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Charlotte FC's senior roster heading into the winter window

By Brian Maurer

Brecht Dejaegere (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)


Earlier this month Charlotte FC announced their end-of-season roster decisions, making it easier to see where the gaps in the 20-man senior roster lie. Currently, Charlotte has 16 of a possible 20 senior roster spots filled.


According to the CBA that runs through the 2028 season, the 2024 Salary Budget will increase by $260,000 to $5,470,000. The maximum senior roster salary moves to $683,750.


Allocation money for the 2024 season is at the following amounts:


GAM: $2,585,000


TAM: $2,400,000


Here is a breakdown of the senior roster and the estimated salary budget charges associated with each of Charlotte’s four positional lines:


Goalkeeper

Player

Salary (Guaranteed compensation)*

Roster designation

% of senior roster salaries

Kristijan Kahlina

$526,875 (Ranks 11th among MLS GKs)

International

4.64%

With Pablo Sisniega getting his option declined, Kahlina is now the only goalkeeper on the senior roster. He doesn’t take up an overwhelming amount of cap space, but he does take one of the many international roster spots. It would be a bit surprising to see Charlotte make a move at goalkeeper since there are several other needs on the roster. The Crown’s two young goalkeepers (George Marks and Chituru Odunze) likely have their sights set on the starting spot, and both are on domestic contracts. If Charlotte were to make changes in goal it would more likely be an internal change.


Defenders

Player

Salary (Guaranteed compensation)

Roster designation

% of senior roster salaries

Guzmán Corujo

$658,500 (Ranks 50th among MLS DEFs)

Domestic

-

Nathan Byrne

$607,833

International

-

Jere Uronen

$497,813

International

-

Bill Tuiloma

$459,938

Domestic

-

Adilson Malanda

$303,083

International

-

Jaylin Lindsey

$286,250

Domestic

Total DEF - 24.78%​

Jan Sobociński’s option was declined, opening up a senior roster spot. Currently, Charlotte has six defenders on the 20-man roster. Three occupy an international roster spot (Byrne, Uronen, and Malanda).


Charlotte's six defenders account for only 24.78% of their senior roster salaries, so they could pick up a more premium option in defense. Corujo is The Crown's highest-paid defender, and his guaranteed salary ranks 50th among MLS defenders, which could be an issue as a return on investment setback if he doesn't earn minutes in 2024.


Charlotte has been trying to save money on their backline, we will see if that trend continues into year three after they ranked near the bottom of the league in goals against for most of 2023.


If Charlotte opts to save money on the defensive line to increase the flexibility of their roster (this is very common in MLS due to roster restrictions) they do have a couple of young players who could move up from Crown Legacy FC. João Pedro is the most likely candidate as he was named to the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI.


Midfielders

Player

Salary (Guaranteed compensation)

Roster designation

% of senior roster salaries

Brecht Dejaegere

$999,375 (Ranks 26th among MLS MIDs)

TAM-Level

International

-

Ashley Westwood

$850,000

TAM-Level

International

-

Scott Arfield

$437,500

International

-

Brandt Bronico

$348,375

Domestic

Total MID - 23.21%

Midfield is the line that currently stands out the most for needing reinforcements. Derrick Jones was allowed to walk as a free agent, and while he was not a key role player down the stretch his absence still leaves the senior roster with only four midfielders.


The current level of investment in the midfield is also slightly lower than one would expect for such a pivotal position. Dejaegere, their highest-paid midfielder, has a salary ranked 26th amongst MLS midfielders. Most other MLS teams have invested in a Designated Player-Level midfielder.


Charlotte opted for an attack-heavy roster build, with the club signing more forwards at a premium price. Charlotte will likely look to find a premium DP-level signing to boost the midfield this winter.


If The Crown is looking for a new DP midfielder, they are likely looking for one entering their prime, as the average age of Charlotte’s four senior roster midfielders is 32.


