MLS announces rule changes to playoffs, salary figures

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By DAN KARELL

On the eve of the 2014 Major League Soccer season opener, the league announced some new rule changes for the upcoming year.

While five teams in each conference will still qualify for the postseason, MLS announced that away rules will be taken into account if the score is tied on aggregate after 180 minutes of a two-legged series. MLS says they made this change “to be consistent with CONCACAF and FIFA practice.”

For teams fighting for a place in the playoffs, goal differential is now second on the list of tie-breakers, behind total wins and ahead of total goals scored. Last season, goals scored was above goal differential on the tie-breaking procedure list.

MLS confirmed that the MLS Cup final will once again be hosted by the team with the most points during the regular season, and the playoffs format will be the same as last year, with the fourth-place team playing the fifth-place team in a one-game knockout match, before a two-legged semifinal and final series.

If a playoff game is tied on aggregate and away goals does not come into play, then there will still be two 15-minute periods of extra time before penalty kicks, if necessary.

MLS also made some updates to the league’s roster rules.

The salary cap has been raised from $2.95 million to $3.1 million, with players occupying roster spots 1-20 counting against the salary cap. Designated Players now count for $387,500 against the cap, up from $368,750 last year.

A note that all league general managers will take note of is that any Designated Player signed midway through the season (read: after the World Cup) will only count for $193,750 against the salary cap.

A Young Designated Player, aged between 21-23, will cost $200,000 against the salary cap, and a Designated Player younger than 20-years old will cost $150,000. Teams can “buy down” their cap hit on a 23+ Designated Player with allocation money, though the cap hit can be no lower than $150,000.

The league minimum is up from $35,125 to $36,500, and can only be given to players under the age of 25. Players in roster spots 1-24 must earn at least $48,500 and spots 25-30 must earn at least $36,500.

A final note is that, in addition to discovery signings, MLS teams may make one “special discovery” signing per season. Teams may spread out payment for those signings over the course of the players contract with MLS, as long as that doesn’t go above the maximum budget charge of $387,500.

A discovery claim can be made on anyone not under contract with MLS who isn’t subject to allocation ranking or a lottery. So in theory, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe, and/or Michael Bradley could have been acquired using this mechanism.

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What do you think of this news? Glad that away goals will be used in the playoffs now? Think it could affect the series? What do you think of the special discovery mechanism?

Share your thoughts below.

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56 Responses to MLS announces rule changes to playoffs, salary figures

  1. Good Jeremy says:

    With all of the money coming in recently and the guaranteed boom after the World Cup, I was really expecting more than a 0.15 million dollar salary cap increase. Players would be more financially responsible to take an entry-level job after college than to play for $36,500 a year.

    • Northzax says:

      Salary cap is collectively bargained, look for a larger jump next season with a new CBA.

      I hate the away goal rule in this circumstance, the regular season means a bit less now.

      • Portland Don says:

        Look for a lockout! They are warning the players by the ref lockout. Welcome to Soviet Capitalism

        • Drewbles says:

          Lockouts work in major American sports because there isn’t really another league at the same level anywhere in the world. I think we’d see a lot of the better talent leave MLS if there was any sort of protracted lockout.

    • Gary Page says:

      This is easily the biggest obstacle to MLS improving its quality. I think increasing the salary cap is much more important than having added a third DP. At least they should give teams an option–take a third DP, or add $3 million (or whatever is deemed reasonable) to your salary cap.

    • beto says:

      how many college grads are getting $35,000/yr in their first year in any field these days?…

      good improvements by the league.

      • Increase0 says:

        It sorta depends where you are and what you do. This where applies to players too. $36,000 goes a lot farther in than New York.

        They really need to make going pro more appealing.

      • alex says:

        When I graduated 10 years ago, 35k was considered below average in my program. I wasn’t a fine arts major, but then again I would assume if you have the type-A personality necessary to succeed in pro sports, you’re probably not inclined to pursue professions where the pay is low.

        But what people are paying other professions is in some ways irrelevant. The point is what kind of player quality can MLS get back for the money it invests and its ability to increase revenues through a higher standard of play.

        I don’t think this minimal pay packet does enough to draw talent. The low end of the roster is likely to be a key battle ground next CBA.

        • David K says:

          Thing is, that pay grade is mostly going to college draft picks and some HGs that aren’t interested in college. Those are american players for the most part. Sure MLS will continue leaking talent to places like TJ, and Europe, but for the most part the American kids don’t have a much better option. Thats pretty reasonable pay for a recent college grad to get by on. Its not so low that we are losing players who could play for an MLS team to say Dental school or even to manage the family store (yup that happened back in the 90s Amad Baba). I’m sure it will go up a bit with the next CBA. I think 50K would start getting kids to think about skipping college and playing MLS or on reserve teams from 18-21 since that would be better than a college scholarship. The next year will be really exciting for American Soccer. Its going to be fun to watch this play out.

