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MLS Roster rules and how they impact Real Salt Lake

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So we are getting close to the time where MLS draws a line in the sand and roster are kinda set, until LA or New York ask for an exception. So given the news of the player salaries that came out, I thought it might be a good time to review the roster rules, and look at who is on the RSL roster.

First up the clear as mud MLS Roster Rules, now I am not going to publish all 3,500 plus words of the rules you can find those on the league site. (via


A Major League Soccer club's first team roster is comprised of up to 30 players. All 30 players are eligible for selection to each 18-player game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs.

Salary & Budget:

  • Players occupying roster spots 1-20 count against the club's 2011 salary budget of $2,675,000, and are referred to collectively as the club's Salary Budget Players.
  • Roster spots 19 and 20 are not required to be filled, and teams may spread their salary budget across only 18 Salary Budget Players. A minimum salary budget charge will be imputed against a team's salary budget for each unfilled senior roster slot below 18.
  • The maximum budget charge for a single player is $335,000.*
  • A Designated Player counts $335,000 against the club's salary budget, unless the player joins his club in the middle of the season, in which case his budget charge will be $167,500.
    * See section entitled Allocation Money below, under Player Acquisition Mechanisms, for details on buying down a player's budget charge.
  • Players occupying roster spots 21-30 do not count against the club's salary budget, and are referred to collectively as the club's Off-Budget Players (maximum of 10 per team).
  • All Generation adidas players are Off-Budget players.
  • Players occupying roster spots 1-24 will earn at least $42,000 in 2011.
  • Players occupying roster spots 25-30 will earn at least $32,600 in 2011.
  • Clubs may elect to leave up to two of these roster spots (25-30) vacant and use $35,000 for each empty spot as allocation money.
  • Clubs may sign up to two Home Grown Players to Generation adidas contracts.

more on the roster rules, and a look at how the RSL roster aligns to the rules after the jump:

So the rules for Roster Composition continue:

Age Designations:

  • Any player making $32,600 must be under the age 25 (does not turn 25 or older in 2011).


  • In 2011, a total of 144 international slots are divided among the 18 clubs. Each club began with eight international slots, which are tradable. There is no limit on the number of international slots on each club's roster.
  • The remaining roster slots must belong to domestic players. For clubs based in the United States, a domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (green card holder) or the holder of other special status (e.g., refugee or asylum status).
  • The two MLS clubs based in Canada - Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC - began with eight international slots, but their domestic slots may be filled with either Canadian or U.S. domestic players.
  • MLS clubs based in Canada are required to have a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters.
  • Players with the legal right to work in Canada are considered Canadian domestic players (i.e., Canadian citizen, permanent resident, part of a protected class).

NOTE: The terms Home Grown and Generation adidas are used to describe mechanisms by which players are acquired. They are not roster designations. All players' roster slots are determined by their compensation and/or age as outlined above.

The roster rules go on to cover the following topics:

  • Player Acquisition Mechanisms
  • Methods of Releasing Players
  • Right of First Refusal
So all of this makes for some really fun reading, if you are a lawyer or need to fall asleep in a hurry, so how does it all impact RSL?

As of 9/9/2011 Real Salt Lake had 19 players on their Salary Budget Players roster, including Nelson Gonzalez who is on the Season Ending Injury list, so really we have 18 players that are counting against the cap (the league minimum). Those players are:

Arturo Alvarez

Fabian Espindola

Nick Rimando (GK)

Paulo Jr.

Ned Grabavoy

Robbie Russell

Cody Arnoux

Will Johnson

Alvaro Saborio

Kyle Beckerman

Javier Morales

Collen Warner

Tony Beltran

Jamison Olave

Andy Williams

Nat Borchers

Kyle Reynish (GK)

Chris Wingert

That means that RSL then has 10 additional Off-Budget Players, but we currently only have 8 of those slots filled (again the league allows you to use the funding of those last two slots to pay for others):

Chris Agorsor

Jean Alexandre

Luis Gil

Generation Adidas

Rauwshan McKenzie

Timothy Melia (GK)

Chris Schuler


Donny Toia

Home Grown

Blake Wagner

Now one thing that I didn't know was that each team has a list called "College Protected" and while I don't know all the rules of it, it appears to let a team keep the rights to drafted players who have been released for a couple years. On that list for RSL are: Jeff Attinella, Kris Banghart, Drew Cost, Justin Davis, Nick Love, and Jarad Van Schaik. This might in part explain why despite my constant pleas for RSL to sign Leone Cruz (who was drafted by Seattle) and has played with our reserves on a couple of occasions. He is on this list for the Sounders.

The final two things that impact a roster are International Slots and Designated Players, for RSL we have one name on the DP list, Alvaro Saborio. While he makes under the $335,000 salary of a DP, since there was a transfer fee to sign him, that total is added to his reported salary which makes him a DP.

RSL had 8 international slots based on when they joined the league, but they have traded away 2 of those slots (the previous regime made these moves). One slot was traded to Chivas and another was traded to Colorado, the crime of these trades is that those were permanent trades. This means your RSL has only 6 international slots to work with, and currently on the RSL roster only 5 of those slots are occupied (a number of RSL players have gotten green cards which changes their status). The 5 RSL international players are: Paulo Jr., Fabian Espindola, Nelson Gonzalez, Javier Morales, and Alvaro Saborio.

OK, there you go that is probably more information than you ever could or would want to know. Some of this info explains why a young guy signed last year after being drafted is making less than most of us now think he has proven he is worth, why a young guy like Luis Gil can make a good amount of money but that doesn't hurt RSL, and so much more.

So if you have any questions just let me know and I will do my best to get you an answer.