Media Resources

MLS to Implement New Competition Initiatives This Weekend

Off-Field Treatment Rule, Timed Substitution Rule, and In-Stadium VAR Announcements to take effect starting this Saturday, April 20

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NEW YORK (Tuesday, April 16, 2024) – Major League Soccer today announced that the Off-Field Treatment Rule, Timed Substitution Rule, and In-Stadium VAR Announcements will be implemented in MLS games beginning this Saturday, April 20.

Off-Field Treatment Rule

The Off-Field Treatment Rule allows medical professionals with time to assess and treat players off the field of play in a less pressurized environment.

If a player with a suspected injury remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds, the referee will stop play and wave the medical crew onto the field to evaluate the player. When safe, the player will be removed from the field and remain off the field for a minimum of two minutes for further assessment and treatment.

First implemented in MLS NEXT Pro midway through the 2022 season and continued through the entirety of the 2023 season, the Off-Field Treatment Rule has allowed medical staffs time to treat players, while also allowing match play to resume quickly.

Exceptions to the Off-Field Treatment Rule include instances of potential head injury, goalkeeper injuries, serious medical events, and fouls resulting in yellow or red cards.

Timed Substitution Rule

Maximizing effective match time, the Timed Substitution Rule requires that a substituted player exit the field within 10 seconds. Failure to exit from any point on the field within the 10 seconds will cause the incoming player to wait for a 60-second holding period, before entering the game at the next stoppage. During the holding period and prior to the substitute entering, the team will play down a player. Exceptions to the rule include injury and goalkeeper substitutions.

Enacted in MLS NEXT Pro during the 2023 season, 99.7% of the more than 3,200 substitutions were completed in 10 seconds or less.

In-Stadium VAR Announcements

VAR decisions will be explained and announced by the referee to fans in stadium and broadcast viewers at home.

The new sporting initiatives were previously announced during the 2024 MLS preseason, but were postponed due to labor negotiations between the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PRSA)

Other initiatives including the Return to Play Equity protocol and stoppage time clock, took effect at the start of the 2024 MLS regular season.

More information on the new 2024 MLS competition initiatives can be found **here**.

Additional Media Assets

  • **VIDEO**: EVP, Sporting Product & Competition Nelson Rodríguez and Senior Vice President of Competition & Operations, MLS NEXT Pro Ali Curtis discuss the 2024 MLS Competition Initiatives
  • **VIDEO**: How did MLS determine timing parameters around its new initiatives?
  • **VIDEO**: What direction are match officials receiving with the time parameters of the initiative?
  • 2024 MLS Competition Guidelines **here**.
  • Off-Field Treatment Rule & Timed Substitution Rule Descriptions: **English** | **Spanish**