Tyler Adams’ transfer to RB Leipzig felt like a foregone conclusion for months, but one of the hurdles in completing the move for the U.S. national team midfielder was figuring out just how the structure of a transfer would look given it would be a transaction between affiliated clubs.
Multiple sources tell Goal that the transfer, which will become official when the Bundesliga’s winter transfer period opens in January, will be worth an initial fee of $3 million, along with a 33 percent sell-on clause, meaning the New York Red Bulls will receive one third of any future transfer fee paid to RB Leipzig for Adams.
If the $3 million figure sounds low for a player who has impressed as much at 19 as Adams, that’s because it is.
The issue, at least as far as the MLS side’s parent company, Red Bull, is concerned, is that league rules would only allow the club to spend $750,000 of any transfer fee on the team’s salary cap. The rest of the transfer funds can only be used for team operations or for moves such as paying the initial fee to bring in a designated player.
The rules leave little incentive for Red Bull to spend more than $750,000 on the midfielder to see him move to an affiliated club. But MLS is still a single-entity league that must give approval on any transfers and letting a player like Adams leave for such a low figure wasn’t in the best interest of the league.
Allowing the sale of a high-profile player for a tiny fraction of his true market value could cause issues for the future valuations of similar players MLS teams could be looking to sell. Teams looking to buy MLS talent could reference a low fee for Adams to set the price range for similar transfer targets.
A fee of $3 million with a large sell-on clause makes sense as a compromise, with the larger-than-normal 33 percent sell-on clause making up for the difference in price for a player who, as a U.S. national team regular at the age of 19, would have been able to fetch more than double that price.
Teams don’t normally concede such a large portion of the future sale of a young player, but in this instance, if Adams’ next transfer is a large one, a substantial amount of the money will go directly toward helping fund the New York Red Bulls.
In the short term, the Red Bulls will receive $750,000 in allocation money to help the team’s pursuit of roster improvements. That could also include trying to find a replacement for Adams, though the Red Bulls could look internally to help fill that void in defensive midfield, much like Adams helped fill the void when all-star and former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty was traded away in 2017.