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2020 MLS Primary Transfer Window Review

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With the Primary Transfer Window now closed, it presents the perfect opportunity for our first dedicated review of the MLS. A total of 37 ‘significant’ transfers were completed during the window. For the MLS, significant transfers are classed as those in which a fee of £500k or higher was paid.

In total, these transfers totalled £90.18m with an overall positive variance of £0.42m. This reflects an average transfer variance of 0.46% across the MLS, meaning that the League’s dealings in the 2020 Primary Transfer Window are the most accurate that we have ever recorded.

The most notable dealings will now be broken down below.

Most efficient player transfer

We start with the players and more specifically, the most efficient transfer of the window, which was calculated to be DC United’s purchase of Edison Flores from Morelia for £4.04m.

The Peruvian winger came through the ranks at Universitario de Deportes and also spent time in Spain with Villareal but never made a first-team appearance before he returned to Universitario. Following a brief return to Europe with Aalborg in Denmark, Flores joined Morelia where he provided five goals and two assists in 26 appearances in his debut season. After building on these figures with seven goals and four assists in 21 appearances in the first half of the 2019/20 season, the player was purchased by DC United.

Despite the Peruvian’s impressive club form in Mexico, it is the player’s international experience that contributes the majority of his valuation. With 51 caps for the national team at just 24 years of age, Flores was a key member of the side reached the final of the Copa America in 2019. As Peru currently sit 21st in the FIFA World Rankings, The Incas are considered to be competing close to the highest level of international football and therefore Flores’ international caps provide a significant contribution to his £19.52m valuation, producing a positive variance of £15.48m for DC.

Most accurate player transfer

The most accurate transfer of the window was found to be Philadelphia Union’s purchase of Jamiro Monteiro.

The midfielder came through the ranks at Excelsior although joined Dordrecht as a 17 year old on a free transfer. Monteiro spent just a single season with Dordrecht before leaving for Germany to join Anker Wismar on another free transfer. However, the player was released after two years with the Club. After spending the following season without a Club, Monteiro moved back to the Netherlands to join SC Cambuur where he finally managed to kickstart his career. Initially joining up with the Club’s U21 side, by October he had been moved to the senior side and went on to make 20 first team appearances in the Eredivisie although couldn’t prevent the Club from being relegated.

Monteiro went on to make 43 appearances in the second tier of Dutch football before returning to the Eredivisie as he joined Heracles Almelo. In just one season with the Club, he was proven to be a reliable performer in Dutch football, scoring five and assisting three goals in 37 appearances before being purchased by FC Metz. However, the Cape Verdean international spent just six months in France as he was restricted to just six appearances in the Coupe de la Ligue and Ligue 2.   

For the 2019 MLS season, Monteiro was brought to Philadelphia to join the Union on loan where he immediately became a key part of the side that reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals before being knocked out by Atlanta United. Over the season, the midfielder made 29 appearances, scoring four goals and setting up a further eight. This was enough for Philadelphia to make the transfer permanent for the 2020 season.

Due to the low international standing of Cape Verde, little value is provided by Monteiro’s seven appearances for the national side. Therefore, the majority of the player’s valuation is contributed by his 29 MLS appearances last season. This provided a total value of £1.27m, just £0.35m lower than the £1.62m paid by Philadelphia for his services.

Least efficient player transfer

Finally, we assess the least efficient transfer on the window, which was found to be Kemar Lawrence’s departure from the New York Red Bulls. Lawrence began his career at Harbour View in his native Jamaica and aside from a six-month spell at Arnett Gardens in the 2012/13 season, this was where he remained until he moved to America to join the Red Bulls.

The Jamaican was a regular throughout his time in New York, making 118 appearances in four seasons for the Club. In Lawrence’s final season with the Club, he made 24 appearances and scored one goal before moving to Europe with Anderlecht.

Similarly for the national team, since making his debut at 21 years of age, Lawrence has continued to be a regular feature for Jamaica. So far, the left-back has made 58 appearances for the Reggae Boyz.   

Thanks to the player’s considerable experience in the MLS and at international level, as well as still being at his peak at 27 years of age, the Jamaican is valued at £11.34m. Despite this valuation, the Red Bulls allowed Lawrence to leave for Anderlecht for just £1.15m. This contributed a negative variance of £10.19m and was identified as the least efficient transfer of the 2020 MLS Primary Transfer Window.

Most efficient club

DC United are found to have conducted the most efficient transfer business in the 2020 MLS season so far, completing two ‘significant’ transfers. One of these transfers was the aforementioned purchase of Edison Flores from Morelia. Julian Gressel was the Club’s second purchase of the window, arriving in DC after a surprise departure from Atlanta United.

Gressel was selected by Atlanta United in the first round of the MLS draft and the eight overall pick and immediately became a first-team regular. During his three seasons with the Club, Gressel made 118 appearances, scoring 20 goals and assisting a further 36, winning the MLS Cup, US Open Cup and Campeones Cup with Atlanta. Despite this, the right midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements ahead of the 2020 season and was allowed to move to DC for just £614k.

As Gressel has never featured for the German national team, his valuation of £1.71m is derived solely from his previous experience in the MLS. Therefore, this transfer contributed a positive variance of £1.10m. Overall, DC United achieved a total positive variance of £16.58m in the 2020 Primary Transfer Window.  

Least efficient club

Our review ends as we look further into the business conducted by the New York Red Bulls during the transfer window, who were found to be the least efficient Club in the MLS. Similarly to DC United, the Red Bulls completed two ‘significant’ transfers, including the sale of Kemar Lawrence as previously discussed. The second transfer saw Michael Murillo depart the Club, also moving to Belgium and joining Anderlecht.

The right-back initially joined the Club on a season-long loan deal in 2017 from San Francisco FC in his native Panama. After making 22 first-team appearances over the season, scoring two goals, the Red Bulls made the move permanent in 2018. In the following two seasons, Murillo made a further 58 first-team appearances in New York, scoring another two goals and setting up a further eight. The Panamanian was also an integral part of the side which won the Supporters’ Shield in 2018.

On the international stage, Murillo has made 37 appearances for the Panamanian national team, notably featuring in the nation’s first ever World Cup campaign in 2018 and reaching the quarter finals of the Gold Cup in 2017 and 2019.  However, due to Panama’s lowly international standing, these performances provide little to the player’s overall valuation.

Overall, Murillo is valued at £960k, predominantly due to his experience New York. Despite this valuation, the Red Bulls sold Murillo for just £610k, providing a negative variance of £0.35m. After accounting for the two departures, the New York Red Bulls finished the Primary Transfer Window with a negative variance of £10.54m.

MLS efficiency table

PositionClubTotal Transfer Variance (m)
1DC United£16.58
2New York City FC£9.16
3LA Galaxy£4.59
4Inter Miami CF£4.51
5Real Salt Lake£3.71
6Nashville SC£2.71
7Sporting Kansas City£0.38
8Montreal Impact*£0.00
9Toronto FC*£0.00
10FC Cincinnati*£0.00
11Colorado Rapids*£0.00
12Houston Dynamo*£0.00
13Minnesota United*£0.00
14San Jose Earthquakes-£0.14
15Seattle Sounders-£0.47
16Orlando City SC-£0.49
17FC Dallas-£0.65
18Atlanta United-£1.10
19Philadelphia Union-£1.25
20Vancouver Whitecaps-£3.26
21Chicago Fire FC-£3.38
22New England Revolution-£3.78
24Portland Timbers-£5.57
25Columbus Crew SC-£5.70
26New York Red Bulls-£10.54
*= Club completed no ‘significant’ transfers in the window.


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