In July 2015, MLS introduced Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). The concept was straightforward: each club received $500,000 over a five-year period ($100,000 annually) to strengthen rosters in a growing league, while maintaining a level of consistency and fairness for each team. This number was raised to $800,000 in 2016, then $1.2 million last season. Clubs now have an option to use an additional $2.8 million in TAM for the next two seasons.
Although there is a league-wide salary cap, teams can spend an unlimited amount of money on up to three Designated Players, then they may use available TAM to spend on additional players that would otherwise put them over the cap.
It is a strategy that Seattle Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey has executed to perfection. Take a look at each of his moves using TAM.
One way to effectively use TAM is buy down a player who is on a DP contract, which is what the Sounders have previously done with Ozzie Alonso. The 32-year-old midfielder and team captain has an annual salary that allows him to be considered a DP, but within the threshold to use TAM to make room for an additional DP. This happened in July 2016, when the Sounders brought in midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro – he became a DP alongside Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez. Following the departure of Valdez after the 2016 campaign, Alonso no longer occupies TAM allocation.
Román Torres was the first player the Sounders signed with TAM — and what an acquisition it was. The hulking center back from Panama joined the Rave Green in August 2015. He made an immediate impact in four matches before sustaining a season-ending knee injury that September. Torres made a triumphant return 12 months later, anchoring a backline for a club that snuck its way into MLS Cup. Of course, Torres hit the MLS Cup-clinching penalty kick that gave Seattle its first league championship trophy. He has made 44 appearances for the Rave Green, including the postseason.
Signed with TAM in July 2017, Kelvin Leerdam slotted into the starting right back role upon arrival. A swift and smooth defender, the Suriname-born Dutch fullback is effective when bursting up the flank into the attack. As noted in this SoundersFC.com article from last week, the Sounders allowed just 10 goals in Leerdam’s 20 MLS matches. He also brings his wealth of experience from playing in Europe by mentoring the young players on the squad.
The Sounders dipped into their TAM once again last summer in the signing of Víctor Rodríguez. A 28-year-old midfielder from Barcelona, Rodríguez joined the Sounders in August after playing for six clubs in Spain. With a tendency to attack directly at defenders and the ability to creatively combine in the final third, Rodriguez’s role is expected to grow in his first full season of MLS action. He’s made 11 total appearances for the Sounders, recording three goals and three assists.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem
In the end of January, the Sounders signed their fourth player using TAM: Magnus Wolff Eikrem. The 27-year-old midfielder comes to the Rave Green from Malmö, a Swedish club that also featured former Sounders midfielder Erik Friberg. With 17 caps for the Norway national team, Eikrem’s precise passing and pinpoint service brings versatility to each midfield position.
On Feb. 27, the Rave Green signed their fifth player using TAM: 28-year-old defender Kim Kee-hee. The nine-year pro spent the past two seasons with China's Shanghai Shenhua, where he made 45 appearances. He has also competed in the top-flight league in Korea, winning two league titles with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC. The first South Korean to play for Seattle, Kim has 23 international caps. He made six appearances in South Korea’s successful run in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying.