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What you need to know about the new MLS roster rules

The release of the latest rules gives us plenty to break down, from homegrown players to designated players.

MLS: All-Star Press Conference Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The latest Major League Soccer roster rules — which, inevitably, remain in a state of near-constant flux — give a strong signal as to the league’s priorities.

Quite simply, they’re continuing to emphasize the importance of homegrown players.

Homegrown players

Two roster spots have been added to the reserve roster — 29 and 30 in this context — that exist solely for homegrown players. That gives some indication of the direction the league would like to move, but we shouldn’t be surprised by that fact.

That change is relatively straightforward. Homegrown players, as before, can have potential salary budget charges of $125,000 greater than their respective slot, supplemental or reserve. They call that the Homegrown Player Subsidy.

Additionally, a Homegrown International Rule has been introduced, and that’s something that could make a big difference for clubs recruiting internationally.

Any player who meets the requirements to qualify as a Homegrown Player as a member of an MLS club academy, either in the U.S. or Canada, or has met similar requirements as a member of a Canadian Approved Youth Club+, will count as a domestic player ... provided that:

The player became a member of an MLS club academy, either in the U.S. or Canada, or a Canadian Approved Youth Club in the year prior to the year in which he turns 16;

AND the player signs his first professional contract with MLS or an MLS club's USL affiliate.

Other changes include:

  • Target allocation money — up to $200,000 to sign homegrown players to their first MLS contract

Salary budgets

As always, the collective bargaining agreement mandates the increases to player salary budget, but it’s worth exploring here. These numbers are ripped directly from the rules.

  • Club Salary Budget: $3,845,000
  • Maximum Salary Budget Charge: $480,625
  • Senior Minimum Salary: $65,000
  • Reserve Minimum Salary: $53,000
  • Designated Player Salary Budget Charge: $480,625
  • Second Designated Player Salary Budget Charge: $480,625
  • Third Designated Player Salary Budget Charge: $480,625
  • Youth Designated Player Budget Charge (20 years old or younger during the League Year): $150,000
  • Youth Designated Player Budget Charge (21-23 years old during the League Year): $200,000
  • Mid-Season Designated Player Salary Budget Charge: $240,312
  • Mid-Season Youth Designated Player Salary Budget Charge: $150,000

Designated players

That third designated player slot? That’s now not just a flat, one-time fee clubs paid for the right to open that option. The roster rules specify that is paid yearly.

Additionally, there’s this line that’s particularly interesting:

Designated Players may be new players signed to MLS via the Allocation Ranking List, Discovery Process or can be re-signed existing players on a team's roster.

Notably, that seems to rule out free agents as designated players, since — and perhaps it’s a reaction to the Landon Donovan acquisition attempts by Real Salt Lake.

USL short-term hardship loans

Where previous rules set a limit on the age of short-term hardship loan signings (which remain for a four-day contract), that rule has now been eliminated.