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MLS 101: 2013 Player rules and regulations

The Montreal Impact kicked off its second season in MLS Saturday in Seattle. With terms like international roster spot or allocation ranking being thrown about in press releases regarding trades or announcements, it can get a little confusing for the casual fan.

MLS recently released its 2013 Player Rules and Regulations. Here is a summary of some of those rules to help better understand the way MLS works.

Salary & Budget

Players occupying roster spots 1-20 count against the club’s 2013 salary budget of $2,950,000, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Salary Budget Players

Roster spots 19 and 20 are not required to be filled, and teams may spread their salary budget across only 18 Salary Budget Players. A minimum salary budget charge will be imputed against a team’s salary budget for each unfilled senior roster slot below 18.

Players occupying roster spots 21-30 do not count against the club’s salary budget, and are referred to collectively as the club’s Off-Budget Players (maximum of 10 per team).

Domestic/International

In 2013, a total of 152 international slots were divided among the 19 clubs. Each club began with eight international slots, which are tradable. There is no limit on the number of international slots on each club’s roster. The Impact currently has 11 slots for the 2013 season, with nine spots currently filled after the recent signing of Argentinean Andrés Romero.

The three MLS clubs based in Canada may be fill their domestic roster spots with Canadian or U.S. domestic players, with a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters. The Impact currently has five: Patrice Bernier, Karl W. Ouimette, Maxim Tissot, Wandrille Lefèvre and Maxime Crépeau.

Allocation Ranking

The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee. The allocations will be ranked in reverse order of finish for the 2012 season, taking playoff performance into account.

Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list.  A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is the other club’s ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS League season.

Allocation Money

Allocation money, which is not made public, is a resource available to clubs in addition to their respective salary budgets. A club may receive allocation money for: failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs; the transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value; expansion status; qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League; funds from purchased third designated player roster spots. Each year the MLS Competition Committee determines the allocation amount to be made available to each club. Allocation money can be traded by clubs. Allocation money does not count against a club’s salary budget and can be used to sign players new to MLS or to “buy-down” a player’s salary budget charge below the League maximum of $368,750, among other options.

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