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Rumor: Newcastle United eyeing Kemar Lawrence

We couldn't keep him a secret forever...

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As MLS's summer transfer window closed, we received a new gift from the rumor mill: Newcastle United is eyeing the New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence.

It's little more than a whisper at the moment, and the MLS transfer window doesn't have too much to do with it: English Premier League clubs can sign players from outside England until September 1, and a league's transfer window only applies to incoming players, not those heading out. So the fact MLS shuts its transfer window on August 6 has little bearing on the ability of a team in England to sign a player from RBNY.

Great news: we have almost a month to sweat about the possibility of a rapidly-emerging star being snatched from the Red Bulls before he completes his first season in a RBNY jersey. Thanks, rumor mill. Thanks for nothing.

Except, there is reason to believe this rumor might not have a great deal of substance to it. Earlier this year, England's Football Association announced plans for slowing the flow of foreign internationals into the English leagues. In recent weeks, one of the casualties of the new work-permit regulations was, coincidentally, a Jamaica international, like Lawrence: Rodolph Austin.

Austin is a regular for Jamaica under head coach Winfried Schaefer. Indeed, he's been a regular player for the Reggae Boyz since he made his national team debut in 2004: he has accumulated more than 70 caps in the last decade. He also logged more than 100 appearances for Leeds United since moving to England in 2012. He is a proven professional by any standard. But he was refused a work permit in the UK this summer, when Sheffield Wednesday sought to sign him after his release from Leeds.

The problem for Austin - and potentially for Lawrence - is the new regulation stating only foreign players who have been regularly selected for international teams in the top 50 of FIFA's rankings can be granted a work permit. Jamaica is not a top-50 team at the moment, and hasn't been for some time.

The run to the Gold Cup final has boosted Jamaica's standing to 55th in the rankings, and the team may yet rise further with a good run in World Cup qualifying. It should also be noted that there are exceptions to the regulations that were not available to Sheffield Wednesday in the case of Austin, but might be open to Newcastle if there is a serious effort to sign Lawrence. Per the Guardian's article on the Austin case, quoting the player's agent, Darryl Powell:

Unfortunately the appeal process does not really work any more. If you spend in excess of £10m on fees and salary you can bypass it. But other than that there’s not much chance...

So maybe Newcastle - the eighth-largest payroll in the Premier League by some estimates - qualifies for an exception.

There is still the question of whether the Magpies need another left back. Newcastle has 23-year-old Wales international Paul Dummett and 22-year-old Massadio Haidara on its books at present.

Still, EPL clubs are pretty much permanently seeking to improve their squads, and Lawrence has been on a conspicuously hot run of form recently. His performances in this summer's Copa America won praise from influential observers, and his contribution to Jamaica's run to the 2015 Gold Cup final snagged him a place in several Best XI selections after the tournament (Fox Sports and, for example). It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest Lawrence is the best left back in CONCACAF on current form. And his work in MLS continues to be highlight-reel worthy.

Chances are Kemar Lawrence is going to be given the chance to test himself at a higher level than MLS sooner rather than later. This specific rumor may or may not have weight behind it, but it is representative of what can be assumed to be growing interest from abroad in the Red Bulls' left back.