MLS 101

A Major League Soccer club’s first team roster is comprised of up to 30 players. All 30 players are eligible for selection to each 18-player game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs.

Salary & Budget:

Players occupying roster spots 1-20 count against the club’s 2011 salary budget of $2,675,000, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Salary Budget Players.

Roster spots 19 and 20 are not required to be filled, and teams may spread their salary budget across only 18 Salary Budget Players. A minimum salary budget charge will be imputed against a team’s salary budget for each unfilled senior roster slot below 18.

The maximum budget charge for a single player is $335,000.

A Designated Player counts $335,000 against the club’s salary budget, unless the player joins his club in the middle of the season, in which case his budget charge will be $167,500.

Players occupying roster spots 21-30 do not count against the club’s salary budget, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Off-Budget Players (maximum of 10 per team).

  •  All Generation Adidas players are Off-Budget players.

Players occupying roster spots 1-24 will earn at least $42,000 in 2011.

Players occupying roster spots 25-30 will earn at least $32,600 in 2011.

Clubs may elect to leave up to two of these roster spots (25-30) vacant and use $35,000 for each empty spot as allocation money.

Clubs may sign up to two Home Grown Players to Generation Adidas contracts.

  • Generation Adidas is a joint program between MLS and Adidas that is dedicated to developing exceptional domestic talent in a professional environment. Each year, a handful of top domestic underclassmen and youth national team players are signed to the league and placed in the SuperDraft through this program. Generation Adidas players also receive an educational stipend.

Age Designations:

Any player making $32,600 must be under the age 25 (does not turn 25 or older in 2012).

Domestic/International:

In 2011, a total of 144 international slots were divided among the 18 clubs. Each club began with eight international slots, which are tradable. There is no limit on the number of international slots on each club’s roster.

The remaining roster slots must belong to domestic players. For clubs based in the United States, a domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (green card holder) or the holder of other special status (e.g., refugee or asylum status).

The two MLS clubs based in Canada – Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC – began with eight international slots, but their domestic slots may be filled with either Canadian or U.S. domestic players.

MLS clubs based in Canada are required to have a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters.

Players with the legal right to work in Canada are considered Canadian domestic players (i.e., Canadian citizen, permanent resident, part of a protected class).

ALLOCATION RANKING

The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee. The allocation rankings may also be used in the event two or more clubs file a request for the same player on the same day. The allocations will be ranked in reverse order of finish for the 2011 season, taking playoff performance into account.

Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is another club’s ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS League season.

Allocation Money

Allocation money is a resource available to clubs in addition to their respective salary budgets.

A club may receive allocation money for:

  • Failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs;
  • The transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value;
  • Expansion status;
  • Qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League;

Each year the MLS Competition Committee determines the allocation amount to be made available to each club. Allocation money can be traded by clubs. Allocation money does not count against a club’s salary budget and can be used:

  • To sign players new to MLS (that is, a player who did not play in MLS during the previous season).
  • To re-sign an existing MLS player, subject to League approval.
  • To “buy-down” a player’s salary budget charge below the League maximum of $335,000.
  • In connection with the exercise of an option to purchase a player’s rights or the extension of a player’s contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.

NOTE: To protect the interests of MLS and its clubs during discussions with prospective players or clubs in other leagues, amounts of allocation money held by each club will not be shared publicly. (Similarly, most clubs in other countries do not announce the amount of money they plan to spend during a given transfer window.)

DESIGNATED PLAYER

The Designated Player Rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose salaries exceed their budget charges, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above each player’s budget charge. Designated Player slots may be used to acquire players new to MLS or to retain current MLS players, subject to League approval.

In 2011, a Designated Player’s salary budget charge was $335,000, unless the player joined his club in the middle of the season, in which case his budget charge was $167,500.

Each club has two Designated Player slots, and clubs are allowed to “purchase” a third Designated Player slot for a one-time fee of $250,000 that will be dispersed in the form of allocation money to all clubs that do not have three Designated Players.

Designated Player slots are not tradable.

Clubs have the option of “buying down” the budget charge of a Designated Player with allocation money. The reduced charge may not be less than $150,000.

DISCOVERY SIGNINGS

Clubs may make discovery claims on players not yet under MLS contract who are not subject to the allocation ranking or lottery mechanisms.

Each club has the opportunity to make six discovery signings per season (expansion teams may make 10 discovery signings in their inaugural season). A club may have up to 10 discovery claims on unsigned players at any time and may remove or add players at any time. The last day for discovery player signings is September 15, 2011 – coinciding with the roster freeze date and trade deadline.

The six discovery signings can be used to fill senior roster spots only. If multiple clubs claim the same player using a discovery, the club that filed the claim first will have first rights to the player. Discovery claims expire following each season. If the League and player are unable to reach an agreement during the season, the club that first filed the discovery retains the right of first refusal in the event the player is later signed by the League.

