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MLS clarifies homegrown player rules in new release

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MLS teams have a substantial incentive to sign homegrown players, and it's spelled out in the latest roster rules release.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

MLS rules can be difficult to navigate on even the best of days, and this year is no real exception.

A 6pm Eastern Friday news dump — an MLS tradition — of the 2016 Roster Rules and Regulations gives us plenty to look at, and we're starting with rules regarding homegrown players.

This is particularly relevant to Real Salt Lake fans, as the club and the academy have produced a fair number of these players.

On a high level, the biggest difference in the rules is that the rules are actually there in some form. 2015's rules, which you'll find below the new rules below, just specify that a player can be signed to a homegrown contract. They don't actually specify anything about their status on the roster of a team, and that was a point of major frustration.

Here's what we know now:

  • You can sign as many homegrown players as you want
  • Homegrown players can occupy spots on the senior, supplemental, and reserve rosters
  • Homegrown players on the supplemental and reserve rosters may earn up to $125,000 more than the normal salary at that range — so you can have a player on the reserve roster making $175,000, while his colleagues at those designations are earning $51,500.

That last point is the big one. Because those roster designations are specifically off-budget, a team stocked with eight homegrown players could gain a salary cap advantage of about $500,000 — that's enough to pay for the cap hit for a designated player.

It's a pretty clear incentive for MLS teams to sign homegrown players, but it's also an incentive for those players to sign with MLS. They may be young and unlikely to earn a starting spot — that makes it hard for a team to offload resources in an effort to sign them. This changes that.

The 2015 rules still exist, of course. Those govern how homegrown players may be signed, as well as what criteria they must meet before they are eligible for signing. That is, of course, one year, plus some other requirements we don't get to know about: "training and retention requirements."

2016 rules

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 a given year.

- Homegrown Players may occupy a spot on the Senior, Supplemental, or Reserve Roster.

- If a Homegrown Player is initially added to a Club’s Supplemental or Reserve Roster and subsequently moved to the Senior Roster, he cannot be moved back to the Supplemental or Reserve Roster except if he is earning either (i) the Senior Minimum Salary Budget Charge or (ii) Reserve Minimum Salary Budget Charge.

- Homegrown Player(s) on either the Supplemental Roster or the Reserve Roster may earn (including achievable bonuses) in aggregate each year up to $125,000 above the Reserve Minimum Salary ($51,500 in 2016) or the Senior Minimum Salary ($62,500 in 2016).

Homegrown player signings (also, entirety of 2015 rules)

A club may sign a player to his first professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a 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 to the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in a given year.