Major League Soccer today unveiled the player rules that will govern transactions for the 2005 MLS season, the 10th in League history.
The rules are broken down under the following four headings: (i) MLS Roster Composition, (ii) Methods of Player Acquisition, (iii) Methods of Releasing Players and (iv) Player Rights.
"At a time when many soccer leagues are becoming less competitive, MLS remains a league unique in the soccer world in that each team has an equal opportunity to compete on the field regardless of the wealth of the owner or whether they are located in a large or a small market," said MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis. "On-field success is determined by how well a team operates within the framework established by the MLS Competition Committee, as approved by the MLS Board of Governors. Publication of a summary of this framework allows our fans to follow the player dealings of their favorite teams in more detail."
Major League Soccer's 10th Season kicks off on Saturday, April 2, 2005 with a full slate of games. First Kick 2005 is highlighted by the highly anticipated inaugural MLS match for Club Deportivo Chivas USA, as the expansion team plays host to MLS Cup champion D.C. United at The Home Depot Center in a match to be broadcast live on ABC Sports (3:00 p.m. ET).
In other matches on April 2: Clint Mathis and Eddie Pope lead Real Salt Lake against their former club, the MetroStars, at Giants Stadium (7:00 p.m. ET); the Los Angeles Galaxy travel to face the Supporters Shield winners, the Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. ET on HDNet); the Western Conference Champion Kansas City Wizards host the Colorado Rapids (8:00 p.m. ET); the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas battle in the first installment of the Brimstone Cup (8:30 p.m. ET); and the New England Revolution take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium to close out opening day (10:00 p.m. ET).
In advance of the first weekend of matches, teams came into roster and budget compliance on Tuesday, March 1, 2005. The 2005 MLS competition rules follow below:
I. MLS ROSTER COMPOSITION
A Major League Soccer team's full roster is comprised of the Senior Roster and the Developmental Roster. The full roster shall exceed no more than 28 total players: 18 players on the Senior Roster and no more than 10 players on the Developmental Roster. All 28 players are eligible for selection as part of the gameday squad during the regular season and playoffs.
(A) SENIOR ROSTER
Other than at specified times during preseason, through injury situations (a player added as a season-ending injury replacement) or in cases of extreme hardship, an MLS team shall have no more than 18 senior roster players at any time. The senior roster is comprised of the following players, who all count against a team's salary budget:
(i) DOMESTIC PLAYERS
A domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (green card holder) or the holder of other special status (e.g., has been granted refugee or asylum status).
(ii) SENIOR INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS
Each team shall be allowed up to four (4) Senior International players on its roster - non-domestic players who turn 25 years or older during the season in question. Although these players can be traded by MLS teams, the Senior International slots themselves cannot be traded.
(iii) YOUTH INTERNATIONALS
A Youth International is a non-domestic player (i.e., non-U.S. citizen and non-green card holder) who is 24 years old or younger during the season in question. At the beginning of the year in which the player is due to reach the age of 25, this player will be re-classified as a Senior International. Following the 2004 MLS season, each MLS club was allotted three (3) youth international spots with two (2) additional ones provided to the two 2005 expansion teams for their first two (2) seasons. Unlike senior international spots, all youth international spots can be traded on a permanent or temporary basis (the slots revert to the original team in the latter case). Youth International players may be signed to senior roster contracts or developmental roster contracts (see "Developmental Roster" below). A team may opt to have a youth international occupy one of its senior international slots.
The current list of available youth international spots per team follows (including trades that involved the transfer of some spots as of March 23, 2005): CD Chivas USA (6), Chicago Fire (3), Colorado Rapids (3), Columbus Crew (3), D.C. United (3), FC Dallas (2), Kansas City Wizards (3), Los Angeles Galaxy (4), MetroStars (5), New England Revolution (3), Real Salt Lake (3), San Jose Earthquakes (2).
(B) DEVELOPMENTAL ROSTER
MLS teams may not have more than 10 developmental players on their developmental roster at any time (unless a player is added as a season-ending injury replacement). Developmental players can be either domestic or international and must be 24 years of age or younger during the season in question. These players do not count against a team's salary budget. They are signed to non-guaranteed contracts and thus, can be waived at any time. Teams are permitted an unlimited number of signings during a given season to ensure all 10-man developmental roster spots are occupied at any one time.
Generation adidas players, who are domestic underclassmen, form part of a team's Developmental Roster. They are acquired by MLS teams through the SuperDraft or through the Lottery system if they join the League after the SuperDraft.
II. METHODS OF PLAYER ACQUISITION
MLS teams may acquire players and add them to their Senior and Developmental rosters via the following 10 mechanisms:
A club earns an allocation for (1) failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs; (2) as a replacement in the case of the departure or transfer of key players; or (3) due to expansion status. The two new expansion teams each received three allocations in 2005.
Each year the MLS Competition Committee determines how many allocation spots are made available to each team and whether they are classified as "major" or "minor" allocations (based on the monetary value applied to each allocation by the MLS Competition Committee which considers various factors in determining the figure). Allocation spots or portions thereof (see splitting of allocations below*) can be traded by teams.
Each year, allocations are given a ranking by the MLS Competition Committee. In 2005, one of the three expansion allocations ranked first (the order as between the two expansion teams determined by coin toss at MLS Cup 2004), followed by the major allocations for failure to make the playoffs (ranked between themselves in reverse order of finish in 2004), followed by major replacement allocations in reverse order of 2004, minor replacement allocations in the same order and, finally, remaining portions of split allocations.
In the event that a U.S. National Team player signs with MLS, (and, if he is a player returning to MLS, if his original club does not have a right of first refusal), the club with the first ranking allocation (see current rankings below) has the option of using its allocation to acquire the player in question.
Allocations or portions thereof may be used to re-sign current MLS players, with League approval.
*Beginning in 2005, teams may split major allocations into up to three portions. Once an allocation has been split, the remaining portion(s) shall drop to the bottom of the allocation order. Teams may trade allocations and split portions of allocations.
If a team has an unused outstanding replacement allocation for a departed player, or has not received a replacement allocation, that team has right of first refusal in the event of his return to MLS. If a team has utilized its replacement allocation, by acquiring another player, through a trade or through a split, the team loses its right of first refusal to such returning player, who is then assigned in the normal manner.
(B.) SUPERDRAFT & SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT
These are players drafted by teams at the annual MLS SuperDraft, which consists of four (4) rounds beginning in 2005, and the MLS Supplemental Draft, also consisting of four (4) rounds beginning in 2005. These players may include college players, Generation adidas players and players from lower divisions. Players classified as Youth Internationals may also be part of the SuperDraft or Supplemental Draft. The selection order for both drafts is based upon each team's on-field performance during the previous season.
A player who was drafted by a particular team through the SuperDraft or Supplemental Draft and did not sign with the League, 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 the player.
Players, rights to sign players, SuperDraft picks, allocations (or split portions thereof) and Youth International slots may all be acquired and exchanged in trades approved by the MLS League Office provided all of the necessary rules regarding roster and salary budget compliance are met and the trade is consummated during the valid trading period. The current trade window opened on Monday, November 22, 2004 and will close at the 2005 trade deadline of Thursday, September 15, 2005 (in conjunction with the close of the secondary international transfer window).
(D.) DISCOVERY SIGNINGS
Each team has the opportunity to make six (6) discovery signings per season (up from three (3) discovery signings allowed in 2004). The two expansion teams in 2005 will have ten (10) discovery signings each in 2005 and six (6) in 2006 and beyond. The last day for discovery player signings is September 15, 2005 - coinciding with the close of the secondary international transfer window and the roster freeze date. The six (6) discovery signings can be used to fill senior roster spots only.
(E.) DEVELOPMENTAL ROSTER SIGNINGS
Teams are permitted an unlimited number of developmental player signings during a given season to ensure all 10-man developmental roster spots are occupied at any given time. Youth international limits per team still apply.
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 a notice to teams and shall expire at 5:00 p.m. EST on the second business day after the Waiver Period Commencement Date. The claiming period is 48 hours.
Clubs each have the opportunity of claiming a player off waivers in reverse order based on points-per-game total during the current season. If the waivers occur before every team has played three regular season games, the point totals of the previous year are instead taken into consideration with the team with the worst point total having the first option.
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 eligible for a previous SuperDraft who went undrafted; or
(ii) a player who has played in MLS previously where his last MLS team does not wish to exercise its right of first refusal or no longer has the right of first refusal since 12 months have passed since the player's date of release, except in the case of returning U.S. National Team players as stated below.
Some players shall be assigned to MLS teams via the weighted Lottery process. Any team assigned a player through the lottery in any particular season shall not be assigned another lottery player that season unless and until all teams have received a lottery player or have agreed to waive their option to participate in a Lottery. The players made available through lotteries include:
(i) Generation adidas players signed after the MLS SuperDraft;
(ii) Draft eligible players to whom an MLS contract was offered but who failed to sign with the League prior to the Draft.
The weighted lottery takes into consideration each team's performance over its last 32 regular season games and the most recent postseason. The team with the worst record over its last 32 regular season games (dating back to previous season if necessary) will have the greatest probability of winning the lottery. Teams are not required to participate in a lottery. Players are assigned via the lottery system in order to prevent a player from potentially manipulating his destination club with a strategic holdout.
(H.) EXTREME HARDSHIP CALL-UPS
Teams may add players to their roster in cases of "extreme hardship" as follows: (1) a team has less than two available goalkeepers or (2) a team has less than 15 available players. Extreme hardship call-ups are made on a game-by-game basis.
(I.) SEASON-ENDING INJURY REPLACEMENTS
A team with a player lost to a season-ending injury can replace that player on its roster, while remaining responsible for the full amount of the injured player's salary. International player limits still apply at the time a season-ending replacement is made (with the player being replaced not counting against those limits).
(J.) RETURNING U.S. NATIONAL TEAM POOL PLAYERS
In the event a U.S. National Team pool player playing abroad returns to the U.S. and there is interest from multiple MLS teams, preference will be given first to a team prepared to use an allocation. If there is more than one team prepared to use an allocation on a particular player, the current season's allocation rankings as determined by the MLS Competition Committee would be used. In the event no team is willing to use an allocation, the player will be assigned via waivers.
NOTE: No changes may be made to a team's active full roster during the period beginning on September 15, 2005 (Roster Freeze Date) through the day after MLS Cup. Nevertheless, a team may obtain players in accordance with the extreme hardship rules and procedures to replace players who are injured or otherwise legitimately unavailable after the Roster Freeze Date. Any other replacements after the Roster Freeze Date may only be made in exceptional circumstances in the League's sole and absolute discretion.
(III.) METHODS OF RELEASING PLAYERS
Teams may waive players based on performance at any time during the MLS season. Players on guaranteed contracts or players waived on or after July 1 of any year, however, will continue to have their salary 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. Players may not be waived while they are injured, unless the League reaches a settlement with the injured player for his release. In such a scenario, the settlement amount will be charged to the team's salary budget. Upon return to fitness, however, a player may be waived normally.
(B) TRANSFERS AND LOANS
An MLS player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a team outside the League. Beginning with the 2004 season, FIFA does not recognize player transfers that take place outside of the two following transfer windows:
January 1 - March 31 (Primary Window)
August 15 - September 15 (Secondary Window)
FIFA does allow for the registration of free agents outside of the primary and secondary windows in limited circumstances. Visit www.FIFA.com for more details.
(C) CONTRACT EXPIRATION
When a player's contract expires, the player does not count against the roster or budget of the team in question. 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. In exceptional circumstances where an important player could not be re-signed, a team may be awarded a replacement allocation.
NOTE: No changes may be made to a team's active full roster during the period beginning on September 15, 2005 (Roster Freeze Date) through the day after MLS Cup. Nevertheless, a team may obtain a goalkeeper in accordance with the extreme hardship rules and procedures to replace a goalkeeper who is injured or otherwise legitimately unavailable after the Roster Freeze Date. Any other replacements after the Roster Freeze Date may only be made in exceptional circumstances in the League's sole and absolute discretion.
(IV.) PLAYER RIGHTS
The following explains the status of player rights in specific instances:
a team waiving a player who clears waivers holds a right of first refusal to such player for 12 months from the date of his release.
OUT OF CONTRACT PLAYERS / OPTIONS NOT PICKED UP: 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, 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 replacement allocation is granted, a team does not retain a right of first refusal unless the team has not yet used the compensatory allocation. In such a case, the team may retain the right of first refusal on the player provided they surrender the full amount of the replacement allocation.