MLS Roster Rules

2019 MLS Roster Composition

A Major League Soccer club’s active 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.

In addition to the Salary Budget, each MLS club may spend additional funds on player compensation including money from a League-wide allocation pool (General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money), the cost of Designated Players outside the Salary Budget, and money spent on the Supplemental and Reserve Rosters (roster slots 21-30).

On-Budget: Senior Roster

Up to 20 players, occupying roster slots 1-20, count against the club’s 2019 Salary Budget of $4,240,000, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Senior Roster.

  • Clubs are not required to fill roster slots 19 and 20, and clubs may spread their entire Salary Budget across 18 Senior Roster Players. A minimum Salary Budget Charge will be imputed against a club’s Salary Budget for each unfilled Senior Roster slot below 18.
  • A club may have no more than 20 players on its Senior Roster, subject to the Season-Ending Injury Replacement, Injury List, and Loan exceptions.
  • The Maximum Salary Budget Charge for a single player is $530,000. (See Allocation Money section below for details on buying down a player’s Salary Budget Charge)

Off-Budget: Supplemental and Reserve Rosters

The salaries of players on the Supplemental Roster (slots 21-24) and Reserve Roster (slots 25-30) do not count toward a club’s Salary Budget.

Supplemental Roster

Players occupying roster slots 21-24 do not count against the club’s Salary Budget, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Supplemental Roster. A club may have no more than four players on its Supplemental Roster, subject to the Season-Ending Injury Replacement, Injury List, and Loan exceptions.

  • Slots 21-24 may be filled with (i) Senior Minimum Salary Players ($70,250 in 2019), which may include Homegrown Players, (ii) Generation adidas Players, (iii) any specifically Designated Players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft; or (iv) Homegrown Players earning more than the Senior Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
  • All Generation adidas players are Supplemental Roster players until they graduate from the program.
  • All players on the Supplemental Roster must be paid a base salary that is at least the Senior Minimum Salary ($70,250).

Reserve Roster

  • Players occupying roster slots 25-28 may be filled with players earning either (i) the Reserve Minimum Salary ($56,250 in 2019) or (ii) Homegrown Players earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
  • Reserve Minimum Salary Players must be 24 years or younger during the League Year (age of player is determined by year – not date – of birth).
  • These slots may not be filled with Senior Minimum Salary Players or Generation adidas Players.
  • All players in slots 25-28 must be paid a base salary that is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary ($56,250).

Reserve Roster slots 29 and 30

  • Players occupying roster slots 29 and 30 must be Homegrown Players and will follow the same roster and budget rules as Homegrown Players occupying Reserve Roster slots 25-28.

Treatment of Homegrown Players on a Club’s Roster

If a Homegrown Player is initially added to a club’s Supplemental Roster or Reserve Roster and subsequently moved to the Senior Roster, he may only be moved back to the Supplemental Roster or Reserve Roster if he is earning either (i) the Senior Minimum Salary or (ii) Reserve Minimum Salary.

Homegrown Player Subsidy

  • Homegrown Player(s) in roster slots 21-30 may earn in aggregate each year up to $125,000 above the Reserve Minimum Salary (if occupying slots 25-30) or Senior Minimum Salary (if occupying slots 21-24).
  • Clubs may use up to $200,000 of their currently available Targeted Allocation Money (i.e., amounts awarded through 2019) to sign new Homegrown Players to their first MLS contract, subject to League review and approval. Targeted Allocation Money cannot be used on a Homegrown Player previously signed to MLS.
  • The 2019 Roster Compliance Date is March 1, 2019, at which time clubs must be roster and budget compliant heading into the start of the 2019 MLS season.
  • The 2019 Roster Freeze Date is August 30, 2019, at which time clubs must submit their final 30-man roster. Rosters cannot be changed from that date through the day after MLS Cup.

The registration windows – the dates between which MLS may request the transfer certificate of a player under contract in another country – are as follows:

  • Primary Transfer Window: February 13, 2019 to May 7, 2019
  • Secondary Transfer Window: July 9, 2019 to August 7, 2019

Player Categories on the Roster

Domestic/International

In 2019, a total of 192 international roster slots are divided among the 24 clubs. In 2008, each MLS club was given the right to have eight international players on its roster and each subsequent expansion club was given the right to have eight international roster slots for its inaugural season. These roster slots are tradable, in full season increments, such that some clubs may have more than eight and some clubs may have less than eight. There is no limit on the number of international roster slots on each club’s roster.

Domestic Players

  • U.S.-based clubs: For U.S. clubs, a domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (Green Card holder) or the holder of certain other special status (i.e., has been granted refugee or asylum status) or a player who qualifies under the Homegrown International Rule. There is no limit as to the number of U.S. Domestic Players on a U.S. club’s roster.
  • Canada-based clubs: For Canadian clubs, a domestic player is either a Canadian citizen or the holder of certain other special status (i.e., has been granted refugee or asylum status), a player who qualifies under the Homegrown International Rule*, or a U.S. Domestic Player. There is no limit as to the number of Canadian Domestic Players on a Canadian club’s roster.
    • There is no limit as to the number of U.S. Domestic Players or Canadian Domestic Players on a Canadian club’s roster; provided, however, that a Canadian club is required to have a minimum of three Canadian Domestic Players on its roster at all times.

