Major League Soccer clarifies, updates policies regarding match postponements

Lightning strikes during a CCL match between Toronto FC vs. FC Dallas

In the wake of weather disruptions at several recent matches, Major League Soccer moved this week to clarify its policies pertaining to match postponements.

According to the league, the MLS Product Strategy Committee on Wednesday agreed to several new rules governing what happens when a game is abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances.

The policy, which has been added to the league’s 2015 Rules and Regulations, is as follows:

Postponement Policy

  • In the event a match is abandoned in or after the 76th minute (i.e. 75:00 on the official game clock), the result and all statistics will stand.
  • In the event a match is abandoned prior to the 76th minute, it will be postponed, rather than cancelled.  In the event the game is abandoned prior the 76th minute, any remaining time will be completed the following day or as soon as practical.
  • The League will determine in its discretion whether to postpone/abandon a match after considering all relevant factors and circumstances including: whether the delay in play exceeds 3 hours and whether resuming play would begin after 12:00 am local time and/or whether the game would be completed by 1:00 am local time; neither factor is determinative.

Match Recommencement

  • The match must restart on the same spot where the abandoned match action occurred (i.e. free-kick, throw-in, goal kick, corner kick, penalty, etc.).  If the match was stopped during the normal flow of the game, a dropped ball on the spot where it was abandoned shall be used to restart.
  • The match shall recommence with the same players on the pitch and substitutes available as when the match was initially abandoned. Any player in play at the time the match was abandoned who subsequently is injured before the resumption of the match and cannot play can only be replaced by a substitute on the official match day roster of the abandoned match.  Such substitute will NOT count against a team’s normally allotted substitutions.
  • No additional substitutes may be added to the list of players on the official match day roster.
  • The teams can make only the number of substitutions to which they were still entitled when the match was abandoned (except as provided above in the case of a subsequent injury).


  • Single yellow cards imposed before the match was abandoned are not carried forward to any other matches before the abandoned match is completed.
  • Players sent off during the abandoned match cannot be replaced and the number of players in the starting line-up remains as it was when the match was abandoned.
  • Players who were suspended following a match played after the abandoned match in question can be included on the team sheet so long as they were on the official match day roster of the abandoned match.
  • Any sanctions imposed before the match was abandoned remain valid for the remainder of the match.

Over the past month, several MLS matches have been disrupted due to heavy weather. In Dallas, a game between FC Dallas and Toronto FC was delayed for 3 hours and 26 minutes on April 18 due to lightning strikes in the area, and finished around 1 am local time. A May 6 game in Utah between Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy was also delayed 62 minutes due to lightning in the area.