Captain Michael Bradley, true to his word, is sticking with Toronto FC.
A source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced, confirmed Wednesday that the 32-year-old midfielder has agreed on a new contract with the MLS club.
TFC has scheduled a “major announcement” for Thursday.
The new deal involves targeted allocation money, meaning Bradley will give up his designated player status and take a pay cut from the US$6.5-million he earned this season. That opens the way to the club fulfilling its off-season goal to add to its offence.
Bradley’s US$39-million six-year contract expires at the end of the year.
The TFC skipper elected not to talk about his contract status this year, saying he did not want it to become a distraction. But he made no secret of his love for Toronto and said money was not an issue.
“The money, the contract itself, while always important, that’s not the driving force here, in any way,” Bradley said Nov. 13 at the club’s season wrap up session. “I came here for something way bigger than that and the reasons for me wanting to stay are way bigger than that.”
Current rules allow for the team to have as many as three designated players, who each count the maximum salary budget charge (US$530,000 in 2019) no matter how much they make. The level below that involves using targeted allocation money, with a maximum annual salary of US$1.53-million in 2019.
Toronto used TAM to bring centre back Omar Gonzalez on board in July for a salary listed at US$1.194-million. It also used TAM on the now-departed Victor Vazquez, who made US$1.5-million in 2018.
Clubs can use targeted allocation money to convert a designated player to a non-DP by buying down his salary budget charge at or below the maximum salary budget charge.
If TAM is used to free up a designated player slot, the club must sign a new DP at an investment equal to, or greater than, the player he is replacing. But teams have time in the off-season before having to make the salary numbers work.
Striker Jozy Altidore and Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo are Toronto’s other two DPs. Altidore made US$6.33-million last season, compared with US$3.8-million for Pozuelo.
Bradley is an important domino to fall.
Freeing up the DP slot allows the team to acquire new star talent. Keeping Bradley in the fold means hanging on to the man who helps drive the team’s culture, which has gone from league doormat to perennial contender. The 2019 MLS Cup final was Bradley’s 200th game in all competitions for Toronto.
“He brings it every day. He’s the utmost professional … He’s a guy that I hope can be here when he retires,” team president Bill Manning said last month.
“He’s our engine,” he added.
The team and Bradley both declined to address a report that a win in the MLS Cup final would have triggered another year at $6.5 million. That became moot when Toronto lost 3-1 to Seattle on Nov. 10.