MLS implements Designated Player Rule and other competition initiatives

Major League Soccer's Board of Governors today unveiled details of the 2007 MLS competition structure, including the implementation of a Designated Player Rule.

The Designated Player Rule will allow MLS to sign players whose salary will fall outside of the team salary budget and whose cost above the salary budget charge will be the financial responsibility of the club. A Designated Player's salary charge will be capped at $400,000, but his salary could be higher. The League office will continue to sign Designated Players under Major League Soccer's single entity system, but individual clubs will determine to whom they wish to assign Designated Player status.

The salaries of players above the maximum salary budget have been the financial responsibility of the collective group of MLS investors. Players such as Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Carlos Ruiz (FC Dallas) and Eddie Johnson (Kansas City) will be "grandfathered" for one year after which they, too, will assume Designated Player status.

Each team will initially receive one Designated Player slot, and clubs are allowed to trade Designated Player slots. However, no team can have more than two Designated Players.

The Designated Player Rule is a three-year initiative that will conclude after the 2009 MLS season when its future will be reviewed.

"The designated player rule provides clubs an exciting mechanism to add tremendous value to their rosters," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "Our fans have stated they would like to see more world-class stars in MLS, and the Designated Player Rule allows us to sign more elite talent from throughout the world."

In addition to the Designated Player Rule, certain other initiatives focused on competition quality were also adopted. These initiatives include:

• An increase in the club's share of transfer revenue generated from the transfer of a player on the club's roster with a commitment to reinvest all of such revenue into a replacement player or players.

• A commitment to invest further in scouting and information systems at the League level that will include a worldwide scouting network.

• An increase in the expansion allocation budget for Toronto FC.

Together with the youth development initiatives announced yesterday, these changes represent a wide-ranging and significant emphasis on investing in Major League Soccer's on-field product.

The MLS Board of Governors also announced the following:

• The 2007 MLS season will feature a 30-game regular season. Each week, one of the 13 MLS clubs will have a "bye."

• The Eastern & Western Conference alignment will be maintained with Toronto FC joining the Eastern Conference. The 2007 conference alignment:

Eastern Conference
Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew
D.C. United
Kansas City Wizards
New England Revolution
Red Bull New York
Toronto FC

Western Conference
Chivas USA
Colorado Rapids
FC Dallas
Houston Dynamo
Los Angeles Galaxy
Real Salt Lake

• Each club will play each other team twice (home and away) for 24 games per team.
- The remaining six games are played between teams from the same conference. (3 home and 3 away)
    - For the Western Conference, one extra intra-conference game is played, with preference given to rivalries.
    - For example, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA will play each other four times, as will Real Salt Lake/Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas/Houston Dynamo.

• The MLS Cup Playoffs will continue under the same format used in 2006 pertaining to number of games. Each Conference Semifinal Series will consist of two games. The Eastern and Western Conference Championships will consist of one game and MLS Cup will be a one-game final.
  • Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs.
  • The top two teams in each conference, plus four "wild cards" with the most points after 30 games, regardless of conference, will qualify.

• The 12th MLS regular season concludes on Sunday, October 21, with the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs commencing on the weekend of November 10-11.

• MLS Cup 2007 will take place Sunday, November 18 (site TBA at a later date).

• The 2007 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game will take place July 18 or 19 (site TBA at a later date).

In addition, the MLS Board of Governors approved an initiative that will ensure 100 percent of MLS matches will be broadcast live on television for the 2007 season, the first time in the League's history where all games will be televised.

The 2007 Master MLS Schedule is slated to be announced early next year, while dates and venues for teams' 2007 MLS Spring Training plans will be released in the near future. Major League Soccer's 2007 SuperDraft takes place on Friday, January 12, 2007, in conjunction with the NSCAA convention in Indianapolis, IN.

Major League Soccer's championship match, MLS Cup 2006, features the Eastern Conference Champions New England Revolution playing the Western Conference Champions Houston Dynamo for the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy on Sunday, November 12, 2006. The game will be televised live to a national audience on ABC Sports (3:30 p.m. ET) while ESPN International will televise it in 96 countries via ESPN Dos, ESPN Atlantic and ESPN Pac-Rim networks.