The “discovery” rule has come up a lot in MLS recently.
It came up when Portland wanted to sign Mikael Silvestre but the Sounders were first to place a discovery claim on him. It came up when Vancouver wanted to sign Nigel Reo-Coker but the Timbers had first dibs.
It also came up when Adrian Hanauer was asked about rumors linking the team to Argentine forward Javier Saviola, and the Sounders GM noted other team has a discovery claim on him.
As we’ve seen in the cases of Silvestre and Reo-Coker, teams can still sign the desired players but have to offer compensation (generally in the form of draft picks) to the teams with the original claims.
Regarding the Sounders, you would think guys like Djimi Traore, Philip Lund and possibly Obafemi Martins are on their list — though that information is not public.
Here is the text from the MLS roster rules posted on the league website, which hopefully offers some clarity on the process:
DISCOVERY SIGNINGSClubs may make discovery claims on players not yet under MLS contract who are not subject to the allocation ranking or lottery mechanisms.Each club has the opportunity to make six discovery signings per season (expansion teams may make 10 discovery signings in their inaugural season). A club may have up to 10 discovery claims on unsigned players at any time and may remove or add players at any time. The last day for discovery player signings is September 15, 2012 – coinciding with the roster freeze date and trade deadline.The six discovery signings can be used to fill senior roster spots only. If multiple clubs claim the same player using a discovery, the club that filed the claim first will have first rights to the player. Discovery claims expire following each season. If the League and player are unable to reach an agreement during the season, the club that first filed the discovery retains the right of first refusal in the event the player is later signed by the League.Note: To protect interests of MLS clubs in scouting and negotiations with prospective players, the League office will not publicize the names of players on club discovery lists, nor specify if a discovery claim has been filed on a particular player.
Clear as mud?