What Signings of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco Reveal About Toronto and MLS

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2015


Over the last week, Toronto FC has made a massive statement in the transfer market with the acquisitions of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. 

Altidore was officially announced as a TFC player Friday after the club finalized a swap with Sunderland that involved Jermain Defoe, who only lasted one season with the Reds. 

Toronto FC @torontofc

NEWS: Toronto FC signs U.S. international @JozyAltidore. Read More: http://t.co/Wm1TNFOE0x http://t.co/9wSakv61WP

Monday will mark another type of landmark announcement by Toronto, as Sebastian Giovinco will be announced as the club's latest designated player. The 27-year-old Italian will join the Canadian side in July after his contract at Juventus runs out, per Sportsnet's John Molinaro. 

Major League Soccer @MLS

.@torontofc set to unveil Italy's Sebastian Giovinco. Report: http://t.co/59pFRkeN4p http://t.co/5My8h4rNPG

With Major League Soccer entering a new chapter of its history in 2015 following the retirements of Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry, Toronto has helped continue one league precedent and begin another with its two recent deals. 

The Altidore signing continued the rapid trend of Americans returning to home soil to in the ever-evolving MLS. 

Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders started the movement in 2013, when the United States captain moved to the Pacific Northwest from Tottenham Hotspur

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 05:  Former U.S. National Team Captain Clint Dempsey speaks to the media during a press conference announcing his signing with the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on August 5, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greu
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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Toronto helped continue the trend before the 2014 campaign, as it brought in Michael Bradley as one of its three new designated players alongside Gilberto and Defoe. 

Bradley will be the lone man standing of the three unless the number of designated players per team is raised from three to four. Gilberto looks like he will be the odd man out when Giovinco arrives. 

Over the last 12 months, Maurice Edu, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud and Brek Shea have highlighted the wave of American players returning home.

Altidore became the 12th player from the 2014 United States World Cup roster to ink a deal with MLS, which is a significant number for the league trying to draw fans of the USMNT to its stadiums. 

Total MLS @TotalMLS

12 players from #USMNT World Cup now in #MLS Beasley, Beckerman, Besler, Bradley, Davis, Dempsey, Mix, Gonzalez, Jones, Rimando, Wondo, Zusi

Not only will the returning USMNT stars continue to raise the level of play on the field, they will also provide a bit of a boost in regard to attendance. 

Altidore's switch back to MLS, where he played as a teenager for the New York Red Bulls, is particularly significant for the national team since he will be able to play with Bradley on a consistent basis. 

Having two first-team players in the same club lineup is a rarity for the USMNT outside of the Sporting Kansas City combination of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. When healthy, Bradley and Altidore will be able to build up their attacking chemistry, which should reap rewards for the USMNT down the road. 

Bradley is expected to play as a holding midfielder at the club, while his position with the USMNT is up in the air after manager Jurgen Klinsmann played him in an advanced role during the second half of 2014. 

Even if Bradley returns to his normal defensive midfield role at the international level, he will have built a connection with Altidore. As a forward who is expected to hold up play with his strength, Altidore will benefit from having a strong passer like Bradley feeding him during the MLS season. 

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JUNE 07: Midfielder Michael Bradley #4 of the United States congratulates forward Jozy Altidore #17 after Altidore's first half goal during the international friendly match against Nigeria at EverBank Field on June 7, 2014 in Jacksonvil
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Although the acquisition of Altidore is an important one for MLS, the addition of Giovinco is the more meaningful one to the future of the league. 

Since the David Beckham signing in 2007, MLS has been labeled as a retirement league by outside observers across the pond. The recent additions of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard did not help quell that image one bit.

MLS has shown no fear in bringing over older stars of the game like Beckham, Henry, Robbie Keane and Marco Di Vaio, but no high-profile European has ever inked a deal with the league in his prime.

All of that changes with Giovinco, who has made 21 appearances for Italy over the last four years. The presence of the 27-year-old on the pitches across North America will force each team in the league to improve its defending with the potential of more key European stars looking at the league more seriously now. 

GENOA, ITALY - NOVEMBER 18:  Sebastian Giovinco of Italy in action during the International Friendly match between Italy and Albania at Luigi Ferraris on November 18, 2014 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

The league may not see a complete influx of talent from European shores over the next 12 months, but Giovinco's deal with Toronto proves the players' interest to join MLS is definitely there. If Giovinco is able to find success in MLS, it would not be shocking to see more new faces come over for the 2016 campaign. 

One of the main reasons Toronto was able to lure Giovinco over to MLS was the hefty payday it promised the Italian attacker. 

Exact terms of the contract have not been released by the club per MLS rules, but Giovinco is set to become one of the highest-paid players in the league. Sportsnet's John Molinaro reported the Italian's deal is believed to be worth $7 million per year. 

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 16:  Sebastian Giovinco of Juventus looks on during the Serie A match between Juventus and AC Chievo Verona at Juventus Arena on February 16, 2014 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

If that is the correct price for Giovinco, only Orlando City's Kaka would be paid more than him in 2015. Kaka's guaranteed compensation in 2014 was listed at $7,167,500 by the MLS Players' Union salary database. 

While it is great for the league to lure big-name players with large amounts of cash, the acquisitions give the players yet another advantage in the talks over the new collective bargaining agreement. 

The league and the players' union are in the middle of discussions for the new CBA at the moment,and player salary is one of the key issues in the negotiations. 

For the 2014 season, the minimum salary in the league was $36,500 for select first-year players. If MLS clubs are willing to dish out enormous sums of cash for top players, they should be able to spend more money on younger players as well. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 17: MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks prior to the 2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented by Adidas at the Indiana Convention Center on January 17, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the Giovinco deal fresh on their minds, the players' union should go into the newest set of negotiations with aggressive demands for an increase in salary. 

While league executives bay balk at a large increase, the MLS brass has no leg to stand on in regard to its salary defense. Acquisitions like the Giovinco one have opened the door for bigger salary demands for the average player. 

The two Toronto signings carry with them two completely different impacts on the league. But in the long run, they both should leave a positive impact on MLS for years to come. 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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