It was a busy off-season for Yann Ekra and George Varga, his representative at the Krahling Sports Agency. The midfielder spent the last four seasons with the Harrisburg City Islanders, notching 13 goals and 13 assists 95 regular season appearances. Ekra earned several USL honors along the way, and the 25-year-old garnered the attention of several USL clubs after completing his contractual obligations to Harrisburg. Offers started flooding, each of them providing compensation at the high end of the USL range.
In December, the Charlotte Independence announced they had reached an agreement to bring Ekra to North Carolina’s Queen City. Scratching the Pitch has learned that the parties signed a two-year contract with a team option for the 2018 season. Ekra will be paid approximately $30k for each of his first two seasons with the Independence. The value of the option year is over $40k.
According to Varga, one of the primary reasons Ekra opted for Charlotte deal was an MLS release clause in the contract. The clause allows Ekra to get out of the contract with Charlotte for free if he is offered a contract by an MLS franchise. The Independence are covered by language in the clause that calls for a transfer fee to be paid to the club if Ekra signs with the MLS after the beginning of the season.
A release clause of this nature is not common in USL player contracts. Varga, who has developed a positive reputation around the league as an agent who will fight for his players, pushed for the clause with every team that expressed interest in Ekra this off-season. (Varga was also able to negotiate a 12-month contract for Ekra and Coady Andrews, who re-signed with OKC Energy FC for 2016. USL contracts often run from the beginning of preseason through the end of the season, sometimes less than that.)
An important aspect of the release clause is the freedom provided to Ekra to train with an MLS club during the preseason. Before the contract with the Independence was signed, Ekra had already been offered the opportunity to join the Colorado Rapids, Charlotte’s MLS affiliate, in preseason camp. Ekra will be with the Rapids when physicals are administered on Friday. If he impresses the Rapids’ technical staff, Ekra may never don the Independence kit.
This is a bold move for the Independence, who lost Ben Newnam to the Rapids at the beginning of last season. Charlotte is now exposed to the risk of losing a talented player for the second year in a row.
This is also an intelligent move for the Independence. Negotiating in this manner will attract talented players to the club, and risk is mitigated by a transfer fee.