Also known as the Beckham Rule, the Designated Player concept in MLS started several years ago as an effort to attract better players into the league. So far the initiative has worked quite nicely, as players like Beckham, Kaká, and David Villa have arrived stateside. It hasn't been perfect, though, as some DPs have failed to produce and have been waived or released from their contracts.
There's no question the overall prestige of the league has increased in recent years, though. This season there are several talented players in MLS, and the quality of the DPs seems to increase on a yearly basis. Here are the top 5 DP combos in MLS during the 2016 campaign.
5. Montreal Impact
The case of DPs in the Montreal Impact is pretty strange. They have two of the best attackers in the league in Didier Drogba (eight goals and five assists) and Ignacio Piatti (14 goals and five helpers) but they also have Lucas Ontivero who hasn't produced as expected (two goals and two assists in 18 matches) and sometimes doesn't even feature in the starting XI. Things would change drastically if they had another DP - for instance, Laurent Ciman who played with Belgium in the 2016 European Championship a few months ago.
4. Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake doesn't make a lot of noise when it comes to transfers, but they have three talented players occupying the DP spots and that's one of the main reasons why they've been a contending team in the Western Conference all season long. The trio of Juan Manuel Martínez (six goals and three assists), Yura Movsisyan (nine goals so far) and Joao Plata (seven goals and 10 helpers) has been pretty productive for RSL in 2016.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy
The main reason why Los Angeles Galaxy is one of the best teams in the West is their trio of DPs. Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos account 19 goals and 21 assists across 49 combined appearances this season. They have slowed down a bit of late, but if they regain some of the consistency they had early in the season, then they'll be a tough team to beat during the playoffs.
2. Toronto FC
Toronto FC could easily sit at the top of out list considering all of their three DPs are in their prime, but the main reason why they can't reach the number one spot is health; all three players have been on the DL at some point this season. But that doesn't mean they haven't produced in 2016. Sebastian Giovinco is inching closer to a second straight MVP season (16 goals and 13 assists), Jozy Altidore has been on-fire since returning from injury with five goals in seven matches, and even though Bradley's numbers are far from impressive (only three assists in 17 matches) there's a reason why he's the leader of the squad.
1. New York City FC
Toronto FC might have players on their peak, but no DP combo has been more impactful than New York City FC's. Even though David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo are all veteran players, they have played a big part on NYCFC's rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. Villa has contributed with 16 goals, Lampard has nine goals and one assists, and Pirlo has added a goal and nine helpers of his own. These three players are the engine that keeps Patrick Vieira's team running.