Today is the day that you have all been waiting for! Well, not really. Today was the day that MLS released the official roster rules for 2012 and despite there being only a few small changes in there to note it does provide us with a convenient teaching moment. If you are anything like me, and most MLS fans are, you tend be to daunted by the very thought of breaking out the scalpel to try and dissect any of the MLS rules and the roster rules are no different. So I have decided to put aside my own fears and try and help you all understand some of the in's and out's of the MLS just a bit better.
First the changes. The majority of the changes are felt in the way that Designated Player contracts work out this year. For Toronto FC this is important as they carry 3 DP's (Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, and Julian De Guzman). This year each DP will count as a maximum of a $350,000 hit against the salary cap. That maximum cap hit will apply to Designated Players who are over the age of 23. Players who are younger than that will fall under the new "Young DP" rules with players 20 and Under counting as $150,000 against the cap and those 21-23 as $200,000.
Continuing with the changes to the Designated Player rules there has been another shift made to encourage teams to go after those "young DPs". If you have a DP under the age of 20 as your third DP would will no longer have to pay that one time $250,000 fee that used to be required to "buy" that third slot.
The final real change to this years Roster Rules is that the summer transfer window has been moved. In the past the window ran from the middle of July until the middle of August but now the league has decided to move it forward and have it run from June 27-July 27 this year. That change is presumably to allow the league to attract more players who are out of contract as most European based players have their contracts expire in early June.So that is all the major changes but that is certainly not all that is going on in the MLS roster rules. There is a whole lot more in there that you could spend hours digging through if you ever wanted to really take the time. So to save you that effort I will run over a few of the main points.
- For 2012 the roster budget teams have to spend is set at $2,810,00 which represents a 5% increase over last season
-The roster budget is based on the 20 highest payed players (with some exclusions like Generation Adidas players). These first 20 players are called on-budget players.
- Players 21-30 are off budget players, including all GA players, and their contracts do not count against the salary cap.
- The first 24 players on the roster have to make a minimum of $44,000 in 2012 while players 25-30 have to make at least $33,750. For a player to make that lower figure they have to be under the age of 25 for all of 2012.
- Teams are all given 8 international roster slots but these can be traded so it is possible for a club to stock pile as many of these slots as they can.
- The remaining roster slots on a team have to be filled by domestic players. For Canadian teams that means they can sign either American or Canadian domestic players.
- Canadian teams have to have at least 3 Canadian domestic players on their roster and to be domestic the player has to be entitled to work in Canada.
- Allocation ranking is used when a US National team member signs with MLS after playing abroad, like Eddie Johnson, or for former MLS players returning to the league. The ranking is based on a reverse order of how teams finished in the previous season so if you can in last place you are first in line for the allocation order. It is up to a club if they want to use their ranking to go in for a player but once it is used they drop to the bottom of the order. Teams are allowed to trade their ranking but at all times each team must have one ranking and they reset at the end of each season.
- Allocation money (oh joy!) is handed out to clubs in addition to the salary budget. Clubs may recieve these funds for a variety of reasons which was listed as: failing to make the playoffs, transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value, expansion status, qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League, trading in up to two off-budget roster slots, funds from purchased third designated player roster spots.
- The amount of allocation money that any club receives in based on those reasons and determined by the MLS Competition Committee.
- A club can use allocation funds to: sign players new to MLS, re-sign an existing MLS player, buy down a player's salary budget charge to below $350,000 (making them not a designated player?). The club can also chose to trade their allocation funds and it does not count against their salary budget.
- Players, SuperDraft and Supplemental draft picks, allocation money, allocation rankings, and international player slots may all be exchanged in trades
- Discovery Signings: Each club is allowed to make six discovery signings each season. A discovery signing is basically any player the team wants to sign that is not subject to allocation order or a lottery to enter the league. A club can have up to 10 unsigned claims at one time but these claims expire each season. If two clubs make a claim on the same player the club that files the claim first will get to negotiate.
- Home Grown Players: If a player has trained with a clubs academy for at least one year then the club can sign them without them being subjected to the SuperDraft. There is no limit on how many players a club can sign this way each year.
The rest of there rules get in to all the fun of re-entry process, waivers and other finer points of the league that I shall leave for another day. If you are feeling brave though you can read all about it for yourself here.