          • Northzax says:

            Spots 25-30 are basically paid internships or soccer graduate school. You’re unlikely to ever actually dress, let alone play. You’re getting 35k to practice soccer for seven months. That’s not terrible. These are minor leaguers chasing the dream for a year or two. One or two might make it, but the rest are fodder for the machine and go on to other things.

      • Paul says:

        When I graduated about 14 years ago, $35,000 would be considered below average. I started at $44.000 base and that was about average. I know friends who started at $60K base, but that was considered high.

        • Dank says:

          Yeah, but you worked all year

        • Cliff says:

          “When I graduated 14 years ago…”

          So in other words you can’t really compare you one personal experience to the experience of 2014 grads.

          Besides, this is all missing the point. We’re talking about playing a pro sport for a living. Most people who spent their lives playing a sport, would jump at the opportunity to play it for a living. That’s why you see guys slumming it in the NBA D-League or Single-A Minor Leagues. It’s about living life, not being a financially responsible 20-something. LOL.

    • josh says:

      Are you retarded? Most, not all, entry level jobs are in the 30s. An mls contract is way better and you still get extra money for promotions, player signings, player appearances and private training. Add in the fact that you don’t work all year long and I’d say it’s not too terrible compared to the average job out of college.

      • STX81 says:

        You can’t really apply figures from non-athletic jobs because most careers last more than 3+ years*. Also most jobs don’t carry inherent injury risks like sports.

        *I don’t know the length of the average MLS/soccer career. But I do know the average NFL career is about 3 years.

        • David K says:

          For the guys coming out of college to try their hand at MLS for three years isn’t such a huge risk though. They can play a few years if it don’t work out they can always get a regular job or go back to grad school and start a new career. It seems as though the guys coming out of the NCAA are actually getting their educations unlike other sports where they play football and find ways around their education for four years.

  2. NASL to El Paso tx says:

    Finally, u only need over time in MLS cup :)
    They r doing that right?
    Now just make the playoff games, knock out and bam!

  3. NASL to El Paso tx says:

    By the way, did MLS changed first kick to opening match.

  4. alex says:

    I think the away goal rule is crap. It results in all kids of negative tactics and nonsensical things. Wish they would have just left it as is. I thought the other format was actually more progressive.

    • Brett says:

      Ironic. The away goals rule was meant to stop negative tactics by away sides who would, naturally, play more conservative in a hostile environment.

      I like the rule, personally.

  5. Bobert says:

    too many regulations and salary rules. It hurts the league’s quality.

    • Supsam says:

      The Scottish Premier League (specifically Rangers) would disagree

      • Eurosnob says:

        Really? The regs and salary rules work? What about Chivas USA implosion that necessitated a bailout?

        • STX81 says:

          Apples and Doorknobs. Chivas’ implosion had nothing to do with salary restrictions.

          Also It wasn’t a ‘bailout’. Chivas’ old administration was an embarrassment to the league so the other owners/Garber bought out the team to quickly flip it to a better owner (ie: one who doesn’t have systematic discriminatory practices who brings bad press and lawsuits.)

          • Bobert says:

            it doesnt have to be one extreme or the other.

          • Stephen Healy says:

            And the franchise will be worth a lot more money once mls ets a stadium plan in place

          • Eurosnob says:

            The point is that the club can implode with or without salary restrictions. You might not realize it but Chivas’ owner was on the verge of bankruptcy. Chivas may not have been the sole contributing factor, but the reason the club was “sold” was financial turmoil.

    • STX81 says:

      Yes, salary restrictions does hurt the league’s quality but it also creates stability.

      • beachbum says:

        MLS has made it thru its infancy and early childhood and now is going thru puberty into young adulthood; need to still accomplish some things while establishing itself but you can see the beautiful potential and growth although there’s still pimples and whatnot

        I’m loving how things are developing. An evolving league in America? wish we had this when I was growing up.

  6. jspech says:

    Does MLS fans support the MLS more than their individual club?
    Sometimes I may get someone talking about MLS, & they would go on & on.
    I my walk away know more about the league w/o knowing what club that person supports.

    Looking forward to the day when fans talk more about their club than MLS as a whole.

    Salary cap $3.1million/team, but two players Dempsey & Bradley combine gets close to $12mil/per.
    Major League?? Just saying?

  7. Norman says:

    I can’t respect a soccer league that has playoffs. It rewards average teams with the chance at becoming league champion. The MLS Cup feels contrived and is basically worthless.

    • Bobert says:

      hmm i don’t really like playoffs but we don’t have a prestigious Champions League like they do in Europe.

      So, they kind of do need a post-season tournament of some kind.

      The difference is I would totally separate it from the regular season. I wouldn’t use the word playoffs at all. Instead, I’d just call in the MLS Cup.

      For some dumb reason they call the final the MLS Cup, not the tournament. The final should be called MLS Cup Final.

