By the middle of this season, Sporting Kansas City’s unofficial motto could be “International on the pitch, domestic on paper.”
The search for a Designated Player might be off for this transfer window, but the club is taking steps to make sure manager Peter Vermes has international player slots available when the summer window opens.
The club is maxed out on international spots but is pursuing permanent resident status for four current players, chief operating officer and general counsel Greg Cotton told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. They are French defender Aurélien Collin, Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, Brazilian midfielder Júlio César and English forward Dom Dwyer.
“We do everything we can to give Peter maximum roster flexibility,” Cotton said. “He’s always scouring the globe for players, no doubt about it.”
US-based MLS teams are allowed eight international players on their rosters, but the spots are tradable. Sporting have seven international spots, all filled, after sending one to San Jose as part of the December deal for left winger Bobby Convey.
The club’s other international spots are filled by defenders Korede Aiyegbusi (England) and Daneil Cyrus (Trinidad and Tobago) and Haitian midfielder Peterson Joseph.
Another key offseason acquisition, Brazilian midfielder Paulo Nagamura, already has his green card. Midfielder Roger Espinoza (Honduras) and forward Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) have logged time with their respective national sides but are naturalized US citizens.
Cotton did not have an exact timetable for the four players to get their green cards, but said some international spots could open up by next month.
“I think we’ll have one or two done before the start of the season,” he said. “Some will take longer. It can take six to eight months, but we have found a way to expedite the process and we will spend the extra money to expedite when we’re filing, if it’s important to the player, the player’s family and to roster spots.”
The cost – roughly $5,000 to $10,000 – does not count against MLS’ salary cap and can be borne by either the club or the player, Cotton said. He declined to say which players’ applications are being funded by the club, citing Sporting’s policy of not releasing contract details.
Permanent residency is easiest to obtain for “extraordinary athletes” – those who have played extensively in top leagues, won significant awards or made repeated appearances with their national teams. Sporting have been able to use that fast track only once, for former midfielder Stéphane Auvray, as he is a regular for Guadaloupe.
However, Cotton said, the club has been proactive in freeing up international spots for the past five years.
“In 2007, we were able to get [Armenian forward] Yura Movsisyan asylum status, and under league rules that made him count as a domestic player,” he said. “That was when we really started to be creative about this stuff. It could be that we won’t need all the international spots we have, but we always like to be creative in how we go about assembling the roster.”