To this point in MLS history, intra-league moves involving star players have been fairly uncommon.
There are a number of factors that have made that type of transfer difficult to pull off. The biggest is probably that when a player establishes himself as a cut above in MLS, domestic teams that might be interested in him have not had the resources to match what is on offer from other, richer leagues, both from the selling club and the player’s perspective.
Clubs looking for a DP have tended to buy from abroad instead, where there is a much larger pool of players available to choose from. At the same time, though, there has been a relatively mixed hit rate among those foreign players, meaning clubs are then loathe to allow one who has proven himself in MLS to leave for a rival.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Only three active players in MLS have been traded to their current team from another MLS club as DPs: Matias Laba, Giles Barnes and Kei Kamara. Laba and Barnes - while not terrible players - were dumped for salary reasons. The trade that took Kamara to New England was a more significant one, but was partially motivated by his falling out with Federico Higuain in Columbus.
But now the landscape might be changing.
The influx of allocation money into the league over the past few years has done two things: it has given teams more flexibility and margin for error by making it possible to add high-profile players on non-DP contracts bought down below the maximum salary, and it has created means by which MLS clubs can offer rivals significant amounts of money for their best players.
There is very little risk of failure for Orlando, who get a proven MLS goalscorer who fills a short-term need and has a strong connection with their fans. The cost of the deal is covered by the significant haul of allocation money they brought in by trading Kevin Molino to Minnesota United combined with whatever Cyle Larin eventually returns. Dwyer, of course, also softens the blow of Larin’s departure.
Sporting KC are taking the bigger risk - they now have to replace their first-choice striker in the space of two weeks - but also have the potential to come out of the deal a better team if they can use the money and cap space they have created wisely.
Which brings us to Los Angeles FC and Bob and Michael Bradley.
According to mlssoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal, there is an expectation around the league that LAFC - who join MLS next season - will make an offer for their new coach’s son.
They could trade him for a king's ransom, then use that money and the $6.5m they'd clear in salary to get just about anyone they want.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) July 27, 2017
I recommend checking out Stejskal’s thread in full, but the two tweets above outline why this is such a potentially interesting situation.
It’s very difficult, of course, to imagine Toronto trading Bradley at any price. He is the team’s captain, defines its personality and has arguably been - even when intangibles are put aside - their best player this season. Furthermore, he appears to be very, very happy in Toronto - and Bob Bradley may not even put the idea in front of his son if he knows that to be the case.
But if you take the emotion out of it and think purely on a cold, objective level, the potential return for Bradley from an expansion club flush with allocation money is almost irresistible. TFC could go out and sign whoever is currently at the top of their scouting list to replace Bradley, filling his DP slot, and then have enough MLS dollars to sign another Victor Vazquez as well.
As is the case with Sporting KC and Dwyer, the risk would be with the selling club. Everyone expected Tottenham to be able to build an incredible team when they sold Gareth Bale for €100 million, and instead they got Roberto Soldado and Paulinho.
But that it could go wrong does not mean the upside doesn’t exist, and Tim Bezbatchenko has more hits than misses on his track record.
I asked Greg Vanney what he thought about the Dwyer deal this week. His answer was - as usual - long and interesting, but it was the last thing he said in particular that stood out to me.
“I completely understand the move and I think it’s interesting that it’s so much money,” Vanney commented. “The more of this TAM and general allocation money that gets added into the league, the more of these types of move that we’ll start to see.
“And teams will make a choice, right? Do we want to build with guys outside of the league and internationals? Or do we want to build with guys inside of the league who are proven? And I think it becomes a really interesting dynamic.”
A lot of things would have to happen for Toronto to consider moving Bradley or any of their key players, and perhaps even discussing the possibility at this point is premature.
But when you glance at TFC’s increasingly cosmopolitan squad and consider that their international scouting is second to none in MLS, it is not hard to imagine them leaning towards the first of the two methods of team-building Vanney described.
If, as Vanney expects, more teams join Orlando in taking that second path, what would it take for Toronto to look at their own outstanding - but ageing - core of highest-paid players and consider capitalizing on the loosening of MLS wallets?