7 Players Who Deserve to Be Designated Players in MLS
Major League Soccer is entering a new era in 2015, as Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan will no longer be around to display their talents on the pitch.
Filling the void of the two stars will not be an easy task, but the designated-player rule does make things a bit easier for clubs to go out and find new talent.
Although acquiring outside talent is popular, some clubs opt to reward their current players with designated-player contracts. The latest example of this is New York locking up Bradley Wright-Phillips for the long term after the 2014 season ended.
With Wright-Phillips' signing in mind, here is a look at seven other current MLS players who are deserving of a designated-player contract.
Juninho may not be the first player you mention when you talk about the LA Galaxy's recent success, but he is the third or fourth on that list.
The Brazilian midfielder has started over 30 games in each of the last four seasons in a Galaxy midfield that gets overlooked regularly due to the star power up top in attack.
According to the MLS Players' Union salary database, the 25-year-old made $325,000 in 2014, which isn't a bad chunk of change for a key contributor like himself.
The Galaxy do have a designated-player slot open for the 2015 season with Landon Donovan retiring, but it is likely they will bring in another big-name player to fill his void.
Although it is unlikely the Galaxy will actually name Juninho a designated player, he is deserving of the title thanks to his key performances over the past four seasons next to Marcelo Sarvas in the middle of the park.
The Portland Timbers already have the maximum of three designated players on their roster. But if they had to add a fourth, Nat Borchers would be a strong contender for that honor.
The bearded center-back was traded in December from Real Salt Lake, where he spent the last seven seasons commanding the back line, to Portland.
Throughout his time in Utah, Borchers turned himself into one of the best defenders in the league, and due to his growing profile, he was going to be too expensive to re-sign at RSL.
If he were to be named a designated player, Borchers would presumably see a hike in wages since the Timbers' cheapest designated player in 2014 cost the club $500,000 per year.
At 33, earning a spike in salary from the $225,000 he earned in 2014 would help Borchers finish off a splendid career in style.
Anyone who watched Lee Nguyen play in 2014 can tell you he deserves a raise.
The Most Valuable Player candidate scored 20 goals during New England's run to the MLS Cup Final, where it eventually came up short in extra time against LA.
One of the reasons why the Revolution advanced so far in the postseason was owner Robert Kraft's willingness to finally spend money on a big-name player like Jermaine Jones.
While Nguyen isn't worthy of the $3.2 million per year Jones is earning, he is deserving of a raise from the $175,000 he earned this season.
Promoting Nguyen to a designated player would signal Kraft's long-term commitment in investing in the club. And it would also help turn away foreign suitors interested in the United States international.
Vincent Nogueira was rescued from relegation-stricken Sochaux in Ligue 1 by the Philadelphia Union before the 2014 season.
Despite what the statistics say, the 26-year-old Frenchman was an integral part of the Union attack. From his position in the middle of the pitch, Nogueira was able to distribute the ball out to the wings on numerous occasions to spring moves forward.
Now that manager Jim Curtin has had the interim tag removed from his title, he has a chance to turn the Union into his team.
Nogueira is expected to be a crucial part of the Philadelphia game plan in 2015, as he should line up as either a second defensive midfielder or the attacking midfielder in Curtin's 4-2-3-1 system.
While his play does carry a ton of importance, Nogueira might not be moved up to a designated player if the Union can continue to pay him $330,000 per year, which is just below the threshold of $387,500 per year used for designated players over 23.
Bill Hamid deserves the biggest raise D.C. United can provide him with.
The 24-year-old American has been a rock in goal during his 115 appearances for the club over the last five seasons, including a 14-win campaign in 2014.
On countless occasions during the club's worst-to-first season, Hamid made big saves in critical situations. His play also gained the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann, who handed the 'keeper a start against the Republic of Ireland in the United States' final friendly of 2014.
Clubs don't typically use designated-player slots on goalkeepers, but Hamid is worth every penny the Black and Red spend on him.
With a new stadium coming in 2017, D.C. needs to set a strong foundation of young, big-name players over the next two seasons to continue generating new interest in the area.
That game plan begins with Hamid, who could easily test himself in Europe in the next year or two if his salary of $100,000 per year does not improve.
During Portland's rough 2014, midfield enforcer Diego Chara had a terrific season for Caleb Porter's side.
Chara was second in the league behind Osvaldo Alonso with 4.4 tackles per game. He also recorded 1.8 interceptions per contest in 31 regular-season matches.
The Colombian midfielder does not receive as much as credit as Alonso, Michael Bradley and Matias Laba receive, but his contributions at the position for his team are as important.
With the Western Conference adding two more dangerous attacks in Sporting Kansas City and Houston for the 2015 season, an investment in defense is needed by most of the clubs on the fringe of making the playoffs.
Handing Chara the title of designated player may be difficult for the Timbers, as they already have three key players assigned to the role. If the new collective bargaining agreement allows a fourth designated player to be signed, Chara would be a wise choice.
Signing Wil Trapp to a designated-player contract would send a massive statement to young American players with dreams of playing professionally at home.
MLS clubs have been known to invest heavily in young foreign talent, but locking down one of the best young American talents in the league with a major deal would be a step forward.
Trapp enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 for the Columbus Crew, and he is only going to get better in the middle of the park for the Eastern Conference side.
The small-market Ohio club have one designated player at the moment in the form of Federico Higuain, who has been a key asset in the team's attack since his arrival in 2012.
Progress was made in regards to American designated players in 2014, when Sporting Kansas City locked up Matt Besler and Graham Zusi for the long term. But those two players spent six years together with KC before earning their raises.
If MLS wants to usher in its newest era of designated players, Trapp would be the perfect player to promote staying at home and thriving for club and country.
Trapp has not received a call-up to the United States men's national team yet, but his trajectory is pointing toward a call from Klinsmann sooner rather than later.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
All salary figures obtained from the MLS Players' Union database.