The primary transfer window for MLS closed on May 12, but the rumor mill keeps on churning regardless. After all, the transfer window does not affect out-of-contract players and there will be a new window opening on July 8. So there is plenty of scope for continued speculation about MLS teams' involvement in the transfer market. Especially a team like the New York Red Bulls.
Recent RBNY-related rumors have ranged from the plausible (it seems there was something being talked about between Kevin-Prince Boateng and the Red Bulls) to the credible (James McClean may not ever be a Red Bull, but there looks to be some fire behind all the smoke) to the almost laughably far-fetched (sorry, Michael Essien - not seeing this panning out).
There is, however, one small but salient detail missing from all the rumor chat: the New York Red Bulls' MLS roster is full.
The league's rules are never as transparent as it would like to suggest, but some matters are difficult for even MLS's notoriously flexible attitudes to find a way around. And on the subject of roster size, the 2015 regulation governing the teams in MLS is pretty clear:
A Major League Soccer club’s first team roster is comprised of up to 28 players. All 28 players are eligible for selection to each 18-player game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs.
Twenty-eight players happens to be exactly the number of players listed on the RBNY roster at the moment. Actually, there are 30 players listed, but one of those is Ryan Meara (who is on season-long loan to NYC FC) and one is Irelyn Maloney (who is five years old).
So the RBNY roster is full.
That isn't an insurmountable obstacle. The team can still add players, but it will need to offload someone to make any addition.
The most obvious subtraction from the current 28 is Peguy Luyindula, who has been on the outs with the club since March. It can be assumed whatever issue is holding up the player's exit from the official roster will eventually be resolved, and perhaps the arrival of a new signing will precipitate that resolution. Nonetheless, as of Monday May 18, he is still listed on the club's roster - although he was most recently listed as "unavailable" in the league's weekly roster update.
Another option open to RBNY is a season-long loan of one player to USL. This mechanism was described by the league as part of discussion of Toronto FC's apparent roster rule non-compliance when the team briefly had 29 players: MLS clubs can designate one player on their roster as a "yearlong loanee" to their USL team or affiliate, thereby clearing a roster spot. (Although, as it happens, TFC cut its squad down to 28 players by loaning Bright Dike to NASL's San Antonio Scorpions; the Reds appear not have to designated a player on yearlong loan to their USL team just yet.)
Of course, once loaned out for the year, that player can't just pop back up on the MLS roster - certainly not if the 28 spots are filled. So, for example, it would be imprudent for RBNY to designate Santiago Castano, the third 'keeper on the MLS depth chart and regular starter for NYRB II, as a season-long loanee to USL: one injury to either Luis Robles or Kyle Reynish, and the first team suddenly only has one available 'keeper.
Therefore, if RBNY does go down that path, one would expect it to be an outfield player who gets told he's committed to NYRB II for the season.
Finally, of course, RBNY could simply trade or cut a player to make room for a new arrival - as any club can do at pretty much any time, as long as prevailing salary cap or transfer window restrictions permit such activity.
But right now, the simple point to bear in mind is that the Red Bulls' roster is full. Any new arrival will displace a member of the current squad, so any talk of a new signing ought to include some discussion of who will make way for the incoming player.
Does the rumor mill care that RBNY's squad is full at the moment? Of course not. The transfer rumors will continue to flow, independent of whether or not the Red Bulls appear to have space for any new players.