Poking the Galaxy bear; they are abiding the rules, right?

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Oooh! Nothing like a few pokes at the growing Galaxy empire to juice up the goings ahead of Saturday’s MLS first kick.

About two weeks ago, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis, speaking to Sports Illustrated senior soccer writer Grant Wahl for this piece, lobbed this little smoker grenade in the Galaxy’s direction:

“It’s a little puzzling even for me to figure out how the Galaxy is affording all these players. At some point I can only worry about so many things. But I’ve always been in favor of making all the rules more black and white and putting everybody on the same page.”

Hmmm. OK. Maybe he didn’t come right out and accuse the Galaxy of any salary cap shenanigans. If Kreis had done the equivalent on the field, the referee might just give him a little “talking to.”

But Steve Nicol may have just moved this potentially toxic ball down the field. Here’s what Nicol said ESPN Press Pass during an MLS preview segment:

“They have talent, they have money and the way MLS is set up, you have to know the rules and these guys can manipulate the rules to help them.”

Simon Borg at MLSSoccer.com has more details – and he gives Nicol a little verbal thump over the nose with a rolled up newspaper. A little bit, anyway.

Here’s the deal: The Galaxy has three Designated Players. Any club can carry the same, but it’s expensive in more ways than one. As for the cap, the DP dandies count $350,000 each toward the club’s $2.8 million salary cap. I’ll do the quick math for you. That’s roughly 38 percent of a club’s salary budget; it leaves $1.75 million to split among a set of 15-17 others that MLS rules and regs call the Salary Budget Players. You can read all the fine print here, if you like.

So, no, there’s not a lot left to fill out the roster – but it’s enough to eat! It’s about $110,000 on average. And if you look at the other Galaxy starters (guys like Mike Magee, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Josh Saunders, etc.) they are mostly mid-range MLS salary types. Otherwise known as “guys making around 100K.”

Is the Galaxy cheating? Unlikely. Are the suits at AEG, and manager Bruce Arena himself, looking under every nook and cranny for a bit of salary cap relief? Probably. But that’s not against the rules.  Arena’s history does him no favor here; he was front and center in the D.C. United empire back in a time when the salary structure and restrictions were, to put it kindly, pliable. Even he has described that time as the “wild West.”

But that doesn’t mean anybody is cheating now – not until WikiLeaks or Anonymous or someone else has some hard evidence of it.