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Jan 8, 2014

Michael Bradley set to move to MLS

Toronto F.C. is poised to make a stunning swoop for AS Roma and U.S. international midfielder Michael Bradley, multiple MLS sources confirmed to ESPNFC.com.

The news, originally broken by ESPNFC television analyst Taylor Twellman, would mark the second major transfer of a U.S. international into MLS in a six-month period, with Clint Dempsey joining the Seattle Sounders last August.

Both MLS and Bradley’s New York-based agent, Ron Waxman, declined to comment.

Michael Bradley is poised to move to Toronto FC and the MLS from AS Roma.

Bradley has struggled to crack the starting lineup with Roma this season, appearing in 11 of Roma’s 18 league games, but only five of them have been starts. With Roma recently acquiring Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan on loan from Cagliari with an option to buy, Bradley was looking at being the fifth option in manager Rudi Garcia’s three-man midfield.

But sources told ESPNFC.com that Bradley had been looking for an exit even before Nainggolan’s arrival, with his lack of playing time in a World Cup year his primary concern.

MLS clubs were notified around the start of the year that Bradley was available and clubs were instructed to let the league know if they were interested. Given its financial muscle, and with new Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke eager to turn around the struggling club’s fortunes, Toronto F.C. quickly moved to the front of the line.

One small detail to sort out is that Toronto already has used up its compliment of Designated Players. Matias Laba and Gilberto are already on the club’s books, and England international striker Jermain Defoe is expected to sign in the next week. Of the group, Laba looks to be the odd man out, and TFC would have to either restructure Laba’s contract, or transfer him to another club.

Sources confirmed that the proposed financial commitment TFC is making is considerable. MLS is poised to sign Bradley to a contract in the five to six-year range at an annual salary in the neighborhood of $6.5 million. There was conflicting data in terms of the transfer fee, with one overseas source indicating that Roma expects to receive $7 million and multiple MLS sources stating that the Italian club will receive in excess of $10 million.

Much like Dempsey, Bradley likely found it impossible to turn down such a lucrative offer. But the move still comes as a surprise given his professed desire to play in the UEFA Champions League, something Roma is in prime position to accomplish given that it currently sits second in Serie A, eight points behind leaders Juventus.

The move almost certainly will not sit well with U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who has long encouraged his players to test themselves at the highest level possible. MLS, despite its increasing profile, doesn’t provide the same level of play as the top European leagues, and it seems likely that Bradley could have secured a loan move to another European club. Instead, he has opted for the security –- both in terms of playing time and finances –- of MLS.

As for MLS, it amounts to another major coup, as the league can now claim to have the top three U.S. players –- Bradley, Dempsey, and Landon Donovan –- all playing in North America.

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