MLS 101: Salary Cap/Roster Rules
A Major League Soccer team’s senior roster (not including development players) must consist of at least 18 players with a maximum of 20.
Unlike the USSF Division-2, which did not have any salary cap, the MLS has instituted rules for team salaries in order to ensure as level a playing field as possible.
It is important to remember that the rules examined in this piece are those that are in effect for the 2010 season, unless otherwise noted. There has been much discussion among Major League Soccer’s executives regarding increasing roster sizes and instituting other changes to these rules.
Those 18-20 senior players must be contracted below the league-wide team salary cap, which for 2010 was $2.55 million and will be $2.675 million for 2011. It should be noted that, under the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players, that number is scheduled to increase 5 percent every year.
The minimum salary a senior player can be paid will be $42,000 in 2011, with a maximum salary of $335,000. However, clubs may sign a player for over the league maximum through the use of the Designated Player Rule, also known as the Beckham Rule. Under this provision, a team can sign a player for any salary it sees fit, but only $335,000 counts toward the team’s cap.
Each team is also allowed to have up to four players on its developmental roster. These players’ salaries do not count against the team’s salary cap and are signed to non-guaranteed contracts. Developmental players, which must be 25 years or younger, are eligible for selection as part of the game-day squad.
Each team may sign up to three Designated Players, which may be international or domestic players. A team may sign two Designated Players with no penalty; however, if a team signs a third Designated Player, it must pay a $225,000 fee, which is divided among league teams with fewer than three Designated Players.
During the 2010 season, there were 14 Designated Players in MLS, including Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), David Beckham (Los Angeles), Thierry Henry (New York), Blaise Nkufo (Seattle) and Julian de Guzman (Toronto).
So as the Timbers’ roster begins to take shape in the following months, keep these rules and regulations in mind.