2021 MLS ROSTER COMPOSITION
A Major League Soccer club's active roster is comprised of up to 30 players. All 30 players are eligible for selection to the game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs.
In addition to the Salary Budget, each MLS club may spend additional funds on player compensation including money from a League-wide allocation pool (General Allocation Money), discretionary amounts of Targeted Allocation Money, the cost of Designated Players outside the Salary Budget, the cost of U22 Initiative Slots outside the Salary Budget, and money spent on the Supplemental Roster (roster slots 21-30).
Up to 20 players, occupying roster slots 1-20, count against the club's 2020 Salary Budget of $4,900,000 and are referred to collectively as the club's Senior Roster.
- Clubs are not required to fill roster slots 19 and 20, and clubs may spread their entire Salary Budget across 18 Senior Roster Players. A minimum Salary Budget Charge will be imputed against a club's Salary Budget for each unfilled Senior Roster slot below 18.
- A club may have no more than 20 players on its Senior Roster, subject to the Season-Ending Injury, Injured List, and Loan exceptions.
- The Maximum Salary Budget Charge for a single player is $612,500. (See Allocation Money section below for details on buying down a player's Salary Budget Charge.)
The salaries of players on the Supplemental Roster (slots 21-30) do not count toward a club's Salary Budget.
A club may have no more than ten players on its Supplemental Roster, subject to the Season-Ending Injury, Injured List, and Loan exceptions. All Generation adidas players are Supplemental Roster players during the initial guaranteed term of their contract.
- Slots 21-24 may be filled with (i) Senior Minimum Salary Players ($81,375 in 2021), which may include Homegrown Players, (ii) Generation adidas Players, (iii) any specifically designated players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft; or (iv) Homegrown Players earning more than the Senior Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy .
- All players in slots 21-24 must be paid a base salary that is at least the Senior Minimum Salary ($81,375).
- Slots 25-28 may be filled with (i) players earning the Reserve Minimum Salary ($63,547 in 2021), which may include Homegrown Players, or (ii) Homegrown Players earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
- Reserve Minimum Salary Players must be 24 years or younger during the League Year (age of player is determined by year - not date - of birth).
- These slots may not be filled with Senior Minimum Salary Players (unless they are Homegrown Players subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy) or Generation adidas Players.
- All players in slots 25-28 must be paid a base salary that is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary ($63,547).
- Slots 29 and 30 must be filled with Homegrown Players (i) earning the Reserve Minimum Salary ($63,547 in 2021) or (ii) earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
- All Players in roster slots 29-30 must be paid a base salary which is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary.
Homegrown Player Subsidy
- Homegrown Player(s) in Supplemental Roster slots 21-30 may earn in aggregate each year up to $125,000 above the Reserve Minimum Salary (if occupying slots 25-30) or Senior Minimum Salary (if occupying slots 21-24).
- Clubs may use up to $200,000 of their currently available Targeted Allocation Money to sign new Homegrown Players to their first MLS contract, subject to League review and approval. Targeted Allocation Money cannot be used on a Homegrown Player previously signed to MLS.
2021 Roster Compliance, Roster Freeze and Transfer Window Dates
- The 2021 Roster Compliance Date is April 16, 2021 (or April 15, 2021 for clubs playing MLS matches on April 16, 2021), at which time clubs must be roster and budget compliant heading into the start of the 20201 MLS season.
- The 2021 Roster Freeze Date is September 15, 2021, at which time clubs must submit their final 30-man roster. Rosters cannot be changed from that date through the day after MLS Cup.
The registration windows - the dates between which MLS may request the international transfer certificate of a player under contract in another country - are as follows:
Primary Transfer Window: Wed., March 10 – Tues., June 1, 2021
Secondary Transfer Window: Wed., July 7 – Thurs., August 5, 2021
PLAYER CATEGORIES ON THE ROSTER
In 2021, a total of 216 international roster slots are divided among the 27 clubs. These roster slots are tradable, in full season increments, such that some clubs may have more than eight and some clubs may have less than eight during any given season. With trades, there is no limit on the number of international roster slots on each club's roster.
U.S.-based clubs: For U.S. clubs, a domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (i.e., a Green Card holder), the holder of a certain other special status (e.g., has been granted refugee or asylum status) or a player who qualifies under the Homegrown International Rule by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window in 2021 (July 7, 2021). There is no limit as to the number of U.S. Domestic Players on a U.S. club's roster.
Canada-based clubs: For Canadian clubs, a domestic player is either a Canadian citizen or the holder of certain other special status (i.e., has been granted refugee or asylum status), a player who qualifies under the Homegrown International Rule, or a U.S. Domestic Player by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window in 2021 (July 7, 2021). There is no limit as to the number of Canadian Domestic Players on a Canadian club's roster.
- There is no limit as to the number of U.S. Domestic Players or Canadian Domestic Players on a Canadian club's roster; provided, however, that a Canadian club is required to have a minimum of three Canadian Domestic Players on its roster at all times.
