Jozy Altidore transfer update: Major League Soccer is a hot mess

We have some catching up to do on Jozy Altidore, the decidedly not sick man who’s on his way to The Major League Soccer. Where he’ll end up is unclear, but Toronto media exploded last night with news the U.S. international could join sometimes-teammate Michael Bradley in TFC red. Could.

Here’s how it works: Jermain Defoe hates freedom and freedom’s neighbors and is going to go back to England to be overpaid by Sunderland. Get yours, man. In exchange, Sunderland’s going to send Mr. Altidore and a unjustifiable amount of cash to Toronto – presumably, technically, the transfer fee for Defoe (sometimes pronounced “32-year-old Jermain Defoe”).

Once the team coverts it into allocation money (by putting it under its pillow, obviously), it can do all kinds of neat things with it, like ‘buy down’ Designated Players from their lofty salary cap numbers. General manager Tim Bezbatchenko may be able to pull the neat trick of having more than three Designated Players on one team. Cool!

But this is The Major League Soccer, which means there will likely be The Complications – wrinkles complicated by a Toronto media freezing frenzy that’s led us astray before (to date, Diego Forlán has still failed to make an appearance at BMO). For one, while the scenario outlined above was fun and captivated more than a few MLS diehards on a Tuesday, it’s poppycock. Player swaps, as trades are called elsewhere around the world, are actually better thought of as dependent, coinciding transfers, something that can’t happen in this case because of a maze of MLS rules.

To that end, trusted voice Jeff Carlisle has relayed some information from Mr. Bezbatchenko himself: Jozy is going to go through allocation. And surprise, surprise: Toronto is not at the top of that order. Montréal is, with the Reds sitting sixth.

What’s allocation order? Oh, yeah. That probably deserves some explaining, too, but this is neither the time nor place. Just know that even if Toronto wanted to sign Jozy, and even if it could get some sucker to throw in $11 million to take Defoe (something that appears to be happening regardless), it doesn’t have the right to just unilaterally add him to the roster. At least, not in this case. It has to get in line, North American-style. That means a draft, of some kind.

If Toronto was signing him of its own accord, he could go straight into the team (in theory). But it’s not. Altidore is going to be “league signing,” much like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who came back to MLS after the league funded part of the deal.

What’s that, you say? Dempsey and Bradley didn’t go through allocation either? Oh, shit. Well, the past is the past, and future is now, and in that glorious, dystopian clusterfuck that is The Major League Soccer’s rulebook (what rulebook?), Altidore now goes through allocation. Which means Toronto’s going to have to trade up to get him.

Make sense? It shouldn’t. Nobody knows what the hell is going on, and I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a bell or a whistle in the last 18 hours’ events. Still, some universal truths remain. Jozy Altidore still needs to leave Sunderland, and Major League Soccer is a mess off the field. Not that that mess isn’t producing one hell of an off-season:

Bring on March. Bring on games. Bring on a roster lockdown, so we don’t have to think about this anymore. Just get Diego Valeri back healthy so we can remember some of the positives about MLS. And if his knee doesn’t fully recover, I’m converting to Liga MX. Or golf.


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