MLS loves them some parity and part of the way that love manifests itself is the allocation order. It is just one of the many systems that rewards the worst teams in the league in the hope that it will help make them competitive. For those who forget what the allocation order is here is what the MLS rules have to offer on the matter:
(A) ALLOCATION RANKINGThe allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee. The allocation rankings may also be used in the event two or more clubs file a request for the same player on the same day when the discovery period opens in December. The allocations will be ranked in reverse order of finish for the 2012 season, taking playoff performance into account.Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is the other club’s ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS League season.
Since Toronto FC finished rock bottom of the league last season they are once again holding the number one spot in the allocation order. That means that Toronto holds first crack at any U.S. National Team player or former MLS player who left for a transfer fee that might be interested in making the move to the league this summer.
The last time Toronto held the top spot in the allocation order it was late in the 2012 summer transfer window and rather than using it to add talent they ended up striking a deal with the Seattle Sounders so they could bring back goal keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Toronto ended up getting a conditional draft pick for the top spot in the allocation order but that was at a time where the value was very low due to the imminent closing of the transfer window.
The prime example of what can be done with the top spot in the allocation order comes from that whole messy situation involving Toronto FC, the Chicago Fire, and Brian McBride. With McBride clear that he only wanted to return to MLS with the Fire, TFC were left with little choice but to deal his rights. They did manage to get Chad Barrett, a first round pick in the MLS SuperDraft and conditional future considerations for the top spot in the allocation order which the Fire used to bring back McBride.
Now Toronto hold the top spot once more heading into the summer and could be facing a similar situation to the one with McBride. During a Friday afternoon broadcast of the United States against Spain in the Under-20 World Cup, Taylor Twellman commented that "A little birdie told me we're going to see Carlos Bocanegra in MLS." Chances are pretty good that his source was a lot more reliable than just some bird if he was willing to go on the air with the information.
So if Bocanegra is serious about coming back to MLS his road to the league runs right through the allocation order and Toronto FC. There is a chance that Toronto could bring the 34 year old American international in but it is not a move that would make a lot of sense for the club. Toronto is already spending too much on defenders with Darren O'Dea, Danny Califf, and Richard Eckersley all on the books plus the club looking to extend Steven Caldwell's stay. Add to that the fact that TFC are almost certainly not going to be a playoff team this season and it does not make a lot of sense for them to add another expensive, veteran defender to the roster.
The more likely scenario is that TFC will work out a deal with a club that Bocanegra is interested in joining and that has interest in bringing him in. The ideal solution would be for TFC to make a deal to swap positions in the order with either the Portland Timbers or the Seattle Sounders who hold the second and third sport in the allocation order respectively. That way Toronto would get value for the player's rights but still remain in position to use the system to bring in a player later in the window should the opportunity arise later this summer.
If Bocanegra really is coming back to MLS this summer the best fit might be the Portland TImbers. They are serious contenders this season but are also looking a little bit thin at the back thanks to some injuries to key CBs. With Mikaël Silvestre out for an extended period of time they could use an experienced CB to provide needed leadership and stability for the likes of Ryan Miller and Andrew Jean-Baptiste plus provide an upgrade on Pa Modou Kah. Bocanegra would be a much better fit in Portland than in Toronto.
Toronto and Portland were recent trade partners as well in the deal that sent Ryan Johnson and Milos Kocic to Cascadia in exchange for Joe Bendik and a first round draft pick. There was some talk at the time that part of the deal was that TFC would agree not to use the top spot in the allocation order allowing the Timbers to sign their target. That report came out back when the Timbers were reportedly in talks to sign Mix Diskerud. It would be interesting to see if that handshake agreement would carry over to any other player or if TFC would be in position to get something more for their top spot in the allocation order.
As long as TFC remain at the top of the allocation order they will be linked to any player that fits the definition which Bocanegra definitely does. His return to MLS currently goes through Toronto and it will be interesting to see just how it plays out over the coming weeks should Mr. Twellman's bird friend prove to be correct.