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MLS roster rules are complicated, here are a few to help you understand how MLS roster policy works.
Every MLS team is entitled to put up to 30 players on its roster. On game days, that roster of 30 is refined down to an 18-man squad (11 starters and seven substitutes).
Up to 20 players, occupying roster slots 1-20, count against the club's 2021 Salary Budget of $4,900,000 and are referred to collectively as the club's Senior Roster.
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.
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.
Roster Slots 21-24 and 25-30 are known as the Supplemental and Reserve Rosters respectively. The minimum salary for these players in 2021 was $81,375 for Supplemental players and $63,547 for Reserve players. The Reserve Roster slots must be under 24.
Additionally, roster slots 29 and 30 must be occupied by Homegrown Players who earn the Reserve Minimum Salary of $63,547.
What is a Homegrown Player?
A Homegrown player is a player who has spent at least one year in a club’s academy, and who has lived in the club’s territory. They are academy graduates who are given first-team contracts.
The benefits of Homegrown players are myriad. They are the cheapest way to fill roster spots, as you do not have to pay transfer fees or trade to acquire them.
Homegrown players are vital to the growth of the league, and in turn, the growth of the national team program. And local players tend to earn great affection from their respective fanbases. The subsequent sale of youth players can also help sustain the club and its academy for the future.
Is there a limit to how many international players an MLS roster can have?
Every MLS team has eight international roster slots—and each subsequent expansion team will get eight slots too, under current rules.
These slots, however, can be traded for players and allocation money, so some teams have more than eight slots, and some have fewer.
Per MLS Rules, an international player is any player who does not have U.S. Citizenship or any other kind of legal resident status, or who does not hold refugee or asylum status.
Hence, in many cases, players who were born outside the U.S. and who play for foreign national teams can still count as domestic players for league purposes.
Can international players also be Homegrown?
If the international player is a member of an MLS academy in the year before he turns 16, he will count as a domestic player and will not take an international roster slot.
What are Designated Players?
The Designated Player Rule is sometimes referred to as the “Beckham Rule,” as its introduction in 2007 allowed David Beckham to join LA Galaxy at a point when his salary would have not been feasible in the MLS wage structure.
The rule allows every team to sign up to three Designated Players, whose salaries and transfer fees are not counted towards the annual salary budget. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for example, was the league’s highest-paid player in 2019 with $7.2m, which is more than a team’s entire Salary Budget.
The first two Designated Player slots are automatically granted, but the third must be bought. The third slot costs $150,000 (paid annually), which is pooled into General Allocation Money for teams that are only using two slots.
Additionally, the recently negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement states that the league has the right to limit the salary of the Designated Player in the third slot if they are over 24 years of age.