Major League Soccer has long been fighting a perception battle that's somewhat contradicting: how many veteran stars attracted to the league and accompanying lifestyle, versus being a retirement league. It's a thin line, but one that's beginning to take a new turn.
This past offseason, teams around the league largely opted to skew younger, signing more and more academy/USL prospects while also finding skilled, ready-made talent in places like South America. The result, only five clubs have an average age of 27 or older. Eight teams average below the age of 26.
Sporting Kansas City falls into the latter category. Peter Vermes' team is the fifth-youngest in MLS, signing seven players age 25 or younger this winter. The four most notable acquisitions — Gerso Fernandez, Ilie Sanchez, Latif Blessing and Igor Juliao — average 23.3 years in age. The average age of the six major departures — Paulo Nagamura, Jacob Peterson, Brad Davis, Nuno Andre Coelho, Justin Mapp and Connor Hallisey — average 30.6 years.
At Tuesday's Sporting KC Media Day, Vermes weighed in on the youth movement that's permeated not only his club, but the rest of the league as well.
The next step for the league is to retain that young talent when their contracts are up, or when foreign clubs come knocking on the door. In Vermes' mind, mechanisms like Targeted Allocation Money and General Allocation Money, which help buy down contracts for qualified players based on their earnings threshold, are major assets in doing so.