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Columbus Crew signing Chris Cadden tests MLS training, solidarity payment system

FIFA’s training and solidarity payments compensate teams who pay for the development of young players.

Columbus Crew SC's signing of Chris Cadden will test MLS' commitment to paying training and solidarity payments according to FIFA laws. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of the many signings that Columbus Crew SC made during the secondary transfer window was Scottish midfielder/defender Chris Cadden from Motherwell. Due to roster limitations, Columbus then loaned Cadden to Oxford United for the remainder of the 2019 season. Cadden’s contract will Motherwell had expired, but  there’s still a question of whether he will cost the Crew anything due to training and solidarity compensation rules.

FIFA’s system of training and solidarity payments is meant to compensate teams who pay for the development of young players. It is separate from a transfer fee, though the size of the transfer fee can affect the amount of the solidarity payment.

Normally, Cadden would be a free signing for a Major League Soccer team since he was out of contract. However, in April, MLS announced it will respect training and solidarity payments for the first time in the league’s history. Cadden, who came through Motherwell’s academy, would be subject to those payments.

First, there’s the training payment. This is given to any club that developed a player who then makes an international move — during or at the end of his contract — before the end of the season in which he turns 23 years old. Cadden is 22.

To determine the amount owed when there is no transfer fee, FIFA divides teams into four tiers. Category 1 is the highest. Category 4 is the lowest, and teams in that category are not required to pay training fees.

There is no formal document listing all the teams in each tier, but rankings are established based on a club’s financial investment in training players. Basically, the more money a team invests in its academy, the larger the payment would be. 

(Source: FIFA.com)

Sources involved in the transaction told Pro Soccer USA that MLS teams have not yet been categorized, which gives them a default ranking of Category 4. Motherwell believes the Crew should be at least Category 2, which would bring a sizable fee to Motherwell. However, due to the default Category 4 designation, they have not received any compensation.

There’s also a solidarity payment at play since Columbus loaned Cadden to Oxford United. Any player transferred or loaned before his 23rd birthday is subject to a solidarity payment to clubs that developed him equal to 5% of the amount of the transfer or loan fee, according to FIFA laws. A spokesman for the Crew declined to comment on whether the club received a loan fee from Oxford United.

But Motherwell is upset because Oxford United, a Category 3 club, was previously interested in Cadden but did not want to pay the required solidarity payment of about $300,000 and seems to have found a loophole by getting him on loan from the Crew.

An MLS spokesperson confirmed the league and Motherwell have entered negotiations to find an amicable resolution to the situation, which would likely result in Motherwell receiving some amount of compensation. If the sides do not come to an agreement, Motherwell may take the case to FIFA for resolution, according to sources involved in the transaction. 

A Columbus Crew spokesman declined to comment, stating the issue was a league matter.  Motherwell has not returned a request for comment. 

The issue of training and solidarity payments has been a hot-button topic because MLS long refused to honor the world-accepted system. The reversal of position in April came after years of increased investment in MLS academies. 

“Participating in these globally established systems will allow MLS clubs to continue providing young domestic players with opportunities to achieve their professional aspirations free of charge and make increased investments in the elite training offered through MLS academies,” read a statement released by the league in April.

The decision brought a swift rebuke from the MLS Players Association, which believes solidarity payments hinder player movement.

”Players develop best when they have choices on where they play. The systems of training compensation and solidarity payments were designed by FIFA to make it harder for players to change clubs,” MLSPA Executive Director Bob Foose told Pro Soccer USA when asked about Cadden’s case. “Both domestically and abroad, payments under these systems are distributed arbitrarily, without any analysis of the quality of the organizations to which they are distributed.

“At the end of the day, these systems are about generating revenue, not about improving the game and certainly not about helping players.”

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