The inception of Major League Soccer free-agency has planted its roots in Kansas City.
Sporting KC made the first free-agent acquisition in the league’s 20-year history Monday, when it signed former All-Star midfielder Justin Mapp to a contract.
Mapp, 31, is part of the inaugural free-agency class under a new collective-bargaining agreement negotiated in March. He has 23 goals and 70 assists in 318 career MLS appearances, spending the most recent four seasons with the Montreal Impact. An injury limited him to five games in 2015.
“I think it was a good fit. I’ve seen the team from afar, playing against the team for a number of years,” Mapp said in a phone interview Monday. “Knowing the players they have and the way I like to play, I thought it felt right for me and my game. Hopefully that’s the case.”
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Mapp qualified for free-agency because he has at least eight years of MLS service and is at least 28 years old.
During his 14-year MLS career, he has been a versatile midfielder, and he figures to get the bulk of his playing time in Kansas City as an attacking winger. He was chosen an All-Star in 2013, when he tied a career best with eight assists, a feat he has matched five times.
“It’s easy to understand that Justin was going to be sought after by probably all other 19 teams in the league. He’s been a very good player in MLS,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “We’re very specific about the players we think fit how we play. That’s why I thought Justin was someone we made the No. 1 target in free-agency.”
Sporting KC will be allowed to sign one more MLS free agent, per league rules. While the club will continue to explore that market, Vermes said, it is working to re-sign three of its own players who remain out of contract — midfielders Soni Mustivar, Paulo Nagamura and Mikey Lopez. Nagamura also qualifies under MLS free-agency.