General A-Leagues Men Discussion Thread

The confusing thing here is that, despite common usage, A-League has been officially using “Designated Player” rather than “Marquee Player” since at least the 2017-18 season.

The distinction, as I see it, about the MLS Designated Player rule compared to our “Marquee” rule is that the MLS player still contributes some amount toward the salary cap. Hopefully this is what is actually changing.

The existing arrangement, where the salary is entirely outside of the salary cap, is a significant distortion. Aside from the obvious benefit of signing two players who are likely to be better than other teams (not using marquees), what’s often missed is that having your two ‘free’ starters also significantly boosts the cap available for the rest of your squad compared to a club not utilising marquees.

If one club spends the $2.5m cap and has two marquees, while another club spends the $2.25m floor and has no marquees, the distribution of salaries might be:

Squad Position Rich Club (Spend) Poor Club (Spend) Rich Club (Cap) Poor Club (Cap)
1 $900,000 $300,000 $0 $300,000
2 $700,000 $280,000 $0 $280,000
Starters 3-11 (Average) $182,218 $115,000 $182,218 $115,000
Bench 12-16 (Average) $122,007 $77,000 $122,007 $77,000
Depth 16-20 (Average) $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $50,000
Total $4,100,000 $2,250,000 $2,500,000 $2,250,000

Outside of the two main guys on either team, the rest of the match-day squad is almost 60% higher; one team’s bench players are on more than the other team’s starters.

If you imagine instead that the “marquees”, regardless of what they’re on, take up some salary cap (say $300,000), then this distortion almost completely disappears:

Squad Position Rich Club (Spend) Poor Club (Spend) Rich Club (Cap) Poor Club (Cap)
1 $900,000 $300,000 $300,000 $300,000
2 $700,000 $280,000 $300,000 $280,000
Starters 3-11 (Average) $133,627 $115,000 $133,627 $115,000
Bench 12-16 (Average) $89,472 $77,000 $89,472 $77,000
Depth 16-20 (Average) $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $50,000
Total $3,500,000 $2,250,000 $2,500,000 $2,250,000

Outside of the two main guys on either team, the rest of the match-day squad is only a touch over 16% higher, and the available wages are close enough that prudent signings can hope to bridge a resource gap.

It also means that the ‘advantage’ of the marquee spot is essentially confined to that one position. If you sign Kosta for $700k but he puts in the performances of a $300k player, then there is no cap advantage whatsoever compared to the other team that just signed a $300k player. So the only way of actually enforcing your resource advantage is to consistently make high-quality signings.

It would enable us to expand the number of available slots (more cap flexibility to hopefully reduce churn, make it easier to bring players back to ‘their’ team when an OS stint ends etc.) without prohibitively breaking competitiveness with less resourced teams. You could also plausibly not have a cap on ‘Designated’ spots, because the trade-offs of having a top-heavy team in a salary cap (particularly when there are pretty aggressive - at ~60k - minimum wages, and a squad of at least 20-23 to fill) are a natural constraint.

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