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The MLS ‘Discovery’ process explained

If you are an MLS fan you have sure heard about the discovery process at some point. The discovery process is used to determine which teams get new players coming in to MLS. If a team has a claim on a player and the league signs the player, then the team gets the player. Simple enough? Definitely.

So how did this mysterious process get to the point where stories were circulating about teams using it to stop other teams from signing players? MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis basically called suggestions that teams could block other team’s bids for players a fairy tale because a team putting in a claim must either sign the player or move out of the way.

This might sound like a completely new approach to the process, but Gazidis insists that this has been the case all along.

So what does this mean for the long-running Lider Marmol saga? Well, MLS will reach a contract agreement with Marmol on a set salary the two sides can agree on. The Chicago Fire, being first in line in the discovery process, will have the chance to sign him at that salary. If the Fire can’t or won’t, then the next team in the discovery order (the Red Bulls) get its chance.

What should be noted is that teams do have some input in the salary discussions. The teams do NOT determine the salaries. That being said, MLS isn’t going to sign a player to a salary that no team in the league will pay, so there is obviously some input from the team(s) interested in the player.

What does this all mean? It means Chicago can have Marmol if agrees to the salary MLS offers him. Is this likely? Considering Marmol is a safe bet to be seeking north of $120K a year, Chicago will need to decide if he is worth the cap it. If the Fire passes you can rest assured the Red Bulls will pay the price.

Sound simple enough? Okay, so maybe it isn’t.

What do you think of the discovery process? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Funny how Chicago could’nt get him into their pre-season camp,but as soon as JCO gave up on Conde, Marmol shows up at Redbull. TAMPERING?

  2. lakaix15- you sound just like my brother’s kids…. “you’ve been on the xbox 360 for over an hour, it’s my turn now”

    rules are rules… whether they should do away with it or not is not what im debating… the fire put the claim in, thus we get first crack… its not a whether we had our chance, b/c as Steve pointed out, we truely didnt have a chance…. we neither got the chance of accepting or rejecting…

  3. Once again, lakaix, it wasn’t a matter of Chicago not coming to an agreement with the guy, it was MLS. The LEAGUE sez he wanted more than the LEAGUE was willing to sign him for.

    IF, as someone estimated earlier, the league can sign ‘im for $120,000, then consider him Chicago’s. The Fire have that kind of cap space. The league is talking to Chicago and New Jersey, and is well aware of what kind of cap space both teams have. They may both have a fair amount of cap space, but don’t figure on NJ having alot more cap available than Chicago.

    What sounds most likely is either:

    A) He wants more than the cap/allocation space available to either team, or

    B) Chicago signs him.

    Why do you think, in part, JCO is back down in SA beatin’ around the bushes?

  4. Lider Marmol continues to train with the New York Red Bulls, but that doesn’t mean the Fire has backed off of the player on whom it technically gets first dibs.

    “We have interest in him,” said Fire head coach Denis Hamlett. “We had interest to bring the guy in pre-season.”

    The Paraguayan midfielder trained with the Fire toward the end of the 2007 season but was unable to come to an agreement on a contract in time for the playoffs. Both sides eventually went their separate ways. When Marmol showed interest again in MLS, the Fire pointed out to the league that it gets first dibs because he’s on the team’s discovery players list.

    “We discovered him, first of all, but couldn’t get a deal done before the deadline,” Hamlett said. “We threw a different number at him than what he was looking for. When two parties are so far off in terms of what he wants, you move on. When he resurfaced again, and we found out he was trying out for New York, we told the league where we stood.

    – chicago sports luis arroyave

    hey chitcago…. you had your chance and you guys couldnt come to a agreement…. so it should go to the next player…. these rules are pathedic

  5. “Discovery claims only last a year and they cannot be used on draft-eligible players”


    But the Hoops just filed a discovery on a 16 year old named Dou Dou Toure and are negotiating a dev contract with him at this point. So that would be different as he is a draft age eligible player. Hows that work?

  6. I don’t care how anyone with the league spins it, the bottom line is tha this process shouldn’t exist even if it works.

    The point is some players can choose their clubs and others can’t, and that’s that. They need to get rid of this asap and let the clubs handle this. If a guy doesn’t want to play in a city, that’s the club’s problem. It shouldn’t be the player’s problem OR cause any problems for the team in a city where he DOES want to play.

    The MLS front office infuriate me to no end.

  7. Here’s two analogies:

    One: you ask mom for the car, she says no. So, you go ask dad. Mom is pissed and tells dad it’s no.

    Two: you apply for a job with IBM in Chicago. They want to hire you, but you want more money. So, you apply for a similar job with IBM in Jersey. IBM HR finds out and says, uh-uh, we don’t want our managers bidding against each other. If you want to work for IBM, we’ll work out the offer. If you don’t like it, work for someone else.

  8. Matt G – you also can’t discover/add anyone to your youth teams who is already on a youth national team. You can retain the rights to players who go on to join them (DC-Shaquille Phillips) but no team can discover Renken/Lleget/Gyau/Jerome/Watts/Edwards. The league will either put them in the draft like Altidore, hold an allocation like Ibrahim amongst others, or make up some new rule if they feel like it.

  9. All in all, this sounds pretty fair to me. I’m sure it wouldn’t apply to any superstar players (since they’d be coming in as DP’s, and the clubs themselves negotiate for the “above the limit” part of the contract.)

    As for New York fans crying over this? I’m not. If Chicago can sign him, great. If not, NY will probably do so. But it’s not like this is the only guy left in the world that can play.

  10. Presumably if there’s a difference in the wage agreed and what a team would be prepared to pay, they could top it up with allocation money?

    All in all, I still think it’s entirely wrong that a club in a country thatyou’ve never had any ties to can arbitrarily deny you the freedom to pick a club of your choosing.

  11. Discovery claims only last a year and they cannot be used on draft-eligible players. So that’s a no on Charles Renken, who I am willing to bet big money will be a member of the St. Louis expansion team when that time comes.

  12. is there an age when you can’t place a discovery claim? i’m thinking about charles renken, he is 13 or 14 i believe…does a team have a claim on him? and can they continue to renew that claim each year until he is “of age”?

  13. Rules like this are still necessary evils in this league.

    If a player really wants to play in MLS the team isn’t goign to amtter much. It’s hardly analagous to you or I moving around the country domestically. Look at our players who want to move to Europe are they choosing Austria, Sweden, and Norway or is it being dictated to them? A Marmol doesn’t have the bargaining power to declare where he wants to go (nor should he) a DP does.

    The two issues I don’t think are being taken into account are:

    A) It seems in this case that Marmol’s demands are more than the league values him considering terms couldn’t be agreed last year and are still dragging on all preseason. So he might never get signed by MLS.

    B) NYRB invited the guy to camp this year knowing they didn’t have the rights to him. Meaning, its their own fault if they end up not getting him. They knew, or should have known the circumstances going in. Instead they’ve continued to invest and get more ivolved with the player in an effort to sway the league. That’s a risk they’ve taken not one put upon them. You don’t move into a house before you buy it or sign the lease right?

  14. Wouldn’t the FIRE really want Marmol, and thus pay the price, just to be able to play Rolfe uptop instead of Barret? I think Chicago is going to make this deal happen. Just a hunch based on their personnel needs.

  15. I think alot of people on this blog need to realize that the MLS is not the other leagues around the world and that it will never be.

    In the US you don’t really have the passionate fans built up through the years to watch a team. People go to see winners or a chance at winning which means that there has to be a resembelence of balance.

    If a league only had 4 teams with a realistic shot of winning every year it would not make it in the US. Thats why every major american league has gone to a salary cap, luxury tax, or similar type of financing set up.

  16. CD

    You can’t imagine that I failed to sympathize with players sent from San Jose to Houston, can you?

    You and northzax are forgetting an essential point: this guy has NO CONTRACT. With anyone. (In the word’s of George Young, late Giants GM “You trade contracts, not players.”)

    So here is a guy who under the rules of soccer worldwide can play for any team that he can convince to sign him. Except here.

    That aside, my post was actually about something else – the practical effect of a rule that denies an out of contract player the right to negotiate with whichever team wants him. I’ll tell you the effect: it discourages them from coming here.

  17. Tony in Quakeland

    “How would you like thinking you had lined up a job in Seattle only to be told you’re heading to Columbus (No offense to Columbus, but you know what I mean.) You’d say screw it and find another company.”

    Are you proposing that the MLS eliminate trades also? What if you, I don’t know…played soccer in San Jose and then the next year you had to move to I don’t know..hmmm…Houston.

    If you don’t want to move, professional sports might not be the best career option.

  18. Tony:

    he’s a professional athlete. not controlling your destiny is sometimes part of the package until you get big enough to negotiate control. While trades aren’t particularly common outside the US, it’s how we do things here, maanger calls you in and tells you that you are going to Columbus. like it or don’t play.

  19. Ives-

    How cool is it that Jay-Z reads your blog?! I heard Diddy reads Sideline Views (a Galaxy fan…).

    Personally, what is irking me with this Marmol situation is the absurd length of time that this has been dragging on. I’d hate to be in his situation.

  20. In the Chicago/NY case, when is Chicago forced to sign player?

    Chicago could just hold off to the last day. NY would have no idea what to do. Should they leave 120k available in case Chicago does not take him? Should they say screw it and find a different player to be on the safe side?

    Basically, if there is not a time window (other than transfer period) then Marmol can still wind up unsigned, because Chicago can reserve the option (only to pass on the last day) and NY can pick up another player they are guaranteed to get.


  21. Using the term Discovery is part of the problem. The Fire knew about (Discovered) Marmol last year and passed on him. I do not see how they can re-Discover him this year. My understanding from previous seasons is that Teams were allowed to Discover (i.e. scout) players out of contract and bring them to the attention of MLS to sign – hence they were discovering players for the league and should have first dibs on them. It just doesn’t make sense though that if a team passes on a player it discovered, it should get another chance to re-discover the guy – put up or shut up.

  22. Ives what happens when the player doesnt want to sign with the team that first filed for discovery rights? e.g. Matt Jansen. Surely this area needs fixing!!

  23. It sounds simple enough. I’m curious as to why Osorio and most the RBNY fans are crying bloody murder over this rule.

    Ultimately, I think the league would be better off without such a rule, but until then the more savvy front offices will have an edge on the rest of the league.

  24. Well…I understand the leagues desire to keep a competitive balance, control costs, etc. But it is clearly counter productive to allow players like Marmol no say in where they will play. How would you like thinking you had lined up a job in Seattle only to be told you’re heading to Columbus (No offense to Columbus, but you know what I mean.) You’d say screw it and find another company.

  25. Are teams given a time frame in which to decide? For example, if the league signs Marmol and Chicago technically has the cap space, how long are the Fire allowed to mull it over before having to make a decision?

  26. This was more my question from Q&A. So if RBNY thinks (and would play) $250,000 for Marmol, but MLS says that he’s only worth $125,000 in their eyes. Tough Turds for RBNY. Got it.


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