The start of the MLS season is 10 days away, but the final day of training camp is essentially today for D.C. United, which must send in a finalized roster to Major League Soccer on Thursday, March 1.
As it gets set for a preseason match against the minor-league Charleston Battery this evening, United still has 29 players on its training camp roster, 24 under contract and five trialists.
Curiously, after having a look at the official roster on the team website, D.C. has 15 players on the “salary budget” portion of the roster that counts toward the $2.81 million salary cap, and another nine players listed as “off-budget,” meaning their compensation does not count for cap purposes. Get this: four of them aren’t Generation Adidas or Homegrown: Stephen King, Nick DeLeon, Joe Willis and Chris Korb.
There are two other things that also make this particularly interesting, according MLS roster rules (so thankful for this, by the way). First, United needs a minimum of 18 players on its salary budget list. That means it has three spots to fill in this regard by tomorrow. Second, the maximum number of off-budget players is 10, meaning D.C. has just one spot remaining in this capacity as the roster is currently structured.
First, let’s look at the trialists and evaluate whether they’ll stick around:
Lance Rozeboom – given his versatility and performance so far, the rookie supplemental draft pick has to be considered the frontrunner to claim a roster spot. Guilherme – It makes sense for the Brazilian to stick around and provide cover, or start, at left back. As an international, he would be headed onto the salary budget roster. Jose Burciaga – If United keeps him, he helps fill depth needs in defense and takes a spot on the salary budget roster. The team has consistently played down his relevance, but he's still in camp. Ryan Richter, Seth C’deBaca – It’s a bit more difficult to determine with these two. C’deBaca, a Georgetown grad, has essentially been on trial for six months, having joined first-team training sessions last summer. It feels like D.C. United is afraid of cutting him but can’t convince themselves that he’s worth signing. With the Hoyas, he also never had a perfect spot either, but simply performed no matter where the team played him. Richter, who was with Philadelphia last season, has stuck since the start of training camp – he came on in the 88th minute of last weekend’s preseason match against Chicago.
The larger trick has to do with getting the roster compliant. If United keeps Burciaga and Guilherme, they still need to move one more player to the salary budget roster. Presumably, that would be King, DeLeon, Willis or Korb, who it’s possible that United has kept on the off-budget list as a salary cap measure. If Burciaga goes, then two players would have to move to salary budget column.
Rozeboom is almost certain to take a spot on the off-budget list, if possible. But if this section of the roster is filled to the maximum of 10, it won’t leave any room for academy signings.
Clearly, it's tricky, and it appears that D.C. United has plenty of work left in the next 24 hours besides a preseason match.