Two Days after announcing that MAC Hermann Trophy winner Andrew Gutman would join Nashville on loan from Celtic F.C., the deal is off. In a brief statement published on Saturday, Nashville confirmed that “MLS does not support the transaction” and “Nashville will not be proceeding with the loan.”
Despite no further information from Nashville, details on the abrupt cancellation of the loan quickly came to light.
Gutman is a product of the Chicago Fire academy system, and thus the Chicago Fire own his homegrown rights. Homegrown players simply have to have played in the club's youth system for a season and aren't subject to the same allocation order that other player acquisitions require. Thus, Chicago have dibs on Gutman.
It would appear that the Chicago Fire were unhappy with another MLS club having Gutman on their roster, despite the fact that Nashville won't enter the league until after the loan deal ends. After complaints by the Fire, MLS stepped in and asked Nashville to kill the loan move. At this point there's not much information on what Nashville was told by MLS, or how MLS justified the intervention in a league they have no authority over, but in the end it didn't matter. Gutman won't play for Nashville in 2019, and looks close to finalizing a move to Charlotte Independence (which is interesting since Charltotte's general manager has extensive ties to the Fire).
It gets even more interesting when you factor in the history between Gutman and the Fire. While Gutman was one of the top college prospects, Chicago offered him a league-minumum deal, and even shopped his homegrown rights to other teams in the league, according to Jeff Rueter.
If this is indeed Chicago trying to get back at a player who turned down a bad deal and went on to sign with a major European club, it's extremely petty and extremely worrying that the league would enforce it. Player acquisition rules in MLS are notoriously complex, but this brings it to a new level, with MLS blocking a move between two clubs who play in leagues that aren't under MLS's sphere.
As mentioned earlier, we don't know the exact details of what happened between MLS and Nashville, but how MLS wedged itself into this transaction is a little mystifying.
At the end of the day, it's a bad move for MLS, and another indicator of the issues the league has with developing and signing youth players. At a time when promising young Americans are signing left and right with major European clubs, you'd think MLS and the US Soccer Federation would jump at a top prospect playing in a domestic league. Bottom line, though, Chicago probably just ensured that Andrew Gutman will never play for them.