Homegrown International Rule
Any player who meets the requirements to qualify as a Homegrown Player as a member of an MLS club academy, either in the U.S. or Canada, or has met similar requirements as a member of a Canadian Approved Youth Club, will count as a domestic player (i.e., he will not occupy an international roster slot) on both U.S. and Canadian club rosters provided that:
- The player became a member of an MLS club academy, either in the U.S. or Canada, or a Canadian Approved Youth Club no later than the year in which he turned 15 years old; and
- The player signs his first professional contract with MLS or an MLS club's USL affiliate.
U.S.-based clubs: Any player who does not qualify as a U.S. Domestic Player in a U.S. club by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window in 2021 (July 7, 2021) shall be considered an International Player and must occupy an international roster slot on a U.S. club's roster for the full season. For avoidance of doubt, an International Player may not be converted to a Domestic Player if he receives a green card after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window.
Canada-based clubs: Any player who does not qualify as a U.S. Domestic Player or a Canadian Domestic Player by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window in 2021 (July 7, 2021) shall be considered an International Player and must occupy an international roster slot on a Canadian club's roster for the full season. For avoidance of doubt, an International Player may not be converted to a Domestic Player if he receives permanent residency after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window.
Players signed through the Homegrown Player mechanism (see below in Player Acquisition Mechanisms) will receive the designation of “Homegrown Player” on a club’s roster.
- There is no limit to the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in any given year.
- Homegrown Players may occupy a slot on the Senior or Supplemental Roster.
- Homegrown Players on the Supplemental Roster may earn in aggregate each year up to $125,000 above the Reserve Minimum Salary ($63,547 in 2021) or the Senior Minimum Salary ($81,375 in 2021).
Generation adidas is a joint program between MLS and adidas that is dedicated to developing exceptional talent in a professional environment. Each year, a handful of top collegiate underclassmen and youth national team players are signed by the League with the majority of such players entering the League through the MLS SuperDraft. Until the end of the guaranteed term of his contract up to three years, Generation adidas players are on a club's Supplemental Roster.
The Designated Player Rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensation and acquisition costs exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above each player's Salary Budget Charge. Designated Players may be new players signed to MLS via the Allocation Ranking List or the Discovery Process, or they may be re-signed existing players on a club's roster.
A player's Salary Budget Charge, and therefore Designated Player status, is generally determined by averaging all guaranteed amounts payable over the guaranteed term.
In 2021, a Designated Player who is at least 24 years old during the League Year will carry the Maximum Salary Budget Charge ($612,500) unless the player joins his club after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window, in which case his budget charge will be $306,250.
Young Designated Player
- A Designated Player who is 23 years old (or younger than the age of 23) during the League Year (the age of the player is determined by year - not date - of birth) will carry the following Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge:
- Ages 20 and younger: $150,000
- Ages 21-23: $200,000
- If such a Young Designated Player joins the club after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window, he will carry the Mid-Season Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge of $150,000.
Clubs may "buy down" the Salary Budget Charge of a Designated Player with General Allocation Money. The reduced budget charge may not be less than $150,000.
Each club will be allotted two Designated Player roster slots. Clubs with two Designated Players may add a third Designated Player by paying $150,000 to the League, which shall be split among clubs with two or fewer occupied Designated Player slots for use as General Allocation Money in the following MLS Season. Clubs must pay the $150,000 fee every year in which a third Designated Player slot is occupied on the club's roster.
If a club uses the third Designated Player slot to sign a Young Designated Player, then the club will not be obligated to pay the $150,000 charge.
Designated Player slots are not tradable.
U22 Initiative Roster Slots
Number of Slots:
Each MLS team will have up to three U22 Initiative Slots that will each occupy one of the 20 existing Senior Roster Slots. The number of U22 Initiative Slots available to each team will be based on that team’s use of its third Designated Player slot.
If a Club has a vacant third Designated Player slot, the Club will have available three U22 Initiative Slots.
If a Club elects to sign a third Designated Player, the number of U22 Initiative Slots would be impacted in the following way:
- If the third Designated Player is a Young Designated Player, the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots.
- If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older, yet is at, or below, Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots.
- If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older and is above Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have one U22 Initiative Slot.
Eligibility for U22 Initiative Slot:
Age: A Player must be twenty-two years old or younger in the first year he is eligible to play in an MLS game (e.g., not eligible for 2021 if he turns 23 in 2021). A player who signs at age 22 or younger may continue to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot through the year in which he turns 25, provided that for non-Homegrown players, such player is on his initial contract. A Homegrown player may continue to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot through the year in which he turns 25, provided he must be on his first or second contract and the applicable contract must have been signed at age 22 or younger.
Contract: A player is eligible to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot if signing his first contract with MLS, provided that player meets age and compensation requirements, as either a Homegrown player, or, as an international or domestic player playing outside of MLS. A player will be eligible to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot during his second contract provided that he meets the age and compensation requirements and signed his first contract with MLS as either a Homegrown or SuperDraft player.
Compensation: A player’s salary may not exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge in any given year, including option years. A Homegrown or SuperDraft player on his second contract may earn up to $200,000 above the Maximum Salary Budget Charge in any given year, including option years.
In addition, Clubs may pay, without limit, additional amounts in the form of acquisition fees (i.e. transfer or loan fees).
U22 Initiative Slot Budget Charge:
Players occupying a U22 Initiative Slot will have a Salary Budget Charge that mirrors that of a Young Designated Player:
- Ages 20 and younger: $150,000
- Ages 21-23: $200,000
All such amounts above the first $150,000 or $200,000 accounted for on the Salary Budget will be paid on a discretionary basis by the Club.
