The 2019 summer transfer window in MLS officially opened on Tuesday, July 9. Who will the biggest summer acquisition be this year?
Wayne Rooney caught the headlines last year, while it’s been Nico Lodeiro, Jermaine Jones, Robbie Keane and even Guillermo Barros Schelotto in years past. Christian Ramirez, Justin Meram and Fanendo Adi swapped teams last year via trade, too.
Bottom line: There are moves to make this summer. Which contenders will accentuate their championship bona fides? Which team will grab a piece that will become a mainstay for years?
Updated on July 18, 2019
Summer movement: Atlanta acquired former US youth star Emerson Hyndman just before the window started and shipped Romario Williams to Columbus. Most recently, they added Mo Adams, capable of playing defensive mid or fullback, from the Chicago Fire.
Biggest question / hole: Left back remains a problem area, with Michael Parkhurst, Brek Shea, Mikey Ambrose and Florentin Pogba taking turns at the position. Shea is out with a season-ending knee injury, while Pogba, Bello and Ambrose are also out. Will Adams be the latest to get a shot?
Roster flexibility: Atlanta are maxed out on Designated Players, but have a senior roster spot and international slot available.
Rumors have it: Not much on the Atlanta front since Frank de Boer branded the reports linking Pity Martinez with a move away from the club as “ridiculous.”
Summer movement: The Fire sent Adams to Atlanta, though expect more movement. President and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said they are open for business following a disappointing run.
Biggest question / hole: Inconsistencies have led to their standing below the playoff line at the moment, though they could definitely use a fullback or two.
Roster flexibility: Maxed out on DPs, it doesn’t look like they’ll be swinging for the fences this summer. However, Rodriguez told media that he hasn’t ruled out adding one and figuring something out. They are without an international roster slot, though.
Rumors have it: The Athletic reported that there might be a fire sale in Chicago should results stay mediocre.
Summer movement: Cincy signed Dutch center back Maikel van der Werff and inked Kendall Waston to a contract extension as the first acts by general manager Gerard Nijkamp. They are still without a full-time head coach.
Biggest question / hole: To put it politely, there have been a few issues leading Cincy to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, ranging from goalscoring to an MLS-worst 49 goals against. Adding to their core for the future should be a priority.
Roster flexibility: They reportedly spent most of their Targeted Allocation Money in the Primary Transfer Window, though have two international slots and room for one more DP.
Rumors have it: FC Cincy are reportedly interested in American winger Joe Gyau, so keep an eye on that space.
Summer movement: The Rapids and Nana Boateng mutually agreed to terminate his contract. They are also still without a full-time head coach, though interim Conor Casey has done an admirable job.
Biggest question / hole: The Rapids could use a defensive-minded No. 6, as well as more pace on the wing and another center back, executive vice president and general manager Padraig Smith told MLSsoccer.com.
Roster flexibility: The Rapids have a DP slot open, as well as some senior roster spots. They will have even greater flexibility heading into next season once some big contracts are off the books.
Rumors have it: Homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett is reportedly a subject of interest from the Bundesliga.
Columbus Crew SC
Summer movement: The Crew have, by far, been the busiest team ahead of the window opening, signing young DP Luis Diaz and Curacao goalkeeper Eloy Room. They also added depth up top by acquiring Romario Williams from Atlanta and Jordan Hamilton from Toronto.
Biggest question / hole: On a landslide results-wise, fueled by injuries and international call-ups, the Crew could use help in multiple areas. Tim Bezbatchenko and Caleb Porter didn’t make many moves over the winter, so it looks like they’re using the summer to make major changes to the team.
Roster flexibility: Their early work in the Secondary Transfer Window limits some of their flexibility, with Diaz taking up their final DP slot and Room their last international spot for the time being. Ahead of the 2020 season, they’ll get back four international spots that they’ve traded.
Rumors have it: The rumor mill can’t keep up with the actual news the Crew are making.
Summer movement: All quiet in the district to start the transfer window.
Biggest question / hole: D.C. are still awaiting last year’s form between Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta, the latter of whom is out of contract at the end of the season. That’s the biggest cloud looming over the club this summer.
Roster flexibility: They have one DP slot open, as well as some senior roster spots.
Rumors have it: D.C. are linked with another Argentine attacker, this time Mateo Garcia, who’s based in the Spanish second division. Also: Yamil Asad is a free agent and D.C. own his MLS rights. Keep an eye on that. Also: Sevilla are the latest team to have reported interest in Acosta.
Summer movement: Dallas acquired Ghanian winger Edwin Gyasi before selling Carlos Gruezo for a club-record fee to German club FC Augsburg.
Biggest question / hole: What happens if a big offer rolls in for Paxton Pomykal this summer? Can 18-year-old Jesus Ferreira lead the line for a playoff team at this stage of his career?
Roster flexibility: FCD have all three DP slots filled, though should be able to buy one down if the opportunity to bring in a DP presents itself. They also have an international roster slot open, as well as a senior roster spot.
Rumors have it: Dallas are reportedly among the clubs interested in signing Chilean U-20 star Marcelo Allende.
Summer movement: The Dynamo inked Chilean defender Jose Bizama last week, their first signing of the summer.
Biggest question / hole: The biggest questions surrounding the Dynamo revolve around their stars Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis. Both have reported suitors from abroad. How large of a bid would be required for the club to sell? If so, which targets are lined up to replace all that talent?
Roster flexibility: The Dynamo have room to maneuver this window, with a few international and senior spots open. If Manotas or Elis goes, that flexibility expands even further.
Rumors have it: Manotas is reportedly a target for Cruz Azul, which is definitely one to watch. Nothing yet on Elis.
Los Angeles Football Club
Summer movement: LAFC sold DP Andre Horta back to Portugal, retaining 50 percent of any future transfers. They also allowed the loan for Niko Hamalainen to expire and sent the defender back to QPR after a half-season in the City of Angels.
Biggest question / hole: How do you improve a team on pace to have the best single-season in MLS history?
Roster flexibility: LAFC have a DP slot open after the Horta sale. Will they use it this month?
Rumors have it: Given the nature of the club and their scorching form, there surprisingly hasn’t been much noise linking players to LAFC.
Summer movement: The Galaxy have yet to make a move in the 2019 Secondary Transfer Window.
Biggest question / hole: Favio Alvarez has helped improve the attack’s creativity and they’re sorted in central midfield and central defense. An upgrade at left back wouldn’t hurt, for sure.
Roster flexibility: L.A. will have to get creative to make grand improvements to the squad, with little flexibility in both international and senior roster spots.
Rumors have it: The Galaxy have been rumored for Argentine star Cristian Pavon for some time, though any potential deal will be replete with hurdles to keep the club at three DPs.
Minnesota United FC
Summer movement: The Loons acquired Finnish attacker Robin Lod on a TAM deal, who had four goals in 23 appearances in the Spanish second division. They also loaned Romario Ibarra to Pachuca since the Primary Transfer Window closed.
Biggest question / hole: Minnesota plugged their defense with a number of acquisitions last offseason, but could use a left back after Francisco Calvo was traded to Chicago. General manager Manny Lagos told MLSsoccer.com as much last month.
Roster flexibility: The Loons are in a good spot, with a number of senior and international roster spots open.
Rumors have it: Minnesota have been linked with Finnish midfielder Robin Lod, who would require TAM money and slot in on the left wing.
Summer movement: All quiet for l’Impact so far.
Biggest question / hole: Montreal have a balanced squad that will be difficult to beat, though they will go as high as Ignacio Piatti takes them. Outside of that, perhaps another midfielder?
Roster flexibility: They have room for a DP and one international slot they recently acquired from Colorado (they have 10 international players on the books thus far).
Rumors have it: Despite reports linking him with a move back to Argentina, Impact president Kevin Gilmore provided a strong denial that Piatti would be going anywhere. He added that Piatti has a club option for 2020, which will be picked up. The club are also reportedly set to add Finnish winger Lassi Lappalainen on loan from Bologna, too.
New England Revolution
Summer movement: The Revs made the biggest splash of the transfer window so far, acquiring forward Gustavo Bou from Liga MX side Club Tijuana. The deal required a club-record fee, believed to be $6-7 million.
Biggest question / hole: If Bou improves the team’s goalscoring outlook, then the Revs suddenly become a darkhorse candidate to make the playoffs. The biggest question is the chemistry between La Pantera and fellow Designated Player Carles Gil.
Roster flexibility: The Revs still have an open DP slot, as well as another international spot.
Rumors have it: Bou was the big reported move for New England. Nothing new has popped up yet.
New York City FC
Summer movement: NYCFC signed Scottish winger Gary Mackay-Steven just before the window opened.
Biggest question / hole: With one of the best teams in the league, things are coming together for Dome Torrent at NYCFC. Their attack is stacked and they have depth all over the field. No glaring needs. Only question: What happens to DP Jesus Medina with yet another option in attack?
Roster flexibility: The club still have a few international and senior roster spots available.
Rumors have it: NYCFC were reportedly interested in Malmo midfielder Anders Christiansen, though the last update on that front came in mid-June.
New York Red Bulls
Summer movement: The Red Bulls have yet to make a move this summer.
Biggest question / hole: A solid team, the Red Bulls don’t have many needs. The future of Kaku is one to keep an eye on after the winter, and both Bobby Warshaw and Matt Doyle think RBNY need a match-winning winger to take them to another level.
Roster flexibility: Theoretically, the Red Bulls could make a big splash this offseason. They have an empty DP slot, an international slot available and a few senior roster spots open.
Rumors have it: MLSsoccer.com can confirm reports that Aaron Long is subject to interest from a Premier League club. The Red Bulls were loosely rumored with Romanian winger Ionut Vina, though there doesn’t appear to be much in that.
Orlando City SC
Summer movement: Orlando acquired Brazilian winger Robinho from Columbus, sending $50,000 in TAM and performance-based considerations. They also loaned Josue Colman to Paraguayan club Cerro Porteno for the next year and a half, the club that Orlando bought the young DP from.
Biggest question / hole: Unfortunately for the Lions, Dom Dwyer hasn’t had his best season, leaving points and goals on the table. They’ve vastly improved in defense since last year and could continue that trend.
