This part of the (traditional) summer transfer window is tricky for MLS clubs.
The summer transfer window in MLS closed two weeks ago, meaning the only incoming roster changes clubs can make is by way of free agents (and the rare transfer from USL). Meanwhile, most major European (and Middle Eastern) transfer windows remain open until the end of the month.
European teams leave business late, and sometimes plans change. MLS clubs are in a spot where offers may come for key players with no real way of replacing them until the winter.
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World-class players like Jude Bellingham and superclubs like Real Madrid set the market and move first, then clubs like Borussia Dortmund find a replacement. Then the team Borussia Dortmund acquires finds their replacement. These things take time and MLS players are by and large down the totem pole.
How does a club balance participating (and rising) in the global transfer market while ensuring they are doing everything they can to push for trophies without being able to sign a replacement at this stage? European clubs are more active in the summer transfer window, both in the number of transactions and the amount they spend. Players are motivated to move, too; it’s more advantageous for them to join a new club in preseason rather than in the winter, when clubs are already halfway through their campaigns.
There are plenty of MLS players still an active part in the European transfer window picture. Here’s the latest I’m hearing. All information was gathered from sources who were granted anonymity to discuss each situation freely.
The New England Revolution is a legitimate contender for MLS Cup. It intends to remain that way and keep its key players.
Star goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic is integral to that standing. New England has rejected bids from FC Nantes and Nottingham Forest and insists they won’t entertain a deal this summer, despite the player wanting to go to Europe. Their resolve may be tested.
The injury to Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois (and a bad update on the recovery of Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer) is likely to shake up the goalkeeper market in Europe. Madrid signed Kepa Arrizabalaga from Chelsea, who Bayern had also been trying to sign. Chelsea is now likely to add a goalkeeper and The Telegraph reported Petrovic is an option to replace Arrizabalaga. Al-Hilal is in advanced talks to sign Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. Petrovic could be an option there or further down the domino effect of Chelsea and Bayern’s next decisions.
All of that will impact what bids do (or don’t) come for Petrovic at the end of the window.
As for contingency plans, New England has had an interest in American free agent goalkeeper Josh Cohen, but a potential move isn’t straightforward with other MLS clubs snooping around as well. Atlanta United is atop the discovery rights priority ranking for Cohen at the moment and made an offer, though the two sides are far apart. Cohen has interest from Europe still too, with an offer on the table and more expected.
U.S. national team left back DeJuan Jones is another player gathering interest from abroad, with clubs like Stuttgart, FC Augsburg and Standard Liege interested. ESPN first reported the interest from that trio of clubs. Like with Petrovic, the Revs don’t want to lose Jones, particularly after starting right back Brandon Bye picked up a season-ending injury.
As for Noel Buck, the 18-year-old breakout midfielder will stay until at least the winter. With a UK passport (and a place firmly on the radar of England’s youth national team setup), clubs in England are interested. Talks have so far been informal and not urgent, as any deal would be framed for the winter anyway rather than this month.
The San Jose Earthquakes received an offer from Serie A side Bologna for Cowell, The Athletic reported on Thursday.
San Jose remains in active discussions with Bologna and other clubs about Cowell. ESPN reported the latest bid is a loan with a purchase option set at $3 million and could rise to $5.5 million with add-ons. San Jose has been expecting the widespread interest in Cowell to turn to offers this summer.
Cowell, 19, has eight caps with the USMNT, including featuring at the Gold Cup this summer, and was the United States’ leading scorer at the U-20 World Cup in May. He has one goal for the national team.
Cowell is a key player for San Jose, starting all 13 regular season games for San Jose that he’s been available for, but they did bolster the attack with further options in Canadian international Ayo Akinola and USMNT forward Matthew Hoppe, both on loan. The moves give Luchi Gonzalez further options if Cowell does depart before the end of the month.
The Quakes rejected an offer from French club Reims last summer for Cowell.
FC Cincinnati’s position has been clear for months: With the possibility of multiple trophies on the line in the club’s best season to date, there is no intent to lose key players.
Cincy sits atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with an eight-point cushion and just 11 matches remaining. It’s also are in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup and stands to be among the favorites for MLS Cup when the playoffs start.
Still, USMNT forward Brandon Vazquez continues to draw interest from European clubs. Borussia Monchengladbach remains interested, as well as fellow Bundesliga club Hoffenheim and Spanish side Cadiz.
In addition to Vazquez, 22-year-old wingback Alvaro Barreal is the subject of a potential European move, as Dutch power Ajax is interested. The 22-year-old is integral to Cincy’s position in the table and, as with Vazquez, FCC has no interest in a deal this month.
However, Cincy would be open to dealing in the winter at the right price for either.
The Philadelphia Union, like Cincy, much prefers to allow key first-team players to leave in the winter than the summer. That’s where things stand with Julian Carranza and Jack McGlynn.
Both players have numerous clubs in Europe interested. Carranza has been on the list of Europa League sides, while McGlynn has interest from England and elsewhere in Europe.
Carranza, 23, leads the team in goals with 10 in league play. He enjoyed a breakout 2022 season, his first with Philly, scoring 14 goals and adding six assists. The Union added Israel international forward Tai Baribo this summer, giving Jim Curtin another starting-caliber forward to compete with Carranza and Mikael Uhre and serve as insurance for when Carranza leaves.
McGlynn, 20, excelled at the U-20 World Cup for the United States and has been a regular starter for the Union when available. Philly has a glut of central midfielders and just loaned out Andres Perea to NYCFC. The Union hopes to keep McGlynn past the winter as well.