Transfer of Player:
In the event a player occupying a U22 Initiative Slot is transferred outside of the League, 100% of the proceeds of the sale (i.e., after out-of-pocket amounts are recouped) will be paid to the Club and such amounts may be converted to General Allocation Money based on the below sliding scale:
- Acquisition cost of the Player for coming into the League (e.g., both Loan and Transfer costs)
- Revenue share convertible to GAM in 2021 (increases by five percent (5%) annually thereafter)
Acquisition cost of the Player
Revenue share convertible to GAM
Minimum Slot Occupation Length:
A player must occupy a U22 Initiative Slot for a minimum of two seasons; provided, however, if the compensation (including acquisition fee, loan fee, and/or conditional compensation) amortized over the first three years is greater than the Maximum Salary Budget Charge, then he must occupy a U22 Initiative Slot for a minimum of three seasons.
Reclassification of a Player from a U22 Initiative Slot:
Prior to meeting the minimum slot occupation length, a Club may: transfer the player out of MLS, remove the player from a U22 Initiative Slot using Targeted Allocation Money, loan the player outside of MLS, utilize its one Off-Season Buyout, or transition the player to a Designated Player slot.
If the contract of a player occupying a U22 Initiative Slot is renegotiated prior to meeting the minimum slot occupation length, the League will not reclassify the player and he must continue to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot or Designated Player slot depending on compensation.
Salary Limitation in Options and Years 26+
If a player’s contract includes Options, compensation during the Options may exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge only if it is in a year the player is no longer required to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot. These players would not be eligible to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot in the Option year regardless of age if the compensation exceeds the Maximum Salary Budget Charge.
If a player’s contract covers years in which he is no longer eligible to occupy a U22 Initiative Slot (i.e., the seasons of his 26+ birthday), the player’s compensation may exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge provided it is during an Option year.
SPECIAL DISCOVERY PLAYERS
In general, the total amount of the acquisition cost of a player is charged against the Salary Budget in the year in which it is paid. For one player on a club's roster (a "Special Discovery Player"), a club can amortize the total amount of acquisition costs (up to $500,000) over the term of the player's contract, including Option years, or over the term of the first and second contract, so long as the second contract is signed prior to the expiration of the first. A club my choose to amortize the acquisition costs evenly or in unequal installments. If the Club chooses unequal installments, no less than 10-percent of the amortized acquisition cost may be captured in any given League year of the player’s contract.
If a Special Discovery Player is transferred to a non-MLS Club prior to the expiration of the term of his contract, any remaining unamortized acquisition costs would be charged immediately to a Club Salary Budget. If a transfer fee is received for the player, any unamortized acquisition costs, including the acquisition cost charged to the Club Salary Budget during the MLS Season such transfer occurs, may be recouped prior to any sharing arrangement with the League. Any guaranteed compensation due to the player will continue to be charged to a Club Salary Budget.
- Special Discovery Players must be 27 years old (or younger than the age of 27) during the League Year under consideration (the age of the player is determined by year - not date - of birth).
- There may be no more than one Special Discovery Player per number of clubs in the League (i.e., 27 total Special Discovery Players across the League in 2021).
- A club may have more than one Special Discovery Player on its Senior Roster at any given time if the club received the additional player(s) via trade. However, the club trading the Special Discovery Player may not sign a new Special Discovery Player until the traded Special Discovery Player's original contract expires, the player's contract is terminated, or all the amortized acquisition costs are accounted for in the Salary Budget Charge.
- Targeted Allocation Money may be used on a Special Discovery Player if he qualifies.
PLAYER ACQUISITION MECHANISMS
Clubs may acquire players and add them to their rosters via the following mechanisms:
Allocation Ranking List
The Allocation Process is the mechanism used to determine which club has first priority to acquire a player listed on the Allocation Ranking List. This list will consist of (i) select U.S. Men's National Team players, (ii) select youth U.S. National Team players, and/or (iii) former MLS players returning to MLS after joining a non-MLS club for an outgoing transfer fee of $500,000 or more. Generally, the League will update the Allocation Ranking List once a year (typically after the conclusion of the MLS Regular Season), but may make additional updates in its sole discretion, including, but not limited to, adding players transferred out of MLS and top U.S. youth national team players.
Allocation Ranking Order
The Allocation Ranking Order is set by taking the reverse order of the club's standings at the end of each MLS Season, taking playoff performance into account, with the new expansion clubs at the top of the order.
Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is the other club's ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS season.
Any updates to the Allocation Ranking List or Allocation Ranking Order will be reflected at mlssoccer.com/news/mls-allocation-process
The 2021 MLS SuperDraft consisted of three rounds of player selection. Any club that had received a fourth-round pick via trade was given a compensatory pick at the conclusion of the third round.
Most draft prospects are NCAA college seniors who have exhausted their college eligibility. Generation adidas Players and non-collegiate international players are also eligible for selection in the MLS SuperDraft. Clubs may nominate players for the League's Draft-Eligible List, and only players from that list may be selected.
The MLS SuperDraft order is set by taking the reverse order of the club standings at the end of each MLS season, taking postseason performance into account, with new expansion clubs at the top of the order.
