International transfer process explained

The complicated process to get new players on the field ASAP

Lately, everyone at D.C. United has been very excited about their two new players, Pablo Hernandez and Branko Boskovic. Many people know that July 15 is the day that the secondary transfer window opens in MLS, which means that this Thursday’s match at RFK Stadium against Seattle is the first time that Pablo and Branko are eligible to play. Many people also know that the two players cannot take the field without their International Transfer Certificate (ITC). This is where things get a little confusing, even for knowledgeable followers of D.C. United and Major League Soccer. The following explanation comes from a conversation I had with D.C. United’s general manager Dave Kasper during which he explained the details of what will transpire on Thursday.

Professional players cannot be registered in more than one country’s federation, so when changing teams internationally, players need an ITC. This is required before an international player can play in a match for a new team in a different country. The process to acquire the ITC is a little confusing since the clubs are not directly involved. D.C. United informs the U.S. Soccer Federation about the request for an ITC, and on July 15, U.S. Soccer then works with the national federation of the player’s previous club (Hernandez last played in Uruguay and Boskovic’s last team was in Austria).

There is an on-line system known as TMS (transfer matching system). TMS was implemented by FIFA last October and is intended to simplify the transfer process, which was previously done by sending and re-sending faxes. With the help of TMS, all parties involved can help the process move very quickly, there is a chance that the ITCs for United’s players could arrive in time for them to play on Thursday.

However, there is the issue of time difference to consider. Player transfers within Europe usually only have to deal with a two-hour time zone difference at most. Austria is six hours ahead of Washington, D.C., which means that at 9:00am on the east coast, it is already 3:00 pm in Austria (at that time it is only 10:00 am in Uruguay).

Much of the process is done from federation to federation, but once the federations have confirmed the information from TMS, it’s important to make sure that the previous clubs know that timing is essential. This is the stage where Dave Kasper and company need to work fast. Kasper has to stay on the phones all day Thursday to ensure that the ITC comes through as soon as possible. If, for some reason, the ITC does not arrive on Thursday, the work for D.C.’s front office has to continue again on Friday since that will be the final business day before United’s next league match on Sunday versus the L.A. Galaxy. If the ITC does not come through by Sunday, then the new players won’t be able to play until the following game, the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday July 21. In that case, D.C. United will have missed out on having their new players help the cause in two important League matches.

Stay tuned to how this process plays out for D.C. United and their recently signed new players. United fans who follow the club via Facebook or Twitter will be among the first to know if either or both of the ITCs arrive on Thursday in time for Hernandez or Boskovic to make the game day roster.