Nikola Petković could also earn a first-team call-up this winter. He would likely end up on the senior roster based on his high estimated transfer fee. This would decrease the average age of the midfield, but he would also come with additional pressure put on his shoulders to produce right away, which is never a straightforward ask for a young player, regardless of the transfer fee.


Forwards

Player

Salary (Guaranteed compensation)

Roster designation

% of senior roster salaries

Karol Świderski

$2,258,000 (Ranks 10th among MLS FWDs)

Designated Player

International

-

Kamil Jóźwiak

$1,217,000

Designated Player

International

-

Enzo Copetti

$1,142,250

Designated Player

International

-

Kerwin Vargas

$412,125

U-22 Initiative

International

-

Vinicius Mello

$349,900

International

Total FWD - 47.37%

Charlotte FC’s forward line is a bit of a mess, to put it bluntly. Świderski continues to open up to the media about a desire to return to Europe. Copetti struggled to find goals regularly in his debut season with the club. Jóźwiak has not lived up to his DP-level status since arriving in 2022. Mello has struggled to maintain a spot on the senior roster as he mostly played with the development team last season. Vargas has shown promise but has struggled with consistency. All five forwards also take up international roster spots.


For a team that has invested nearly half of their total senior roster salaries in their attack, the current return on investment is setting the club back substantially. With their leading scorer Świderski eyeing a potential move, and the rest of the expensive forwards Charlotte has all being rather inconsistent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Charlotte re-invest in their forward line.


Making premium signings in the midfield and forward lines would require selling important players such as Świderski. However, keeping a player who already has eyes elsewhere is also a potential locker-room issue.


One thing going for Charlotte is that they have several young forwards on their supplemental roster who look poised to compete for minutes in 2024. Patrick Agyemang, in particular, could push for an expanded role.


Outlook


Charlotte’s strategy of building a global network for player recruitment is evident with the number of international signings on their senior roster. Having 12 or more international players signed annually involves a steep allocation cost. Charlotte spent $925,000 GAM on international roster spots in 2023 (some of that GAM was rolled over to 2024).


To put this cost into a player perspective here are some of the big intraleague trades made for GAM in the last few seasons:


  • Mark-Anthony Kaye: Traded to Colorado for $1m in GAM in 2021


  • Kellyn Acosta: Traded to LAFC for $1.1m GAM (+$400k in incentives) in 2022


  • Alistair Johnston: Traded to Montreal for $1m in GAM in 2022


Charlotte is spending nearly an intraleague blockbuster trade every year for international roster spots.


Looking at Charlotte’s roster in this way the cost of the lack of production from the forwards and midfielders on the senior roster stands out. Between those two lines, there are eight international roster spots taken. If those two lines don’t deliver consistently for Charlotte in 2024 the lack of return on investment will put them at a distinct disadvantage.


They currently have four spots available on the senior roster so moves will be made this winter. The first question is whether Świderski is actually on his way out. If he is moved, the options that can be made to the roster increase substantially as additional U-22 Initiative spots would open up alongside the DP spot. There have also been rumors swirling about the status of Jóźwiak. If he is moved that would also open up a DP spot.


The team’s salary spending has been relatively low in defense and midfield compared to many others in MLS at those positions. It would not be surprising to see a TAM-Level transfer at either of those lines.


The forward line could also be upgraded, but that is most likely contingent on whether sales (e.g. Swiderski) can be made to open up space.


Predictions

  1. Based on the amount of TAM Charlotte should have available they will likely make at least one TAM-Level signing, maybe two.

  2. Charlotte open a DP spot by selling Świderski and then sign a young DP to open two additional U-22 Initiative slots to help them gain additional roster flexibility.

  3. Petković is signed to a U-22 Initiative contract and added to the senior roster.

  4. Charlotte signs two to four players from Crown Legacy FC to first-team contracts.



* Guaranteed compensation numbers found in MLSPA's most recent report.




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