College Protected List
Unless claimed on Waivers, a player who was drafted by a particular club through the MLS SuperDraft and did not sign with the League is placed on that club's "College Protected List" until December 31 of the year after the draft (i.e., for the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, until December 31, 2022), after which the club loses the priority rights to sign the player.
Players, General Allocation Money, Allocation Rankings, international roster slots, college protected player priority, Discovery Priority, and Homegrown Player priority in addition to selection position in the MLS SuperDraft , Re-Entry Process, and Waivers may all be exchanged in trades approved by the League, provided all of the necessary rules regarding roster and Salary Budget compliance are met and the trade is completed during a valid trading period.
During the season, trades that involve players must occur during either the Primary Transfer Window or Secondary Transfer Window.
Pursuant to the Discovery Process, clubs may scout and sign players who are not yet under contract to MLS and who are not subject to another assignment mechanism (e.g., Allocation Process, MLS SuperDraft). To sign a player through the Discovery Process, the club must first place the player on its Discovery List. A club may have up to seven players on its Discovery List at any time and may remove or add players at any time. There is no limit to how many players a club can sign from its Discovery List.
Clubs may not add the following players to their Discovery Lists:
- Current MLS players
- Players on the Allocation Ranking List
- Players who have played in MLS and were subsequently waived or terminated (such players are available on a first-come, first-served basis)
- Players for whom another club has a Right of First Refusal
- Players who played at college or forwent college during the college season immediately prior to the date of discovery (If a player has completed or forgone his College eligibility in the season immediately prior to the date of his Discovery and was not on the MLS SuperDraft List, he shall be placed on Waivers)
- Underage players (i.e., players under the age of 18 if domestic or under the age of 17 if outside of the U.S. or Canada)
- Amateur members of the U.S. U-17 and U-20 or Canadian National Teams. MLS shall have an exclusive 45-day window after such players reach their respective 18th birthdays or graduate high school (whichever is later) to determine if these players will be pre-signed for the SuperDraft or be placed on the Allocation Ranking List.
- Players who (1) the League unsuccessfully attempted to pre-sign for the MLS SuperDraft, (2) the League did not attempt to sign for the SuperDraft, (3) are not on the Allocation Ranking List, or (4) did not enter college will be non-discoverable for up to one year after forgoing college and will be placed on Waivers during this one-year period.
- Homegrown-eligible players (i.e., another club has achieved or is in the process of achieving Homegrown Priority over such a player)
- Free Agents
Designated Player Requests
If a club wishes to add a player to its Discovery List whom the League determines will require a significant investment from the club, the League will, prior to placing that player on a club’s Discovery List, determine whether the club has the necessary intent, means and ability to sign such a player. The League may contact the player’s current club (if applicable) and/or his authorized representative to determine the likelihood of reaching an agreement. If the League determines that there is no realistic chance of signing the player at that time he will not be discoverable.
Discovery Conflict Resolution
If one or more clubs attempt to add the same player to their respective Discovery Lists, the club that filed the claim on the earlier date will have the priority right to sign the player. If one or more clubs submit a discovery request on the same day, then the club with the lowest points-per-game in the current MLS Regular Season (all clubs must have played a minimum of three regular season games) will have the priority right to sign the player.
If a club wants to sign a player on the Discovery List of another club that has higher Discovery priority on the player, it may offer that club $50,000 in General Allocation Money in exchange for the right to sign the player. The club with the player on its Discovery List will then have five days (or three days during the Secondary Transfer Window) to either (i) accept the General Allocation Money and pass on the right to sign the player or (ii) make the player a genuine, objectively reasonable offer.
Related Party Transactions
All terms of any arrangements among an MLS club, a related party club, and a player to be signed to MLS shall be fully disclosed to the League. A player joining an MLS club from a related party club will calculate his Salary Budget Charge based on the compensation he is receiving from his related party club contract and any acquisition fees associated with his signing. The League will make a final determination, in its sole discretion, as to the Salary Budget Charge of such a player.
Homegrown Player Signings
A club may sign a player to a contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of that club’s youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players.
There is no limit on the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in any given year.
USL Priority Players
In addition to Homegrown Players and College Protected Players, clubs may have priority for up to three players from their respective United Soccer League (USL) affiliates. In order to retain priority on any additional USL affiliate players, such players must be added to an MLS club’s Discovery List and will not count towards the seven Discovery List slots.
The Re-Entry Process is summarized below and subject to the long-form 2020-2028 MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Re-Entry Process will commence after MLS Cup. The priority order for the Re-Entry Draft is the reverse order of finish in 2021, taking into account playoff performance. Players who are available to be selected in Re-Entry Draft include all option decline and out of contract players who are 22 years old or older with at least one MLS service year and who are not eligible for Free Agency.
Players who are available in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft are:
Players who are at least 22 years old and have a minimum of one MLS service year whose options were not exercised by their clubs.
Players who are at least 22 years old and have a minimum of one MLS service year who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at a $15,000 increase or 10% increase in salary over his prior year’s salary.
Clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer (i.e., $15,000 increase or 10% increase in salary over his prior year’s salary) to, all players selected in Stage One and may not select their own draft-eligible players. Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the Right of First Refusal for that player in MLS. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club's roster.