Homegrown International Rule

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 (i.e., he will not occupy an international roster slot) on both U.S. and Canadian club rosters 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.

+ MLS will work in coordination with Canada Soccer to identify qualifying Canadian Approved Youth Clubs that meet specific standards in relation to competition, environment and coaching. These Canadian Approved Youth Clubs may or may not be affiliated with an MLS club.

International Players

  • U.S.-based clubs: Any player who does not qualify as a U.S. Domestic Player in a U.S. club shall be considered an International Player, and must occupy an international roster slot on a U.S. club’s roster.
  • Canada-based clubs: Any player who does not qualify as a U.S. Domestic Player or a Canadian Domestic Player shall be considered an International Player, and must occupy an international roster slot on a Canadian club’s roster.

Homegrown Players

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 any given year.
  • Homegrown Players may occupy a slot on the Senior, Supplemental or Reserve Roster.
    • If a Homegrown Player is initially added to a club’s Supplemental Roster or Reserve Roster and subsequently moved to the Senior Roster, he cannot be moved back to the Supplemental Roster or Reserve Roster except if he is earning either (i) the Senior Minimum Salary or (ii) Reserve Minimum Salary.
  • Homegrown Players 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 ($56,250 in 2019) or the Senior Minimum Salary ($70,250 in 2019).

Generation adidas & Generation adidas Canada

Generation adidas and Generation adidas Canada are joint programs between MLS and adidas that are dedicated to developing exceptional talent in a professional environment. Each year, a handful of top collegiate underclassmen and youth national team players are signed by the League with the majority of such players entering the League through the MLS SuperDraft. In the case that a player was to join the League during the regular season, he would be put through Waivers or enter through the Allocation Process (if on the Allocation Ranking List). Until a player graduates from the program, Generation adidas players are on a club’s Supplemental Roster and are not charged against the club’s Salary Budget.

Designated Player

The Designated Player Rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensation and acquisition costs exceed the Maximum Salary Budget Charge, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above each player’s Salary Budget Charge. 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 club’s roster.

A player’s Salary Budget Charge, and therefore Designated Player status, is determined by averaging all amounts payable over the guaranteed contract term excluding option years.

Option year compensation is not included in the Salary Budget Charge calculation unless the option includes an automatic performance trigger whose terms would elevate a player’s category from non-Designated Player to Designated Player status. In such a case, the option year will be considered part of the guaranteed contract term.

Option year compensation is not included in the Salary Budget Charge (in determining Designated Player status) if the automatic trigger is based upon a performance target of at least 65% MLS League Season starts.

In 2019, a Designated Player who is at least 24 years old during the League Year will carry the Maximum Salary Budget Charge ($530,000) unless the player joins his club after the opening of the secondary transfer window, in which case his budget charge will be $265,000.

Young Designated Player

A Designated Player who is 23 years old (or younger than the age of 23) during the League Year (the age of the player is determined by year – not date – of birth) will carry the following Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge:

  • Ages 20 and younger: $150,000
  • Ages 21-23: $200,000
  • If such a Designated Player joins the club after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window, he will carry the Mid-Season Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge of $150,000 regardless of age.

Clubs may “buy down” the Salary Budget Charge of a Designated Player with General Allocation Money. The reduced charge may not be less than $150,000.

Adding a Third Designated Player Slot

Each MLS Club will be allotted 2 Designated Player roster slots. Clubs with two Designated Players may add a third Designated Player by paying $150,000 to the League, which shall be split among clubs with two or fewer occupied Designated Player slots for use as General Allocation Money the following MLS Season. Clubs must pay the $150,000 fee every year in which a third Designated Player slot is occupied on the club’s roster.

If a club uses the third Designated Player slot to sign a Young Designated Player, then the club will not be obligated to pay the $150,000 charge.

Designated Player slots are not tradable.

Special Discovery Players

In general, the total amount of the acquisition cost of a player is charged against the Salary Budget in the year in which it is paid. For one player on a club’s roster (a “Special Discovery Player”), a club can amortize the total amount of acquisition costs (up to $500,000) over the term of the player’s contract.

  • Special Discovery Players must be 27 years old (or younger than the age of 27) during the League Year under consideration (the age of the player is determined by year – not date – of birth).
  • There may be no more than one Special Discovery Player per number of clubs in the League (i.e., 23 total Special Discovery Players across the League in 2019).
  • A club may have more than one Special Discovery Player on its Senior Roster at any given time if the club received the additional player(s) via trade. However, the club trading the Special Discovery Player may not sign a new Special Discovery Player until the traded Special Discovery Player’s original contract expires, the player’s contract is terminated, or all the amortized acquisition costs are accounted for in the Salary Budget Charge.
  • Targeted Allocation Money may be used on a Special Discovery Player if he qualifies.