Star left back Kai Wagner is out of contract at the end of the season. He’s eligible for MLS free agency, expanding his options further to potentially stay in MLS rather than go back to Europe if the offers are right. Hope isn’t totally lost that Philly and Wagner could eventually find common ground, but talks are inactive at the moment.
PSV is the latest club to be linked with U.S. national team center back Miles Robinson, who is out of contract this winter.
Clubs abroad can legally discuss a pre-contract agreement with Robinson. PSV and others are doing just that. Atlanta United still hopes to convince him to re-sign a new contract.
“We’re having great conversations,” technical director Carlos Bocanegra said at the beginning of the month. “There’s no pressure. Hopefully he stays and we can help build around him for the future…That’s something we can’t control. We’re focusing on the now.”
Highly-rated homegrown left back Caleb Wiley was the subject of bids this summer as well, with a source telling The Athletic some were in the range of $5-7 million. Wiley is happy to continue his development at this club for the rest of the season, where he’s a written-in-pen starter. The 18-year-old is likely to move to Europe over the coming seasons.
This type of article isn’t complete without mentioning Thiago Almada, but there isn’t much new to report at this point. As sources have told The Athletic for months, Atlanta United prefers to keep the star No. 10 and is in no rush to move him to Europe, barring an offer they couldn’t refuse. In fact, Almada just changed his jersey number to No. 10 this week, something I can’t imagine would happen if it wasn’t expected he’d remain with the club until the winter.
Allow 𝐡𝐢𝐦 to re-introduce himself… 🔟 pic.twitter.com/JVFKkY0olu
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) August 17, 2023
Almada, 22, was linked with Napoli a few months ago but no new reports have cropped up. The World Cup winner has eight goals and nine assists in 21 MLS appearances this season, and will be integral to any potential success Atlanta can hope for this year.
FC Dallas and U.S. national team forward Jesus Ferreira is on the radar of clubs in Europe, but no offers have arrived to FC Dallas yet.
The 22-year-old wouldn’t be cheap in terms of transfer fee or contract. He currently makes just under $2 million per year in guaranteed compensation, per the MLSPA’s most recent salary release, a deal that limits some overseas options. Still, some clubs in Spain, Italy and England are keeping tabs on him. Despite reports in Europe, La Liga club Cadiz has not contacted FC Dallas nor Ferreira about a potential move.
Liga MX giant Club América considered an offer last month for Ferreira as well but went in a different direction.
Dallas goalkeeper Maarten Paes, who joined Dallas from Utrecht last year, is likely to end up back in Europe one day. However, interest is yet to turn to offers. That’s one to revisit in the winter.
Panama international midfielder Adalberto “Coco” Carrasquilla may move back to Europe this summer after joining the Dynamo in 2021 from Spanish side Cartagena. Teams are calling but no formal approaches have been made to Houston yet. The Dynamo expects that to change over the next two weeks.
Houston moved to sign a creative central midfielder — Sebastian Kowalczyk from Pogon Szczecin — as insurance in case Carrasquilla leaves this month.
Carrasquilla, 24, received the Golden Ball at the Gold Cup this summer, given to the tournament’s best player.
Since The Athletic detailed the fractured culture at Toronto FC earlier this season, the future of DPs Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne has been in question.
At this stage, it seems more likely Bernardeschi leaves than Insigne. Bernardeschi has been linked with a move to Bologna and elsewhere in Italy, but no offers have been made to Toronto.
“Typically, with guys who have market value, where there’s smoke there’s usually fire,” GM Jason Hernandez told TFC Republic. “I’m not up to speed on what the latest rumors are with Fede, but as long as we have good players, we’re going to have rumors swirling around our guys.”
Orlando City has fielded calls for both Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara, but there have been no formal approaches yet or offers to contend with.
A German club has called about Kara, and expressions of interest from England and Russia have come for Torres.
Torres, 23, was part of Uruguay’s World Cup roster over the winter. He had a solid debut MLS season in 2022, leading Orlando to win the U.S. Open Cup. He has seven goals and two assists this season.
Kara, 27, has five goals this season but hasn’t always been starting with the emergence of Duncan McGuire.
Belgian side RSC Anderlecht has kept tabs on McGuire but no offers have been made.
Sounders trio Reed Baker-Whiting, Obed Vargas and Jackson Ragen are subjects of interest and scouting from abroad, though sources say the club hasn’t received official proposals yet.
The Athletic reported in May that Premier League club Wolverhampton were scouting Vargas and Baker-Whiting. They’re not the only ones looking after either of the club’s U.S. youth internationals.
Freiburg and Hoffenheim are keeping tabs on Baker-Whiting. The versatile 18-year-old can play right back, right wing and central midfield and spent time with the United States U-19 squad this summer.
Vargas, 18, was with the United States squad at the U-20 World Cup and is drawing interest from other European clubs. Ragen, 24, has a pair of Belgian clubs interested.
Baker-Whiting would be the most likely to leave this summer because of his place on the depth chart. Ragen is a key starter and Vargas has been too, starting all seven of the Sounders’ MLS games after he returned from the U-20 World Cup. That said, no formal offer has arrived for any of the three.
Seattle has also rejected a few unserious offers for Leo Chu from abroad.
D.C. United and attacker Taxi Fountas have finalized a mutual contract termination. The decision comes amid the second investigation into an alleged racial slur by Fountas in as many years.
D.C. United now has an open designated player spot with Fountas off the roster, while Fountas himself is now a free agent. He’s likely to attempt to resume his career in Europe, where he spent the first decade of his career between Greece, Austria and Germany.
Former LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire winger Aleksandar Katai was released by the Galaxy following racially insensitive remarks made by his wife on social media in 2020. A month later, he was signed by Serbian club Red Star Belgrade.
(Top photo: Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images)