There's all kinds of rumours around Andrea Pirlo. Will he sign with New York City? If he does, when will he show up? Now? January? Will there be a press conference announcing his signing today? No, I hear that New York City is going to unveil him the same way the Seattle Sounders did with Clint Dempsey -- halftime of Sunday's rivalry match with the Red Bulls.
But these are all rumours, with as much heft as a summer breeze in the New York subway. Thanks to the New York Post's Brian Lewis, we have a little more clarity:
Wednesday is a huge day for New York City FC, sources telling the Post that Andrea Pirlo will officially sign on the same day Frank Lampard finally arrives and joins David Villa at practice.
Meanwhile, NYCFC will top a $20 million annual payroll. Villa and Lampard make $6 million annually, the latter pro-rated since he just got his p-1 visa and starts practice July 1. Pirlo should sign for a similar sum and will join NYCFC next month, contrary to reports from Italy claiming he’d wait until January.
That actually makes sense. The MLS summer transfer window opens on July 8th, so there's no reason for Pirlo to be here in New York City before the first of the month. It's entirely possible that New York City could Dempsey his announcement, but Pirlo's currently vacationing in Miami.
There's actually another interesting piece of news there. If Pirlo, Lampard, and Villa are all making $6 million a year, and that payroll is topping $20 million, that means that New York City's going to have some real issues adding quality players unless they start shedding players.
Each MLS team has a hard salary cap of $3.6 million in the new collective bargaining agreement. Designated players like Andrea Pirlo count as $436,250 towards the cap. That means that $1.308 million of New York City's cap is already spoken for. That leaves $2.291 million to split among 27 players.
UPDATE: As several people pointed out, I screwed up the roster rules here. That's what I get for typing this on my phone. I basically confused a bunch of the details in the old roster rules with the new ones. In 2014, rosters were composed of 30 players; this year, it's 28. Each MLS team has a player salary budget of $3.49 million. The roster has a maximum of 28 spots on it. Only spots 1-20 count against that hard cap. The last two spots aren't required to be filled, but since the team would get charged a minimum salary if they go unfilled, they usually are. Those 20 players are considered the team's senior roster.
The remaining eight players? That's the supplemental roster. They don't count against the budget. Players 21-24 are required to earn at least $60,000, and players 25-28 will earn at least $50,000. Moreover, you can only pay that minimum to a player who's under 25 years of age. Basically, the first 20 players are your gameday roster, and the rest are your reserves. That's not always the case — Generation adidas players, like Orlando's Cyle Larin, are automatically supplemental roster players — but that's one way to think of it.
Here's where things get interesting and tricky. MLS doesn't just have a minimum salary; it has a maximum salary, in a manner of speaking. The maximum charge against the team budget for a single player this year is $436,250. You're probably asking yourself: why am I referring to "budgets" instead of "caps"? It's because unlike most leagues, MLS player contracts are technically with the league, not the individual clubs.
In other words, each club starts out with the same budget to pay players. If they have the financial resources, they can spend more than that. That's where the designated players come in. Those are the players for whom the club, not the league, handles the financial compensation above the maximum budget charge. For example, with David Villa, MLS pays out the first $436,250, and New York City is responsible for the remaining $5,563,750, assuming that he's making $6 million per year.
Still with me? Good, because it's going to get even more confusing. If a designated player joins after the opening of the secondary transfer window — that is, the summer window, which opens on July 8th — then their budget charge is only $218,125. Guess who potentially meets that description? No, not just Andrea Pirlo; Frank Lampard, too!
Instead of $1,308,750 being tied up among three players, New York City may have as little as $872,500 tied up. That's huge. That's a difference of $436,250. For all intents and purposes, that's a fourth DP. Or two excellent non-DPs. And we haven't even gotten into allocation money, which can be used to pay down that budget charge.
Now, does that mean that more players won't be cut? No. For starters, any time that you can improve the team, you do that. If that means cutting players, so be it. I fully expect this roster to look radically different next year, and the year after that, until the club finds a core group of players to build around. Maybe that group includes players like Poku, Shelton, and others, but it's just as likely that it doesn't.
If, for instance, Jordan Morris signs with Seattle, and the Sounders offer him to New York City in exchange for Poku, the team would be incredibly negligent to reject that offer.
I'm also exceedingly curious to see how New York City's salaries look, because that's going to give us some idea of how flexible they are. It's cool that they can afford to splurge now because of the peculiarities of how the roster rules work, but starting next season, Villa, Lampard, and Pirlo will tie up that $1.308 million. So there's still a lot of unknowns out there.
We'll have more later, but I needed to make that update in order to keep things accurate.