There is no question that New York City FC and the rest of the Major League Soccer sides are limited in growing their teams. The salary cap and the limits on contract salaries can make it difficult to entice the best players in the world. Lionel Messi and his friends might be an outlier, but countries like Saudi Arabia are convincing players to go there due to their insane salaries.
Undoubtedly, MLS could never compete with clubs that appear to have endless funds. Increasing the ability to pay players more, including the addition of a fourth Designated Player, would surely help convince some European and South American stars to come to Canada and the United States.
Even NYCFC would have an advantage if teams could spend more on salaries. Since the Pigeons are a part of City Football Group, they have the money to spend. Restrictions in MLS hurt the investment of the Bronx side.
So, when the rumors of a fourth DP were swirling, many were excited by the idea. It would aid in the growth of every team. More importantly, that meant more DP-level players could join a MLS side.
MLS should add a fourth DP
NYCFC could use a fourth DP. Currently, their three are Talles Magno, Thiago Martins, and Santiago Rodríguez. If the Pigeons had another DP spot to use, then they could sign a striker. It could be an up-and-coming talent from Europe or South America. It could be an established star from a top European league who is ready to move elsewhere and still play at a higher level.
Additionally, a fourth DP player could move MLS in the right direction of expanding their salary cap. Yes, the roster spot does not impact the cap too much, but it could be a chain reaction. It would also hopefully lead to an increase in salaries for every player.
More importantly, the league itself could make money. Higher talent and stars can encourage those who have not followed MLS before to start following a team. This could increase fans, which is needed since a high portion of games are behind a paywall with Apple TV.
Alas, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has announced that NYCFC and the rest of MLS will not get another DP. That is ultimately the wrong decision. The league has Messi now, so why not add another so more stars can arrive?
Notably, Garber and his team could have other salary changes that will be introduced in 2024. He did say that there will be announcements next week but did not confirm whether that would be about spending and salaries.
It would be silly not to make changes when the biggest star in the world is playing in your backyard. NYCFC and every other team, except Inter Miami CF, are limited with who they can sign. More money would help them. A fourth DP would be groundbreaking, even though it is just one move. Why does Garber have such hesitation in bringing that change to MLS?
Plus, it would show supporters that the league is serious in its commitment to growth. With the rise of other leagues, MLS cannot be left behind. To move forward, money is sadly the way through. At the same time, it could eventually not be the whole story. Supposedly, Messi has been able to convince some of his friends to play for lower salaries by joining him, so maybe that can be the case for other teams that sign bigger stars.
If MLS is not to add another DP, then hopefully, the salary cap will increase significantly. NYCFC needs to sign higher-level talent. With the recent roster announcements, there is some room. But ultimately, changes are needed, especially since Messi is in MLS.
It is a shame there will not be a fourth DP. Truthfully, MLS should reverse the decision. It was supported by the fans, and probably the players too. Regardless of the upcoming changes, or possibly the lack of, New York City FC must do everything in its power to sign players to compete in the upcoming season.