      • D says:

        @Bobart,

        That is a fantastic Idea.

        The MLS Champions will be the winners of the Supporters Shield.

        The MLS Cup is a postseason tournament for the top half of the league to compete in.

        Brilliant!

    • John Lowe says:

      @Norman

      How often does an average team rise to the occasion and win the Cup? Not very often. If your the best team in MLS all year, you should be able to win during the playoffs too. Playoffs make great business sense. If you team is still in the playoff hunt then games still have meaning and your still watching. The last MLS regular season was exciting and games had meaning all the way to the end for almost every team. If your team has no chance by 1/2 way through the season then maybe you’re watching something else by 1/2 way through the season. Look at the EPL right now, unless you’re a diehard fan of the team does anyone care about the mid-level teams? They are not fighting for Europa/Champions league; they are not fighting to avoid relegation, boring.

      • Bobert says:

        what are you talking about? 7th and 8th place teams have won the cup just within the last 5 years.

        • John Lowe says:

          @Bobert , so you’re saying that’s a lot? I said it does not happen very often and I stand by that. If you won the most games surely you should be able to beat the 7th or 8th place team in a 2 leg playoff.

      • Expat4455 says:

        Don’t tell that to Wigan Athletic, they won the English Cup last year, and are still the running this year too.

    • Northzax says:

      You mean a league like the Championship in England? Or Serie A in Brazil? Or Argentina’s Primera division? The Brits, the Agentines and the Brazilians. What do those pikers think they know about soccer? Bunch of pikers.

      • Bobert says:

        please stop

        they don’t have playoffs to decide league title. They have playoffs for promotion.

        • Expat4455 says:

          MLS (and the USA and Canada) could have 2 trophies. The most important one would be the winner of the MLS league with no playoff. The second one could be the U.S./Canada Soccer Cup and be open to all teams from MLS and the NASL.

          This would be a move towards what real football (soccer) nations do. Plus it would open up much more interest across the board. Fans of NASL teams could see one, or more, of their teams in the Cup race.

          • Northzax says:

            In fact, MLS teams compete for three trophies! Even better, right? The supporters shield (the team with the most points in the regular season) the MLS cup (the winner of the post season tournament) and the relative domestic national cup! I assume rbny fans are ecstatic about winning the league last year, and ignore crashing out of the post season tournament. As long as fans care more about the tournament, teams will, too.

        • Northzax says:

          Really? Argentina doesn’t have a round robin tournament followed by elimination round to decide their title? Brazil doesn’t have a cascading series of tournaments for all teams? Huh. Have you explained that to them?

          The EPL asked Uefa for a championship game a few years back and were denied. The promotion game from the championship is the most lucrative single game in the world, one game for seventy million pounds. People like tournaments and eliminations. People love the World Cup, people love the Uefa champions league, people love the libertadores.

          So you’re ok with tournaments for promotion, but not for a title? What’s the difference? Please explain.

  8. Brain Guy says:

    So RBNY would have won their series against Houston on away goals under the new rules.

    Oy.

    • Eric B says:

      And the Galaxy would have eliminated San Jose on away goals in 2003 and Rodrigo Faria could fade into obscurity like he was supposed to. Dem’s da breaks…

      • Brain Guy says:

        Yes, I know. Timing is everything.

        By the way, how many different playoff formats has MLS had? Seems like it changes every year. Any chance they’d ever go to one-game rounds, with each game at the higher seed? A more meaningful regular season, fairer, fewer stupid mid-week playoff games – or is that too sensible for MLS?

  9. Cowboy Junky says:

    I would expect that when the CBA is done, you will see substantial increases to the salary cap. That’s the one thing that’s going to improve the quality of play more then anything else.

    I’m hoping league minimum salaray increases to about 55 grand, the overall cap increases by a couple of million a year, and they add another d.p.

    If they’re serious about making the MLS a top league, we’ve got to get to the point where we’re paying our guys more then MX is paying their guys. When that happens, MLS will be the predominant soccer league in North America and then the sky will be the limit.

  10. Bobert says:

    you do not need a salary cap in soccer.

  11. Joamiq says:

    Good to know that “away rules will be taken into account”

  12. Ivan says:

    How about getting rid of the single entity structure altogether?

    Dream on, I know, but it will be good for the league and for football in this country.

    And while at it, get rid of the playoffs, the stupid All Star game, and those plastic turfs on which several teams still play for some reason (every time football is played on an artificial turf, a little kitty dies, it’s true!)

    • Brain Guy says:

      That game in Seattle today may have gotten several kitties. Football on a bouncy pool table, that’s what that was.

    • Northzax says:

      You have an option, you know. If you prefer a traditional structure (well, there are still playoffs, but no single entity or all-stars) sign up to support an nasl team near you. I’m sure the cosmos would be happy to have you subscribe to their online streaming service.

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