Players who are not selected in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft will be made available in Stage Two. If a player is selected in Stage Two, the drafting club will be required to make a genuine offer to the player. If an agreement cannot be reached between the drafting club and the player, the drafting club will hold the Right of First Refusal for that player in MLS. Clubs may not select their own draft-eligible players in Stage Two until all other Clubs have declined on selecting such players.
Players who remain unselected after Stage Two will be available to any MLS club on a first-come, first-served basis.
A player may choose to opt out of the Re-Entry Process prior to Stage One and/or Stage Two of the Re-Entry Draft. In such instances, the Right of First Refusal for the player will remain with his previous club.
Free Agency will be conducted in accordance with the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement.
A club may place a player on Waivers at any time during the regular season at which point he is made available to all other MLS clubs. The Waiver Claiming Period shall commence on the first business day after the League delivers notice to clubs and expires at 5 p.m. ET on the second business day. If a player is not selected off Waivers ("clears Waivers") then that player is available to all MLS clubs on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Waiver Order is based on points per game once all clubs have played at least three MLS League Season games. If the Waiver takes place prior to all clubs playing in at least three MLS League Season games, priority is granted based upon the previous MLS season's performance, taking playoff performance into account first, with clubs eliminated from playoff contention at the same stage separated according to their point totals through the end of the regular season. New expansion clubs shall be at the bottom of the Waiver Order until all clubs have played at least three MLS League Season games.
Claiming an Out of Contract Player
If a club claims a player who was previously signed to an MLS contract but is no longer signed to an MLS contract, the club must issue the player a genuine offer within three business days.
Claiming a Guaranteed Player
If a player with a guaranteed contract is waived, any interested MLS club will have 48 hours from the notice of Waivers to claim the player by notifying the League of the intention to claim the player and the amount of the player's Salary Budget Charge they wish to assume. The player will be awarded based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, which club is willing to absorb the highest Salary Budget Charge. If the highest Salary Budget Charge is submitted by more than one club, the player will be awarded based on the Waiver Order.
Players who are eligible to be placed on Waivers are as follows:
- Contracted Players: Any player with an SPA.
- Completed College Eligibility: Any player who has completed his college eligibility in the MLS season immediately prior to the MLS SuperDraft and was not on the MLS SuperDraft list.
- Remaining College Eligibility: A player who left or forgoes college with remaining eligibility (and was not on the MLS SuperDraft list). Such players will be discoverable one year after leaving or forgoing college with remaining eligibility (subject to being placed on the Allocation Ranking List).
- Returning Players: A player returning to MLS who the League was unable to re-sign and his last MLS club does not wish to exercise their Right of First Refusal, or who was previously terminated without going through Waivers.
- Unsigned Drafted Players: The day after the drafting club's first MLS Regular Season game, college players selected in that year's SuperDraft who have not signed an MLS contract have the right to be placed on Waivers upon request. If an unsigned college player is placed on Waivers and is not claimed by another MLS club, he will return to his drafting club's College Protected List until the end of the College Protected Period.
- Out-of-Contract/Option Decline Players: Any player whose contract has expired or option has been declined, is not eligible for the Re-Entry Process or Free Agency, and who was not offered a genuine offer by his former club. Such a player will be typically made available in a year-end Waiver Draft or prior to the start of the next MLS League Season.
Once a club selects a player off Waivers, that club is automatically moved to the bottom of the priority list for subsequent Waiver selections in any given season.
USL Short-Term Agreements
A club may sign players from its USL affiliate to Short-Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for CONCACAF Champions League, Canadian Championship, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup, and exhibition matches. A club may sign a player to a maximum of four Short-Term Agreements each season (maximum of 16 days).
Players may also be signed to Short-Term Agreements for MLS League Season games but only in cases of Extreme Hardship.
Extreme Hardship Call-ups
Clubs may add players to their roster in cases of "Extreme Hardship." Extreme Hardship exists when an MLS club has:
- Fewer than 16 outfield players available
- OR has fewer than two goalkeepers available.
A club may sign players, on loan, to Short-Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for MLS League Season games only in cases of Extreme Hardship.
Season-Ending Injury List
If a player suffers a season-ending injury, a club may place that injured player on the Season-Ending Injury List and receive roster relief (i.e., an open roster slot). Once placed on the Season-Ending Injury List, the injured player will not be eligible to play for the club in any remaining competition during that MLS season (including any exhibition games or tournaments, including but not limited to: Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, Canadian Championship and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Season-Ending Injury Replacement Player
A club may replace an injured player that is on the Season-Ending Injury List with a new replacement player in accordance with parameters below.
The club will remain responsible for the injured player's full Salary Budget Charge. Clubs may execute a trade to create Salary Budget space in order to sign such a replacement player. This is the only circumstance in which a club may trade for Salary Budget space. Clubs are only able to receive Salary Budget relief (paid out of the club's own pocket) for a season-ending injury under the following parameters:
- The injured player must be earning at least $100,000 per annum.
- The injured player must have suffered the season-ending injury prior to the close of the Primary Transfer Window and the new player must be acquired as of such date.
- The replacement player may earn up to $250,000 but not more than the player who suffered the season-ending injury.
- The replacement player’s charge will be billed back to the club.
