Why intra-MLS trade prices have gotten so high; FC Cincy interest in Gruezo; Cowell contract details: Notebook

Oct 27, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) possesses the ball during the second half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
By Sam Stejskal Feb 16, 2022 22
MLS made substantial progress this winter in transferring players to foreign clubs, with the league setting a new, one-window record by selling 16 players abroad this past window. 

It’s not the only market that’s shifted for MLS teams in recent months. There’s also been a significant change to the internal MLS trade landscape, with prices for players moved within the league rising dramatically over the course of the last year.

By The Athletic’s count, the six most expensive player trades in MLS history all happened in the last six-and-a-half months, with four of those six coming this offseason. The trades included in the ranking were only moves in which a player was swapped primarily for allocation money and were ranked by the amount of guaranteed money included in the deal. The value of international slots, which are currently trading for around $250,000 in general allocation money, and the fact that general allocation money has historically traded at a higher price than targeted allocation money were also accounted for.

The 15 most expensive trades in MLS history

Those prices are in a different stratosphere than where they were as recently as the 2017 preseason, when the Chicago Fire acquired Dax McCarty, then one of the top defensive midfielders in MLS, from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for just $400,000 in GAM.

The reason for the uptick is, mercifully, rather straightforward: There’s simply much more GAM in the system today than ever before. 

There are a couple of factors behind the increase in supply. The most significant is the new collective bargaining agreement, which was first agreed to in February 2020 before it was redone in June 2020 and again in February 2021.