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February 22, 2012 at 1:04 AM

Changes to MLS roster rules in 2012

MLS Logo.jpgI had meant to get to this earlier, but MLS released its 2012 roster rules last week and there are a few changes from last season. None of the them are major or unexpected, but they’re worth noting, I feel. Let’s get to it.

* * *


— The salary cap has been raised to $2.81 million, up about five percent from last year’s $2.675 million.

— The minimum salary for veterans has been upped to $44,000 from $42,000.

— The minimum for young players, sometimes referred to as “apprentice salaries,” is $33,750, up from $32,600. These players must be under 25.

— The summer transfer window will be from June 27 to July 27. The monthlong window closed on Aug. 14 last year, so the league must feel that an earlier window would make it easier to acquire international talent (UPDATE: A fellow journalist has reminded me that transfer windows apply to federations and serve for other American leagues, as well. So the decision was likely made by U.S. Soccer, but I’m guessing MLS probably had an influence).

— The primary transfer window closes on April 15.

— Designated players now count $350,000 toward the cap (midseason DP signings count $175,000). In Seattle, Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and almost certainly Mauro Rosales will fall in this category.

— DPs from ages 20-23 count $200,000 toward the cap and DPs younger than that count $150,000. The Young DP rule was announced last year and the Sounders have expressed interest in using this mechanism in the future. All DP charges can’t be bought down below $150,000.

— More on Young DPs: if they join midseason the cap hit is $150,000 and that amount cannot be bought down with allocation money. If a Young DP is going to be a team’s third DP, they won’t have to pay the $250,000 surcharge (something Seattle has already paid).

— After the jump are some more things worth noting:


— Only the 20-man senior roster counts toward the salary cap. The rest of the roster is often referred to as “below the line” players, and Generation adidas players, including Seattle’s Michael Tetteh, fall here.

— Team can leave two “below the line” spots empty on their roster and receive $35,000 in allocation money for each empty slot.

— Guaranteed contracts are exactly as they sound, guaranteed, even when cut. Players on non-guaranteed contracts waived before July 1 won’t continue to count against the salary cap, but after July 1 they will.

— Teams are allowed eight international roster slots at the start of the season, which can be traded and stockpiled.

— Teams pay DP salaries over the $350,000 charge.

— Roster are frozen from Sept. 15, 2 p.m. PT, through the MLS Cup on Dec. 1 (except in the case of extreme hardship, which is up to the discretion of the league).

— There is no salary cap relief when players go on the disabled list, and they must sit out for six games. They can be replaced on the active roster.

— Teams can have up to 10 players on their discovery list and can remove/add at any time. Teams can make six discovery signings in one season (expansion teams can make 10).

— Allocation money can be received for failure to qualify for the playoffs, the transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value (transfer fee), being an expansion team, qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League, trading in up to two “below the line” roster spots (previously mentioned) and when teams pay a third DP surcharge (given to teams without them, I believe).

— Allocation money can be used to help sign players who didn’t play in MLS the previous season, to re-sign an existing player (subject to league approval), to buy down a player’s charge to the salary cap and, in the league’s words, “in connection with the exercise of an option to purchase a player’s rights or the extension of a player’s contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.”

* * *

I hope some of this was useful. I try to understand all these rules as best I can, so let me know if you see something wrong. If you have questions, I’ll try my best to answer, but I’d try to find them on the league website first.

Any thoughts?


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