- Clubs will only be allowed to sign one such replacement player per MLS League Season.
If the injured player occupies an international roster slot on the Senior Roster, the replacement player may also be an International Player.
Supplemental Season-Ending Injury
If a player on a club's Supplemental Roster suffers a season-ending injury, a club may replace that injured player with a player earning the Reserve Minimum Salary irrespective of the salary earned by the injured player (e.g., if a Generation adidas Player earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary is injured, he may be replaced by a player earning the Reserve Minimum Salary (subject to the Club Salary Budget). The Reserve Minimum Salary of such replacement player will be charged to the Club Salary Budget.
Accordingly, a club must have Salary Budget space to replace a player with a season-ending injury on the Supplemental Roster with a replacement player.
If the injured player occupies an international roster slot on the Supplemental Roster, the replacement player may also be an International Player.
Short-Term Injury Replacements
If a player suffers an injury that will prohibit him from participating in six or more MLS League Season games, a club can place that injured player on the Injured List. An injured player placed on the Injured List will remain unavailable for a minimum of six MLS League Season games and may not participate in any exhibition games or tournaments during that period, including CONCACAF Champions League, Canadian Championship, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup, and Campeones Cup games.
Senior Roster Players on the Injured List
If a player on a club's Senior Roster is put on the Injured List, the club may receive roster relief (i.e., an open roster slot). The club will not receive salary budget relief for that player and will be responsible for the injured player's full Salary Budget Charge. Only clubs that have or can create extra Salary Budget space will be able to temporarily replace players on the Injured List. A club must have priority over any replacement player it adds (e.g., via Discovery, Right of First Refusal, etc.)
If the injured player occupies an international roster slot on the Senior Roster, the replacement player may also be an International Player.
Clubs may not trade for Salary Budget space to replace a player added to the Injured List.
Supplemental Roster Players on the Injured List
If a player on a club's Supplemental Roster suffers an injury that will place such a player on the Injured List, the club may replace the injured player with a player earning the Reserve Minimum Salary irrespective of the salary earned by the injured player (e.g., if a Generation adidas Player earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary is injured, he may only be replaced by a player earning the Reserve Minimum Salary (subject to the Club Salary Budget)). Such Reserve Minimum Salary will be charged to the Club Salary Budget. Therefore, a club must have Salary Budget space to replace the injured player on the Supplemental Roster or Reserve Roster with a Injured List Replacement Player. The club must also ensure it has the necessary roster space and Club Salary Budget available when the player is removed from the Injured List.
NOTE: No changes may be made to a club's roster after the Roster Freeze Date (September 15, 2021) and running through the day after MLS Cup. Nevertheless, a club may obtain players in accordance with the Extreme Hardship rules and procedures after the Roster Freeze Date.
METHODS OF REMOVING A PLAYER FROM A ROSTER
Clubs may waive players based on performance at any time during the MLS season. A club may waive a Semi-Guaranteed Player at any time during the regular season until 3 business days prior to the Contract Guarantee Date. A club may waive a Guaranteed Player (at any time) or a Semi-Guaranteed Player (after the Contract Guarantee Date) only with League approval. Clubs may not waive a player between the Roster Freeze Date and MLS Cup.
Semi-Guaranteed Players waived on or after the Contract Guarantee Date and Guaranteed Players waived anytime, and who clear Waivers (i.e., not picked up by another club), will continue to have their respective Salary Budget Charges count against the applicable Club Salary Budgets. The club waiving the player will not receive a replacement player.
Transfers and Loans
An MLS player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a non-MLS club (subject to the receiving club's applicable federation's transfer window), and subject to the consent of the player.
Upon loaning a player, clubs will receive roster relief but not Salary Budget relief unless otherwise agreed to in the loan agreement.
Transfer and Loan Fees
The revenue share from transfers or loans for clubs is as follows:
- A club shall receive 95% of the corresponding transfer or loan fee revenue from any transaction involving a player that is NOT a Homegrown Player or a U22 Initiative Slot Player.
- If a Designated Player is transferred or loaned, the club will receive all amounts of the transfer or loan fee revenue until it has recouped all out-of-pocket cash payments made by the club in connection to that player prior to any sharing arrangement with the League. After such recoup, the club’s share of the revenue may be used to fund a club’s discretionary spend (e.g. player development costs, TAM Players, Designated Players, U22 Initiative Slot Player) or may be taken as cash and may not be taken as allocation.
- A club shall receive 100% of the corresponding transfer or loan fee revenue from any transaction involving a Homegrown Player or a U22 Initiative Slot Player.
Usage of Revenue
The club's share of transfer or loan fee revenue may only be used as follows:
- The club may assign up to $1,050,000 of the transfer/loan revenue as General Allocation Money. In the case of Designated Players, transfer/loan revenue may not be assigned as General Allocation Money. In the case of U22 Initiative Slot players, please refer to the section on U22 Initiative Roster Slots.
- The remaining balance of the club's share (if any), and which cannot be traded, will be distributed by the League to the Club as cash.
Clubs may loan a player to another MLS club subject to the following:
- The player must be 24 years old (or younger than the age of 24) during the League Year (i.e., cannot turn twenty-five (25) during the League Year).
- Each club may only loan one player to another MLS club per season.
