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Columbus Crew and Kamara Reach a Deal

Update: The Columbus Crew have confirmed that the deal is complete.


The contract negotiation between star forward Kei Kamara and Crew SC coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter — which both parties would like to wrap up before the season opens Sunday — was still ongoing on Tuesday, Kamara said after practice.

In between wide smiles, wry jokes and unbridled optimism, Kamara addressed the subject in typically vague terms, all in tones suggesting that things were going well.

Berhalter also refused to publicly discuss the matter, suggesting that an end was in sight.

It likely is.

It is believed that the Crew and Kamara have agreed to a contract that will make him the team’s second designated player, ending a saga that started publicly on Jan. 25 with a Washington Post report indicating that Kamara was in a contract dispute with the Crew. The deal is expected to include a one-year extension, keeping Kamara under contract as a designated player through the end of the 2018 season.

His status as a designated player would pay him at least $1 million per season, based on Major League Soccer rules.

The designated-player rule, adopted in 2007, was put in place in part to allow the Los Angeles Galaxy to sign David Beckham. It allows MLS teams to pay up to three players more than the maximum salary ($458,000 this season), with the difference paid by individual teams rather than the league.

Kamara, 31, was paid $537,000 last season, according to figures provided by the players’ union, and he was slated to be paid the same this season and in 2017. The Crew used allocation money to buy down his salary cap hit, which also kept Kamara from being a designated player.

Now he will join midfielder Federico Higuain as the team’s designated players. The Crew has never had two designated players on its roster in the same season. The Crew’s only other designated players were 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who carried that status during the 2009 season, and Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza in 2011.

Higuain was paid $1.175 million last season.

In a league with a soft $3.6 million salary cap, paying Kamara similarly would represent a significant commitment on the part of Crew owner Anthony Precourt, but it could prove to be a wise investment.

Kamara was a finalist for MLS MVP last season after tying for the league lead with 22 goals in the regular season. He added four goals during the playoffs, which ended with the Crew reaching the MLS Cup Final. He also scored three goals in his first 71 minutes during the preseason last month.

Kamara also was named the MLS Humanitarian of the Year for his school-building efforts in his native Sierra Leone and for his work with local schools in Columbus.

Kamara had not scored more than 11 goals in any of his eight previous MLS seasons with the Crew, San Jose, Houston and Kansas City, but he was signed to a three-year contract after returning from an up-and-down stint in England before last season.

His 22 goals last season are tied for ninth in MLS history for a season and are the second-most in Crew history, behind Stern John’s 26 goals in 1998.

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