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Tottenham sold DeAndre Yedlin and won Flip or Flop at the same time

Written by Will Parchman

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DeAndre Yedlin’s sale to Tottenham two years ago was maybe the most significant American transfer in history. Hear me out.

Of course, Yedlin was one of the few Americans in MLS history to command a decent chunk of transfer change, and one of even fewer defenders. So there’s that. The $10 million Villarreal paid MLS for Jozy Altidore is still the king of the castle, but Yedlin’s $3.3 fit snugly into the top seven. The fact that he’d been purchased by a club like Tottenham, which finished in Champions League position in Yedlin’s first year in London, only sweetened the pot.

But the attendant domino effect his transfer had on the American soccer landscape was (and is) an even bigger deal. It’s too convoluted a story to get into in depth here, but Yedlin’s youth club Crossfire didn’t get a dime of the FIFA-mandated training compensation portion of the transfer fee, and it took its grievance national. And then the Dallas Texans did the same for former academy product Clint Dempsey. And, just recently, South Florida’s Weston FC did the same for producing newly minted Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.

Yedlin to Spurs was a big deal anyway. But everything surrounding the transfer made it arguably the most culturally significant in American history for all those other reasons.

Now, Yedlin is moving. Again.

On Wednesday, Newcastle finalized its transfer of Yedlin from Spurs for $6.6 million. That, ladies and gentlemen, is double the return on the investment the London club initially paid for Yedlin two years ago. Yedlin, it should be noted, played a single game for Spurs and spent the majority of his time loaned out to Sunderland. It was on Tyneside, and not with Tottenham, that Yedlin established the quality Premier League reputation that led to Rafa Benitez’s swoop-and-sign.

Here’s where it gets doubly interesting. According to Goal, the Seattle Sounders, Yedlin’s original MLS team, are in for a $600,000 windfall thanks to a sell-on clause in his contract. Well. Interesting indeed.

There are a couple forked rabbit trails this nugget of information (if it is indeed true) leads us down. The first is the presence of a sell-on clause. This isn’t surprising considering it’s standard operating procedure everywhere in the world. The basic gist is that clubs insist on inserting these riders into contracts to skim something off the top of the successive deal signed by the player. Most of the time these are one-off clauses only designed to profit off the next sale.

But we’d never really been sure who the sell-on clause paid out to. MLS, as you no doubt know, is a single entity structure, and the league itself ultimately owns, signs and sells all the individual player contracts. Technically there was nothing stopping the league from directing the sell-on clause back to itself, thus depriving the clubs. This, apparently, is not how it does business. And that’s a good thing.

The secondary question is how the Sounders will be allowed to allocate that $600K. Teams can only have a fraction of cash available for signings under the cap, so that money could be funneled into operations or the academy or more garlic fries on game days. I’d suggest the latter.

So that’s the first trail. The second is how Crossfire feels about all this.

The path of breadcrumbs leading back to Sounders headquarters ran right through Crossfire, which will no doubt watch this transaction in a state of consternation. Not only will they not get a dime from the transfer – another cut that could help subsidize player cost – but they’ll watch the Sounders pocket a tidy sum for having Yedlin in their system for all of a year. True, it’s not compensation the Sounders are raking in. It’s a sell-on clause, which is different. But the optics from Crossfire’s perspective are the same.

In any case, not a bad bit of business for Spurs, which flipped Yedlin for twice his worth without having to lift a finger. A lot can happen in two years.

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