- The loan must be initiated during the Primary Transfer Window or Secondary Transfer Window.
- Intraleague Loans that are initiated prior to the close of the Primary Transfer Window may allow the loaned player to be recalled during the Secondary Transfer Window as agreed upon between the two clubs. If recalled, such a player must remain with his original club for the remainder of the MLS season.
- Except in an instance where the player is recalled as outlined above, he must remain with his new club for the entire MLS Season.
- The player may not compete against his former club during the MLS Season while on loan (includes MLS League Season games and all other competitions).
- Intraleague Loans may include an option to make them permanent.
Loan of a Player by MLS
A club may loan any player from its Senior Roster or Supplemental Roster to a non-MLS club, subject to League discretion. During the loan period, the club will receive roster relief but not Salary Budget relief unless otherwise determined in the loan agreement.
If the player is recalled from his loan, the club must have an available roster slot in order for the player to be eligible for MLS League Season games.
If the loaned player is an International Player, then his replacement may be an International Player and occupy an international roster slot.
Loan of a Player by MLS to USL Affiliate
All loans from MLS clubs to USL affiliates must be free (i.e., no loan fees paid by USL affiliate clubs).
If an MLS player is loaned to a USL affiliate, such a player may not be paid more than the player's Salary Budget Charge without that compensation being captured on the MLS club's Salary Budget (including, but not limited to, performance bonus compensation).
An MLS club can receive roster relief and budget relief for a maximum of one player loaned to its USL affiliate or a lower-division club in the U.S. or Canada; provided, however, that:
- The player is under the age of 25 (i.e., he does not turn 25 prior to the end of the calendar year);
- The player's Salary Budget Charge is less than or equal to the MLS Senior Minimum Salary (including any loan fees, transfer fees, agent fees, housing, car, etc.); and
- The loan must be a season-long free loan;
- The player has not appeared on an 18-man gameday roster for the MLS Club as of the beginning of the applicable loanee club’s season; and
- The loan of the player to the loanee club must last for the remaining duration of the entire loanee club’s season; provided, however, that such a player may be recalled to his MLS club in the case of Extreme Hardship.
Buyout of Guaranteed Contract
A club may buyout one player (including a Designated Player) who has a Guaranteed Contract during the offseason and free up the corresponding Salary Budget space. Such a buyout is at the club's expense.
A club may not free up space in the Salary Budget with a buyout of a player's contract during the season. If a club buys out a player's contract during the season, the buyout amount will be charged against the club's Salary Budget.
RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL
Former MLS Player
Subject to rules regarding the Re-Entry Draft and Free Agency, if a former MLS player, who the League previously attempted but was unable to re-sign, returns to MLS, his former club will have a Right of First Refusal.
That club will not have a Right of First Refusal if:
- The club received any consideration in connection with the transfer of such player to a non-MLS club; or
- The player was excluded from possible selection in the Expansion Draft.
College Protected Player
A “College Protected Player” is a player who was selected in the MLS SuperDraft, provided his drafting club offered him a contract and the contract offer was refused by the player. If his club does not offer him a contract after being on trial, the player will have the option to be placed on Waivers on the date following the drafting club's first MLS Regular Season game. If no club is prepared to sign him off Waivers, the player will be placed on the drafting club's "College Protected List" until December 31 in the year following the draft in question, after which date the club loses the rights to sign the player.
Allocation Money is money that is available to a club in addition to its Salary Budget, as either (i) General Allocation Money; or (ii) Targeted Allocation Money (guidelines for each set below).
General Allocation Money
Each club receives an annual allotment of General Allocation Money. In 2021, that allotment is $1,525,000 per club.
A club may also receive General Allocation Money in the following cases:
- Failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs
- The transfer of a club’s player to non-MLS club outside MLS
- Qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League
- Expansion Clubs (see below)
- Expansion Dilution (see below)
- Designated Player charge distribution
In any year that the League adds one or more expansion clubs, (i) all clubs will receive an equal amount of General Allocation Money and (ii) any club that loses a player in the Expansion Draft will receive additional General Allocation Money. New expansion clubs receive a separate amount of General Allocation Money for their inaugural season.
General Allocation Money can be traded by clubs.
Allocation Money can be used to "buy-down" a player's Salary Budget Charge as part of managing a club's roster, including buying down a Salary Budget Charge below the League maximum of $612,500. For example, a club may buy down a player earning $700,000 to a Salary Budget Charge of $500,000 by using $200,000 of General Allocation Money.
General Allocation Money can also be applied in the following circumstances:
- To sign players new to MLS (that is, a player who did not play in MLS during the previous season).
- To re-sign an existing MLS player.
- To off-set acquisition costs (loan and transfer fees).
- In connection with the extension of a player's contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.
- To reduce the Salary Budget Charge of a Designated Player to a limit of $150,000.
- To reduce the Salary Budget Charge of a Player whose Salary Budget Charge exceeds the Maximum Salary Budget Charge to a limit of $150,000.
Use against a Salary Budget Charge
A club cannot use General Allocation Money to reduce more than 50% of a player's Salary Budget Charge. This restriction does not apply where General Allocation Money is being used on a loan or transfer fee; a club may reduce 100% of a loan or transfer fee.