Note: To protect interests of MLS clubs in scouting and negotiations with prospective players, the League office will not publicize the names of players on club discovery lists, nor specify if a discovery claim has been filed on a particular player.

HOME GROWN PLAYER SIGNINGS

A club may sign a player to his first professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program and has met League criteria. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Home Grown Players.

There is no limit to the number of Home Grown Players a club may sign in a given year.

WAIVERS

A team may place a player on waivers at any time during the regular season at which point he is made available to all other teams. The waiver claiming period shall commence on the first business day after the League delivers notice to teams and shall expire at 5 p.m. EST on the second business day after the Waiver Period Commencement Date. The claiming period is 48 hours.

The Waiver Draft order is determined via points per game once all teams have played at least three MLS League games. If the waiver takes place prior to all teams playing in at least three League games, priority shall be granted based upon the prior year’s performance, taking playoff performance first, with teams eliminated from playoff contention at the same stage separated according to their point totals through the end of the regular season. New expansion teams shall be at the bottom of the waiver order.

Once a team selects a player off waivers, that club is automatically moved to the bottom of the priority list for subsequent waiver selections in a given season, regardless of its points-per-game total. Players who may be placed on the MLS waiver wire are as follows:

(i) A player waived by an MLS team in the current season;

(ii) A player who completed his college eligibility within the past season, who was not made available in the SuperDraft or supplemental draft.

(iii) A player who has remaining college eligibility (and was not made available in the SuperDraft or supplemental draft), but the League at its discretion and after taking into account exceptional circumstances determines the player may be offered an MLS contract.

(iv) A player who has played in MLS previously where his last MLS team does not wish to exercise their right of first refusal, except in the case of returning U.S. National Team players as stated above.

(v) A player who was drafted in the SuperDraft or supplemental draft, and who after a trial with the club is not offered a contract by the first Monday of June.

Teams may waive players based on performance at any time during the MLS season. Players with guaranteed contracts will continue to have their salary budget charge applied to the team salary budget, subject to any settlement. Players on semi-guaranteed contracts can be waived prior to July 1 of any year and free up the corresponding budget space. If a player on a semi-guaranteed contract is waived after July 1, his salary budget charge will count against the team’s salary budget and the team waiving the player will not receive a replacement except under the normal player acquisition mechanisms. Any settlement amount will be charged to the team’s salary budget.

TRANSFERS AND LOANS

A transfer is a permanent transaction of a player from one club to another for an agreed sum of money.

A loan is a temporary transaction which involves a player being sent to another club for a set amount of time. When that time expires, the player returns to the original club.

An MLS player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a team outside the League (subject to that team’s Federation’s transfer window), subject to the consent of the player.

The registration windows – the dates between which MLS may request the transfer certificate of a player under contract in another country – are as follows:

January 21 – April 15 (Primary Window)

July 15 – August 14 (Secondary Window)

TRIAL/WORKOUT

A workout is a short-term training session with a club.

A trial is an extended training session with a club.

The player(s) in the workout or trial is not eligible to play in any of the club’s matches.

CONTRACT EXPIRATION

When a player’s contract expires, the player does not count against the roster or budget of the team in question. Subject to the Re-Entry Draft rules, a team retains the rights to the player indefinitely following the expiration of a contract only if attempts were made to re-sign the player.

BUYOUT OF GUARANTEED CONTRACT

Teams may have the ability to buyout one guaranteed player as follows:

  • A Team may buy out one (1) guaranteed player (including a DP’s) contract during the off-season and free up the corresponding budget space. Such a buyout is at the particular MLS Team’s own expense.
  • A Team may not free up budget space with a buyout of a player’s salary budget charge during the season. Such a buyout will be conducted by the League and count on a Club’s budget in a manner consistent with current MLS guidelines.

RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL

Right of first refusal grants one MLS club the first opportunity to add a player to its roster in the event that the player signs with MLS. Holding a right of first refusal applies only within MLS and does not indicate holding of the player’s International Transfer Certificate.

OUT OF CONTRACT PLAYERS / OPTIONS NOT PICKED UP: Subject to the Re-Entry Draft rules, a team retains the right of first refusal to the player indefinitely only if attempts were made to re-sign the player.

DRAFTED BUT NOT SIGNED: A player who was drafted by a particular team through the SuperDraft or supplemental draft and did not sign, or who as of the first Monday in June is not offered a contract after a trial and clears waivers, is placed on that team’s “College Protected List” until the second December 31 immediately following the draft in question, after which the team loses the rights to sign the player.

PLAYER TRANSFERRED OUTSIDE MLS: If a team receives allocation money as a result of a player’s transfer, the team does not retain a right of first refusal.