New York City FC forward David Villa has 17 goals in his first season in MLS, showing why he was recently considered one of the best strikers in the world. But Metro has learned that he could have been a New York Red Bull, except that MLS just had to get in the way.  

Turns out that in 2014, weeks before Villa signed with New York City FC in early June, the league came to the Red Bulls with an ultimatum. At the time, the Red Bulls had a discovery tag on Villa, giving them the right of first refusal to negotiate with the player - just another wacky MLS mechanism. But MLS came to the Red Bulls to let them know that NYC FC had negotiated a deal with Villa, in direct violation of the rules that managed discovery players.  

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Teams are not supposed to negotiate with a player that another team "has discovered," something that should have mattered in this situation but didn't. 

The message from MLS: Villa negotiations begin, or else he signs with the expansion team. The Red Bulls would lose their discovery claim on the player, even though it hadn't expired at that point.  

Knowing that they might not be able to sign him despite their interest in him, the Red Bulls understood that a 24-hour period wasn't enough time to adequately pursue and vet a potential designated player signing.  

In return, the Red Bulls got a rather small allocation from the league. But no Villa.  

Just another example of how MLS is always re-writing the book on how things are done.