Targeted Allocation Money Available Per Year
- 2021: $2,800,000 per club
- 2022: $2,800,000 per club
- 2023: $2,720,000 per club
- 2024: $2,400,000 per club
- 2025: $2,225,000 per club
- 2026: $2,125,000 per club
- 2027: $2,025,000 per club
Targeted Allocation Money may be used in the following ways:
- Clubs may use the funds to sign a new player provided his salary and acquisition costs are more than the Maximum Salary Budget Charge.
- Clubs may re-sign an existing player provided he is earning more than the Maximum Salary Budget Charge.
- Clubs may use all or a portion of the available Targeted Allocation Money to convert a Designated Player to a non-Designated Player (assuming such player’s Salary Budget Charge meets the salary parameters described below) by buying down his Salary Budget Charge at or below the Maximum Salary Budget Charge. If Targeted Allocation Money is used to free up a Designated Player slot, the club must simultaneously sign a new Designated Player or U22 Initiative Slot player, subject to League approval.
- A club retains the flexibility to convert a player previously bought down with Targeted Allocation Money into a Designated Player if that club has a free Designated Player slot.
- Clubs may use up to $200,000 of currently approved Targeted Allocation Money (amounts through 2021) to sign new Homegrown Players to their first MLS contract. It cannot be used on Homegrown Players previously signed to MLS.
Targeted Allocation Money may not be traded.
A player must earn more than 2021 Maximum Salary Budget Charge ($612,500) to qualify for Targeted Allocation Money. The compensation ceiling for such eligible players is set at $1,612,500 in 2021.
A player cannot have his Salary Budget Charge bought down below $150,000 using Targeted Allocation Money.
Targeted Allocation Money expires after four full Transfer Windows.
NOTE: To protect the interests of MLS and its clubs during discussions with prospective players or clubs in other leagues, amounts of Allocation Money currently held by each club will not be shared publicly. Only in the case of a trade will the amount of General Allocation Money involved be made public.
2021 SALARY BUDGET INFORMATION
- Club Salary Budget - $4,900,000
- Maximum Salary Budget Charge - $612,500
- Senior Minimum Salary - $81,375
- Reserve Minimum Salary - $63,547
- Designated Player Salary Budget Charge - $612,500
- Second Designated Player Salary Budget Charge - $612,500
- Third Designated Player Salary Budget Charge - $612,500
- Young Designated Player Budget Charge (20 years old or younger during the League Year) - $150,000
- Young Designated Player Budget Charge (21-23 years old during the League Year) - $200,000
- Mid-Season Designated Player Salary Budget Charge - $306,250
- Mid-Season Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge - $150,000
- Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount - $1,612,500
- U22 Spot Budget Charge (20 years old or younger during the League Year) - $150,000
- U22 Spot Budget Charge (21-23 years old during the League Year) - $200,000
PLAYER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ROLE
A Club may choose to designate, with prior League approval, to employ one Player per year in a professional development role.
The following parameters apply:
The Player’s professional development role must be approved prior to the Roster Compliance Date and last through the full season.
The Player must have responsibilities enabling him to develop skills in different parts of the Club’s business, including but not limited to coaching, scouting, front office duties, diversity liaison.
If the Player’s professional development role will include coaching responsibilities:
- He must only have coaching responsibilities with respect to the MLS club’s affiliate and/or academy (i.e., cannot have coaching responsibilities with respect to the first team); and
- He may not be on Loan to the MLS Club’s affiliate during the League Year in which he is serving in the professional development role, if the Player Coach has coaching responsibilities with respect to such Affiliate.
- The Player must turn or be older than 25 years old during the League Year in which he is employed in the professional development role.
- The Player may not be Loaned out for an extended period.
The MLS Club must designate a mentor within the MLS Club who will guide and monitor the Player’s development plan and process. The League may request detailed progress reports from the mentor throughout the course of the MLS Season. Failure to provide sufficient progress reports upon request by the League may result in the Player losing such professional development role designation and the MLS Club being prevented from designating another professional development role for at least five years.
The proposed compensation for the Player’s professional development duties must be commensurate with salaries for similar roles when taking into account the expected number of hours of such duties, including being commensurate with salaries paid to former League “player-coaches” if the professional development duties are coach-focused. Moreover, for professional development roles entered into after the 2021 MLS Season is over, the League will not approve compensation that is over $75,000.
In order to obtain League approval, which may be granted by the League in its sole and absolute discretion, Clubs must provide the following:
Detailed job description, which must include, at a minimum:
- if the Player will have coaching responsibilities, a requirement that the Player obtain a coaching certification (at least a B license) and detailed plan as to how the Player will obtain such coaching certification and whether the Player will assist with the MLS Club’s affiliate or academy players;
- Job responsibilities; and
- Time commitment required.
Proposed compensation for duties and comparisons to salaries for similar roles when taking into account the expected number of hours of non-Player duties.
- The League recognizes that certain positions may be more difficult to find comparable salaries, and the burden is on the Club to use best efforts to make correlations to other roles, leagues, etc. to present to the League.
- The League will consider proposed compensation in light of former League Player-Coaches.
- As a Player’s primary responsibility is as a Player, in no event shall a Player’s compensation for his non-Player duties exceed fifty percent (50%) of his Unadjusted Salary Budget Charge for the year.