Reporting for Yahoo Sports, Kristian Dyer advises that Leicester City and Reading have been scouting the New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence "extensively" over the past few months. Further, and of more direct interest to RBNY fans, Dyer cites a league source's belief that both clubs might table bids for the Jamaican left back "within the next 10 days."
Concerning news for RBNY, who just released two left backs - Roy Miller and Anthony Wallace. Were Lawrence to move on, it would leave the Red Bulls without a clear starter on the left side of defense (though Connor Lade might reasonably dispute that statement), and with a clear priority for the off-season.
Dyer also reports the contract that ties Lawrence to RBNY for the 2016 season will pay the player $65,000 for the year. That is not a lot of money by MLS standards, and a comically low wage for England's Premier League (where Leicester City currently occupy second place in the table) or even the Championship (where Reading sits ninth, one point outside the playoff places).
The rumor is in keeping with the impression - studiously ignored by the MLS commentariat - that the 23-year-old Jamaican has rapidly established himself as one of the best players at his position in CONCACAF, and certainly one of the elite left backs in his current league.
There is, however, one apparent obstacle Lawrence and his English suitors will have to clear before he can move to a well-deserved payday in the UK: England's work permit regulations for professional footballers. Unless Lawrence has an EU passport or the lawyers in Leicester or Reading have a canny workaround, the Jamaican does not seem to be eligible for a work permit in England.
Earlier this year, England's Football Association introduced stricter criteria for the granting of its "Governing Body Endorsement" to foreign players seeking work permits to play in the UK. Those criteria basically require that a player have played a certain number of international matches over the two-year period preceding the application. No problem for Lawrence there: he is a regular starter for Jamaica, accumulating 29 caps since his debut in 2013.
The problem is only the top 50 nations on FIFA's world rankings are eligible. Jamaica is currently ranked 54th. Its average ranking for the 24-month period preceding August 2015 (the English FA keeps a handy document available for all to review) is 81st. Kemar Lawrence does not currently have the sort of profile that gets a player a work permit to play soccer in England.
Unless, of course, he is granted an exception. Appeals to the process can be brought to the "Exceptions Panel", and that panel recently gave its blessing to Chelsea's Bertrand Traore. He plays his international soccer for Burkina Faso (62nd on the FA's August list of average FIFA rankings over 24 months). Reports at the time noted the panel can consider a player's value, wage, and the league in which he has been playing in order to determine whether a work permit is appropriate.
Conceivably, if Lawrence commands a transfer fee and proposed wage that establishes his value as significant and his achievements in MLS are considered sufficiently notable - he's in.
One imagines clubs don't acquire players they won't be able to legally employ. And it is also possible a foreign club might simply see Lawrence as an absurdly undervalued asset: jump in now, grab him at a below-market rate, and loan him out to a team in a country where he can legally play. As it happens, there is a team in a country where he can legally play that has already contributed significantly to his development.
If Lawrence is destined to leave RBNY, perhaps his new club will need to find him a team where he can be assured starts under the watchful eye of a coach who appreciates the value of the player. If he leaves the Red Bulls a little sooner than we might have expected, perhaps RBNY will be able to negotiate for an equally quick and surprising return. Certainly, if Lawrence leaves Harrison, the Red Bulls will be have an opening to fill at the left back position.