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Allocation Rankings: Why did the Portland Timbers Trade up 1 Spot?

An explanation of what allocation rankings means and reasons why Portland made the trade.

Kevork Djansezian

Allocation Rankings Expained

Allocation rankings is probably easiest explained by calling it a special draft. When MLS first started they wanted a way to ensure that teams would not get into a bidding war for returning National Team Players. The allocation list is also used to determine who actually wins the discovery rights on players not currently under MLS contract. allocation order is determined by the reverse of the end standings, with playoffs taking into account.

Here is the language from the MLS roster rules site:


The 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 2011 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.

This means Portland moved up from the third position to the second position in the allocation rankings. This means Portland only has Toronto FC in front of them and if a USMNT* player were to return to MLS they would get him if Toronto passed. Which brings up the following question:

*The rankings have also been used for non USMNT players like Juan Toja, who left MLS in 2008 and then returned this year. Of course how each player enters the league is determined by MLSHQ.

Why Announce the Two Trades Together?

With all due respect to Ryan Johnson and Milos Kocic the biggest piece to the trades today was the move up the allocation rankings. If I am reading the tea leaves right the trade must have had a subtext to the deal that was not reported and that would be that Toronto will pass on the player Portland is targeting to bring back to MLS. Which means if Portland had not moved up in the rankings Chivas would have had the opportunity to sign the player or hold Portland hostage.

With Portland trading now this eliminates Chivas getting in the way when the player Portland is targeting comes back. This could be a January transfer window move or it could be a summer move that gets negotiated now. If it is a January move expect the player to be a DP but if it ends up being a summer window move the player might not be a DP but would have a high salary.

Both trades will make more sense in the coming weeks as we learn more about the off season plans of Caleb Porter and Gavin Wilkinson. This is a good trade which has the potential to be a very good trade if Portland lands the right player. Look for a discussion on who Portland might go after later this week.