Columbus Crew SC signs Kei Kamara as designated player to 2018
Columbus Crew SC have signed forward Kei Kamara to a new contract, making the MVP a designated player until the end of the 2018 season, the club confirmed.
While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, it was reported that none of Kamara's salary is eligible to paid with targeted allocation money provided by the league, and he will be paid at least $1 million per season.
Kamara's previous contract ran until 2017. However, he had been locked in a contract dispute as he sought a new deal following a stellar season in which he scored 22 goals, the joint highest in MLS, and helped Crew SC to an Eastern Conference championship.
"This is a great success story of a player that has risen through the MLS ranks, and that rise culminated with one of the best seasons in MLS ever," Crew SC coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter told The Columbus Dispatch. "To me, this is well-deserved."
The designated player rule was adopted in 2007, when it allowed LA Galaxy to sign David Beckham.
With the rule in place, MLS teams can pay up to three players more than the maximum salary ($458,000 this season), and the difference is paid by individual teams rather than the league.
Kamara's contract extension means club owner Anthony Precourt will pay the difference between the maximum salary and those for him and his fellow designated player Federico Higuain.
"Mr. Precourt has shown serious desire and ambition, making it the first time ever that the club has had two DPs," Berhalter said.
"I think it's great all the way around, and I can't wait to see what we're going to do in the future."
Kamara, 31, was paid $537,000 last season, according to published MLS Players Union numbers. He was slated to be paid the same this season and in 2017.
Higuain was paid $1.175 million last season, according to the figures.
Crew SC used allocation money to buy down his cap hit, keeping Kamara from being a designated player, and did the same with defender Gaston Sauro last season.
Their other designated players were 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who carried that status for the 2009 season, and Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza in 2011.
"In the end, it came down our feeling that Kei is going to continue to be productive," Berhalter told the newspaper.
"Does he have the desire? Is he going to help us win games? The answer was yes. And we still think it's a good value, and we still feel it's totally in line with what we believe in as a club."
Kamara was a finalist for the MLS MVP award last season. He scored four more goals during the playoffs.
He was a first-round draft pick for Crew SC in 2006 and was traded to San Jose after the 2007 season.
He had not scored more than 11 goals in any of his eight previous MLS seasons with the Crew SC, San Jose, Houston and Kansas City but was signed to a three-year contract after returning from an up-and-down stint in England before the start of last season.
Berhalter said signing a player of Kamara's age would normally require more consideration.
"But we know how strong he is and how fit he is," he said. "He's so dynamic. That gives you less concern. You can look at other guys in the same age group and see them still performing well."