clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keep an eye out for news on Tyler Adams’ transfer fee

And don’t be too surprised if the reported number seems a little small.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York Red Bulls Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Adams long-anticipated transfer to RB Leipzig is official. He will formally join RBL when the transfer window opens in January, and his priority for the rest of the year - and beyond - will be finding a route to big-time Bundesliga football.

For the New York Red Bulls, Adams is the first player to officially leave the roster that delivered the best regular season in MLS history. There will be more to follow, with the club expected to announce its initial end-of-year roster decisions today - Monday, December 3.

The task of rebuilding the squad for 2019 is already underway. Trialists have been lined up and there are starters-in-waiting already embedded in the first-team squad. Cristian Casseres, for example, should be among the first to get a chance to push for the first-team minutes previously occupied by Tyler Adams.

A big part of this off-season’s roster rebuild is expected to be funded by whatever sum RBNY negotiated with Bundesliga brother Leipzig for Adams. Don’t expect to hear that sum from RBNY: “Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed” is the standard line from all MLS clubs regarding transfer dealings and it is the Red Bulls’ line in this case.

If it is a truly eye-watering transfer fee - one that represents a new high for the valuation of a player coming out of MLS, say - then certainly expect the figure to leak from some corner of the league’s headquarters. That is news MLS would like put out there, regardless of official policies. And the German press can be expected to find some whisper of a number to report once they dig into the details of a transfer that was announced late on a Sunday and therefore did not offer much immediate opportunity for the beat reporters in Leipzig to get started on their hunt for information.

Once the number is out, it will inevitably be a source of some debate: too big, too small, too something. But as MLS observers have already noted, the amount RBNY could really use from the deal is not all that high.

Paul Tenorio broke the news earlier this year that MLS teams would be allowed to keep all the money received from transfers of homegrown players. That was a change from the previous rules that required 25% of the fee be shared with MLS. So RBNY could be in for a windfall from the Adams transfer, but it won’t be able to spend all or even most of whatever it receives directly on roster building.

The understanding of the most recent rules regarding homegrown player transfers is that teams are allowed to use up to $750,000 as General Allocation Money - i.e. apply it pretty much any way they choose to paying down salaries or as ballast for trades. The rest can only be used more tangentially: to fuel the acquisition of a Designated Player, for example, or - as RBNY appeared to do some of the money it got from Matt Miazga’s transfer to Chelsea - to fund infrastructure improvements at the club.

In principle, RBNY benefits right away from that $750,000 of GAM. Papa Red Bull could write an IOU for the rest.

It’s probably not quite as simple for RBNY as picking up the phone and asking Papa for a loan whenever it needs something. All the clubs under the Red Bull Global Soccer umbrella are constrained by the principles of frugality inherent in the RalfBall approach to team-building, and a more recent push within the organization to get its teams to be more financially self-sustaining.

That is why Salzburg is proud of the fact that it funds itself largely through player transfers, why Oliver Mintzlaff is trying to grow RB Leipzig’s fanbase around the world, and (we guess) why RBNY has been trying to sell the naming rights to Red Bull Arena for a few years now. So just taking $750,000 from RBL and to hell with the rest probably doesn’t quite suit RBNY’s interests: if the club needs to fund its own growth, then it needs those transfer funds.

But there are all sorts of ways RBNY can get informal help from its membership of the Red Bull Global Soccer family: preferential loan terms; cash for that $6-million Argentinian playmaker you wanted for Christmas. Indeed, whatever agreements were made regarding Adams’ transfer seem most likely to have been settled quite some time ago - remember, back in July, Jesse Marsch said “we fought hard in New York to hold on to him, at least until the end of the year”.

Whatever deal was done was probably settled a while back - perhaps long enough ago that included a little cash advance for RBNY’s foray into the January 2018 transfer window.

Infuriating as it may be to some, ultimately the point of the Red Bull Global Soccer family is to generate mutually beneficial relationships between the sibling clubs. In matters financial, that could conceivably extend to an arrangement which sees RBL pay a little less than expected for a top prospect and RBNY receive some surprising donation to its cause from some other source within RBG.

In this particular case, the deal made between RBL and RBNY for Adams is important: it will inform expectations around any future transfers between the Red Bulls of New York and their European brethren. But RBNY’s most immediate need is for that $750,000 of General Allocation Money. The rest can wait, or may in fact have already been sunk into the squad’s #10 shirt.