FC Cincinnati Has Options Heading into the Summer Transfer Window

FC Cincinnati have options this summer as the approach a new MLS summer transfer window.

General Manager Chris Albright

FC Cincinnati fans are not shy about their appreciation or meming of General Manager Chris Albright’s mastery of Major League Soccer roster mechanics. After years of struggling to offload bad contracts and shuffle pieces to make changes, the club seems to have a team in place making wise financial choices.

Finding a star like Lucho Acosta was only a piece of the puzzle. A club must master supplemental and senior roster spots, Generation Addias players, international spots, allocation money, designated players, U22 spots, discovery lists and more. The easiest way to think about this is like the tax code. A salary cap exists, but then a whole bunch of “exemptions” or legal ways to get around it were created.

Each season, we do our best to track the chaos and estimate the moves FCC and its team can make via our Salary Budget Tracker. We have seen years where making summer signings is difficult to maneuver. This year is not one of those years, so let’s dive into some of the neat things FC Cincy can do to improve and help boost the roster.

The Obvious:

In early May, Tom Bogert reported that “Sources say even before the broken jaw, Cincinnati was ready to move on from the designated player this summer and look for a transfer.”

We believe it is also likely FCC will be shopping Boupenza, so what does that do for them financially? First, ignore the cost that ownership spent on him and his salary. Since Boup is a DP, his annual roster hit is $683,780. FCC will get half of that back to spend in the event he is moved out of the club. Cincinnati will also be able to sign another DP once a trade is final.

The club would only need to come up with the additional $342k from its remaining 2024 cap budget. We estimate that FCC has between $800k and $1.4 million remaining after updating our data. Boupenza also frees up an international spot that can be used or sold. FCC already has one open.

The New:

It is rumored and likely that MLS will free up the three U22 spots this summer window. This means that FCC could add a player under the age of 22 who will avoid the salary cap. At most, a U22 player will only hit the salary cap by $200k. FCC used this trick recently to add Kevin Kelsy, who only has a salary budget charge of around $150k despite getting paid vastly more than that. This particular exemption is at ownership’s discretion, as FCC and its owners must foot the bill between the salary cap and the true salary + transfer fee. Cincinnati has yet to balk at a chance to spend on improvement.

The Buffer:

Due to some good cap management, FCC has room to add players that don’t fit the DP or U22 description. One important thing to remember is that a player added during the summer will only carry a half salary. So a million-dollar player is now a $500k player.

We believe FCC can add at least one and possibly two players in the $500 – $800k range. Current players in this range are DeAndre Yedlin and Yuya Kubo. Even Miles Robinson’s ($1.4 million divided by 2) salary is within reach. We are unsure of Luca Orellano’s loan fee and that is holding us back from pinpointing a cleaner number.

The only flaw with looking at half-salary numbers is that you want to build in a way that doesn’t handicap your next year. FC Cincy has a decent buffer in this area as well. In the event the team adds multi-year contracts, FCC can free up over a million dollars (Cap and allocation money) with the release of Sergio Santos and Alec Kann moving on.

-Retired, CST’s Ken Hoetker momentarily unretired to help with this article

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