Roster flexibility: With Colman gone, the club now have another DP slot open, as well as another international slot.
Rumors have it: No whispers around Orlando just yet with the transfer window open.
Summer movement: The Union acquired striker Andrew Wooten ahead of the transfer window opening. They also signed head coach Jim Curtin to a contract extension last weekend and signed Academy talent Cole Turner to a pre-contract agreement.
Biggest question / hole: Philly have a strong, balanced squad, especially after the addition of Wooten. The injury history of Marco Fabian is a concern, but with the emergence of Brenden Aaronson, they have cover in that area.
Roster flexibility: The Union have an open DP spot, though no international roster slots available. According to reports, the Union are looking to open one up by ending the loan of goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel.
Rumors have it: Not too much smoke surrounding the Union, though sporting director Ernst Tanner told MLSsoccer.com in June that the club will “very probably” make another addition.
Summer movement: The Timbers and former DP Lucas Melano mutually agreed to part ways, freeing up roster and budget space.
Biggest question / hole: After the signing of Brian Fernandez, it appeared the Timbers found the last piece of the puzzle. GM Gavin Wilkinson forecasted that they’ll “look to bring in at least one player” in this window, though.
Roster flexibility: Portland have several roster spots open. They also have a pair of international spots to play with this summer.
Rumors have it: According to The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal, the Timbers will acquire Tomas Conechny on a permanent basis this month.
Real Salt Lake
Summer movement: No player movement in either direction for RSL so far.
Biggest question / hole: RSL have struggled with inconsistencies in 2019, which is par for the course for any young team. An heir to Nick Rimando’s throne will need to be identified at some point before next season, while another fullback would be welcomed in Sandy.
Roster flexibility: RSL have room to add senior players and could buy down Sam Johnson’s DP deal with TAM to open another slot on that front.
Rumors have it: Joao Plata was heavily rumored to be on his way to Liga MX, though the deal fell through at the last minute. Keep an eye on him this summer. Another transfer target could be Jefferson Savarino, who’s scoring in bunches since returning from Copa America with Venezuela.
San Jose Earthquakes
Summer movement: The Quakes announced the addition of Mexican winger Carlos Fierro from Cruz Azul just ahead of the window opening.
Biggest question / hole: Matias Almeyda has worked wonders with largely the same roster that finished bottom of MLS in 2018. The biggest question mark is allowing time for Almeyda to identify more players to add and improve his team.
Roster flexibility: San Jose don’t have many senior roster spots available and are restricted a bit under the salary cap, but will have more flexibility in the winter.
Rumors have it: The Quakes are reportedly interested in Andres Rios, another one of Almeyda’s former players.
Summer movement: In the wake of Will Bruin’s season-ending injury, the Sounders inked Tacoma Defiance talent Justin Dhillon to an MLS deal at the end of June.
Biggest question / hole: What happens next with left back Brad Smith? Will the club find an agreement with Bournemouth to keep him permanently? If so, what happens to fellow left back Nouhou Tolo?
Roster flexibility: The Sounders are out of international roster spots, though have a few senior spots open. They can also buy down Xavier Arreaga to free up a DP spot.
Rumors have it: Not too many rumors surrounding the Sounders at the moment.
Summer movement: Nothing yet from SKC at the start of the window.
Biggest question / hole: Injuries derailed SKC’s season, but many are back or close to it. At full strength, the lack of a reliable goalscoring center forward remains.
Roster flexibility: In an interview with the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell, SKC’s Brian Bliss admitted it might be tough to do too much this summer given how it might limit them in the winter.
Rumors have it: In the same article, it’s revealed the club are in negotiations with 27-year-old Portuguese left back Luis Martins.
Summer movement: TFC have gotten some key business done, adding US men’s national team center back Omar Gonzalez and Venezuelan winger Erickson Gallardo. They also acquired Patrick Mullins from Columbus for Jordan Hamilton. They also signed winger Jacob Shaffelburg to a Homegrown Player deal before the window opened.
Biggest question / hole: Hopefully for TFC, they solved their defensive issues and added dimension to their attack. Other than that, a back-up for Jozy Altidore hasn’t emerged. The club took to playing Alejandro Pozuelo as a false nine when Altidore was at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
Roster flexibility: They reportedly still have some TAM leftover for another addition, as well as two international roster spots. Will they use it this summer?
Rumors have it: No new reports by way of incomings, but it was reported earlier this month that Altidore is the subject of a $10 million bid from China.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Summer movement: The Whitecaps turned Ali Adnan’s loan into a permanent signing at the beginning of the month, a coup for the Cascadian club.
Biggest question / hole: Goalscoring. Vancouver simply haven’t gotten enough production from DP strikers Fredy Montero and Joaquin Ardaiz. It’s something head coach Marc Dos Santos has spoken of often this season.
Roster flexibility: With Adnan becoming a Designated Player, it remains to be seen what the DP outlook looks like in Vancouver. They do, however, have a senior roster spot and international slot free.
Rumors have it: Not a ton of rumors around the ‘Caps just yet, with most of the media focused on the Adnan saga before that was completed.