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MLS Orders Orlando City to Cease Pursuit of Antonio Nocerino

The Nocerino saga could be coming to an end after Major League Soccer has stepped in on behalf of D.C. United.

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The Antonio Nocerino to Orlando City rumor has been gaining legs over the last few days with reports coming from Italy that Nocerino preferred Orlando City over D.C. United, the club that owns his discovery rights under MLS rules. Today, those legs were promptly cut off after a report from The Washington Post's Steven Goff revealed that the league has stepped in.

According to the report, MLS has ordered Orlando City to stop its pursuit of Nocerino because D.C. United owns the "exclusive league rights" to negotiate with him. Paul Tenorio from the Orlando Sentinel wrote Monday that Orlando City was actively perusing Nocerino but faced obstacles due to the fact that the Lions do not own his discovery rights. Because D.C. United filed the original discovery claim, Orlando could be in violation of tampering rules for contacting or negotiating with the Italian midfielder.

D.C. United has not filed a tampering complaint but, according to Goff's report, the club has not ruled it out. The league did not have an official comment:

"There have been no tampering charges filed at the league office, so we will not comment on any hypothetical situations," an MLS spokeswoman said.

This is a drastic swing from yesterday, when there was speculation that Orlando would try to acquire Nocerino's rights from D.C. United. According to the report, Orlando inquired about Nocerino's rights but was turned down by United.

MLS discovery rights have been in the news quite a bit in recent years, most recently when Montréal Impact acquired striker Didier Drogba from Chicago via a sign-and-trade. This came after Montréal's owner publicly stated the club's interest in the Ivorian, however tampering was not brought up and MLS did not intervene.

It was also a topic of discussion when the league used a blind draw to determine the rights for United States international Jermaine Jones, who ended up with the New England Revolution.

Now, after the ruling from the league office as well as Goff's report that United are still in talks with Nocerino, the likelihood of the Italian coming to Orlando has taken a considerable hit.

It is not the first time Orlando City has found itself in hot water regarding tampering since joining MLS in 2015, as the club and manager Adrian Heath were fined an undisclosed amount last summer after Heath publicly expressed interest in Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer.