FC Cincinnati made a play to sign Fabian Johnson ahead of its inaugural MLS campaign, only to be rebuffed by the league, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.
The 2014 World Cup standout for the U.S. men's national team is currently with Borussia Monchengladbach in his native Germany, and the point of contention was reportedly his presence on the MLS allocation list. The league has a preset list of players subjected to the allocation order, which is specifically designed to distribute "select U.S. men’s national team players, elite youth U.S. national team players, or former MLS players returning to MLS after joining a non-MLS club for a transfer fee greater than $500,000" evenly around the league.
The 30-year-old Johnson, despite not having been in uniform for the U.S. since September 2017, falls under the former.
FC Cincinnati, of course, is not in MLS yet, and attempted to sign Johnson to its existing team in the second-tier USL in order to circumvent the allocation order stipulation. According to Yahoo!'s report, the league was going to force Cincinnati to trade for the top spot in the allocation order, which calls into question how a team not in the league yet could acquire an asset only germane to teams in the league–even if it was for an asset that would eventually be featuring for a team in the league. For what it's worth, when FCC enters the league officially following the conclusion of the MLS year, it will go to the top of the allocation order, as all expansion teams do, and be cleared to have first dibs to sign a player like Johnson.
Whether the parties come to financial terms is another story entirely, and another potential hiccup that was part of the summer discussions, according to the report. In five games this season with Monchengladbach, Johnson has four starts and a goal.
FCC, which has clinched the most points the USL regular season, has signed two players for its first MLS season already, adding former Portland Timbers striker Fanendo Adi and former San Jose Earthquakes and U.S. Under-23 midfielder Fatai Alashe in late July.