With six games (for most sides) remaining in the MLS season — crunch time, really — news has been rolling in about all sorts of things. From Don Garber and Bruce Arena's war of words to Orlando City's roster, there's a lot to talk about.
But one thing's been doing the rounds we really should address: Will MLS transition to requiring 25-player rosters in 2015? An Orlando Sentinel article floats it as a possibility with the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, and Twitter's been doing the rounds about it.
With new requirements coming into place in 2015 regarding USL Pro affiliations — run your own club or form an affiliation, MLS is basically saying — there will necessarily be changes to roster requirements. How will the rules manage the movement of players between the USL Pro team (a reserves-plus team) and the full team? What does that do to the salary cap? Roster spots? Do you have to use a roster spot to move players back and forth? How does that account for injuries?
Hopefully it's clear why exactly changes are needed. Those things simply aren't accounted for because there hasn't been a situation quite like this before.
Regardless: I don't think a flat, 25-and-that's-it roster is likely, and we don't need to look much further than the data to see why. From top to bottom, here are all our teams with the number of players used. We'll talk a little about the numbers after we look at them.
|New England Revolution||29||26||26||108%|
|Seattle Sounders FC||28||29||24||108%|
|Sporting Kansas City||25||24||30||105%|
|San Jose Earthquakes||25||28||26||105%|
|New York Red Bulls||27||28||23||104%|
|Real Salt Lake||24||27||25||101%|
There are inevitably some interesting things we can note here. Surprisingly, RSL have actually numbered among the lowest in MLS each season — that wouldn't have been something I'd have predicted. Chivas USA have numbered the highest, which probably isn't surprising with their astronomical turnover rates. The same can be said for Toronto FC or DC United, who both had their period of upheaval in 2013.
I'd venture this isn't highly correlated to performance, but that's a whole new set of numbers we'd have to look at to determine that. It's not what's at hand, though.
The point is that only one of these teams — Houston Dynamo — could have played the same number of players with a 25-man roster, supposing there wasn't any movement in or out. Clearly there would be, otherwise we couldn't see teams over 30.
But if we're wondering if that 25-man roster comes next season, I think the answer is a pretty bold 'no' — not with every team playing at least 25 distinct players at least one season in the last three years.