Clubs may request an appeal with the Independent Review Panel to request a review to rectify a case of clear and obvious error relating to an on-field disciplinary decision of the match officials for one of the following:
- A red card; or
- The second yellow card when a player receives two yellow cards in a match resulting in a suspension; or
- The first yellow card (when a player receives two yellow cards in a match resulting in a suspension) in circumstances when the first yellow card was issued for unsporting behavior, and in the opinion of the Independent Review Panel, the opponent attempted to deceive the referee.
*Note: Incident occurring off-field will not be considered by the Independent Review Panel.
Prior to the start of each season, clubs must post a $25,000 refundable bond with the League Office for the right to make up to two unsuccessful appeals in a season (including MLS Cup Playoffs).
A club seeking to file an appeal must notify the MLS Senior Vice President of Competition within (24) hours of the completion of a match in which the decision occurred. Clubs must submit documentation, including any and all evidence (e.g., video, photography, written statements, other) supporting the appeal within 48 hours after the completion of a match (or within 72 hours after the completion of a game under extenuating circumstances, which will be assessed on a and nonprecedential basis).
MLS will forward all notifications and evidence to the Independent Review Panel. The Independent Review Panel will render a decision within 48 hours (or within 72 hours under extenuating circumstances) of receiving final evidence submissions.
All prescribed time limits will be strictly enforced, and late submissions will not be considered. All evidence must be in written and video format only (i.e., verbal evidence may not be submitted).
The Major League Soccer Players Association (“MLSPA”) will have the right to veto any appeal involving a player.
Potential Outcomes of an appeal
If an appeal is upheld (i.e., successful)
- The punishment will be rescinded
- The retention of the Club’s appeal for the remainder of the current MLS season (including Post-Season)
If an appeal is denied
- The punishment (and any supplemental discipline should it be administered by the MLS Disciplinary Committee) will stand
- The club loses one of its two allotted unsuccessful appeals for the current MLS season (MLS Cup Playoffs included).
If an appeal is denied and deemed frivolous by the ruling body that reviewed the case:
- The club’s bond will be forfeited
- The club loses the right to appeal any other decisions for the remainder of the current MLS Regular Season and the next MLS Regular Season, including MLS Cup Playoffs
- Both the suspension and fine related to the frivolous appeal is doubled (i.e., an automatic suspension of two games).
Outlined below is the procedure that will be applied to the review of send-offs.
The applicable Ruling Body will review the appeal from the club and determine, based on all available evidence (e.g., video, testimony, etc.):
- Did the match officials make a clear and obvious error in respect to the disciplinary sanction in accordance with the Laws of the Game?
- If the Independent Review Panel member’s answer to the question is YES, then he/she votes to uphold the appeal (i.e., the appeal is successful).
- If the Independent Review Panel member’s answer to the question is NO, then he/she votes to deny the appeal (i.e., the appeal is unsuccessful). In cases where the Independent Review Panel’s final decision is to deny an appeal, the Independent Review will then vote to determine whether the appeal deemed to be frivolous in line with the definition below:
A frivolous appeal is one that has no sound basis in fact or the Laws of the Game or that does not contain objective rational basis. In other words, an appeal is not frivolous if a reasonable observer with knowledge of the Laws of the Game would find that there is a rational basis for arguing that the discipline applied was not appropriate for the offense.
All Independent Review Panel decisions to uphold an appeal must be unanimous. Additionally, all decisions to classify an appeal as frivolous must be unanimous.
Ruling Bodies for Send-offs
The three-member Independent Review Panel will consist of one representative appointed by each of the following:
- One representative from U.S. Soccer Federation
- One representative from the Canadian Soccer Association
- One independent representative nominated by the Professional Referee Organization
Ruling Body for Red Card; Second Yellow Card
- The Independent Review Panel, will oversee the review of any player appeal. MLS does NOT participate on this panel.
Ruling Body for Coach/Staff Dismissals
- The MLS Disciplinary Committee, not the Independent Review Panel, will oversee the review of any coach/staff appeal.