and there is little way SKC could sign him otherwise for all the reasons laid out above.

Once that DP spot is filled, the club could either stand pat and see how the first half of the season goes or use some of the remaining space to sign a backup LB* or a mid-TAM level CB (or both). Or they could hold the DP spot open and just get some depth at other positions and make a move in the summer.

I do think it is important to note that outside of Kinda and Ndenbe, this team will be returning most of its key talent to start the 2024 season. It wouldn’t be out of character for the club leadership to be prudent about spending in the off-season unless a player they are really high on becomes available. At any rate, I am sure it will be a significant topic of conversation on message boards, Discord servers, and your favorite social media platforms. I hope that I have at least allowed those of you that made it this far to have a more informed discussion in those arenas in the coming months.

*The majority of this article was written prior to the announcement of Sporting KC signing left back Zorhan Bassong. Bassong was a supplemental roster player in Montreal and given his limited playing time the last two years across three teams, it is reasonable to assume he will be in a similar position at Sporting KC. Should he occupy a Senior Roster slot, it is unlikely his compensation will be a significant incumbrance to SKC’s cap spending flexibility.

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