MLS Long Term Injured List Rules Need Adjustment

SANDY, UT - MAY 7: Fabian Espindola #7 of Real Salt Lake watches over his teammate Javier Morales #11 as he is attended to by medical personal during a game against Chivas USA during the first half of an MLS soccer game May 7, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Morales was taken to the hospital where is was determined he had a broken and dislocated ankle. Real Beat Chivas 1-0. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Major League Soccer has more extensive rules than most soccer leagues in the world, but they aren't as complicated as say Major League Baseball. The "Reserve" League for example is not run from a seperate roster, but is a collection of guys that didn't play much in the last or next game. But there is a significant issue where MLS could help its teams that have suffered significant long term injuries. Currently a rolled ankle (short term injured list) and a torn ACL with fractured patella (long term injured list) have exactly the same salary cap and roster slot relief.

Here are the two injured lists from the 2011 Roster Rules

(K) SEASON-ENDING INJURY REPLACEMENTS

A team with a player lost to a season-ending injury can replace that player on its roster, while remaining responsible for the full amount of the injured player’s salary. A player can be placed on the season-ending injury list once another player has been signed as a replacement (provided the team has budget space). International player limits still apply at the time a season-ending replacement is made (with the player being replaced not counting against those limits).

(L) SHORT-TERM INJURY REPLACEMENTS

A team with a player who has a short-term injury can replace that player on its roster, while remaining responsible for the full amount of the injured player’s salary. A player can be placed on the short-term injured reserve list once another player has been signed as a replacement (provided the team has budget space). Note that the injured player will have to sit out a minimum of six MLS League matches before he can rejoin the team’s roster. International player limits still apply at the time a short-term replacement is made (with the player being replaced not counting against those limits).

If you can find the difference between those rules you are a better legal analyst than I. While there is mention of the two lists, there is no point. And that must change. Currently the following players are going to miss at least half of full MLS season due to injuries sustained on the field of play - Steve Zakuani, Javier Morales, David Ferreira and Branko Baskovic. O'Brian White will also miss that much time, but not due to injury. MLS needs to change the long term injury rules because there are four likely Playoff teams that need help with fanbases that deserve the assist.

What ever rule change is made should not be one that creates an advantage for the team with the long term injury, but instead should be some small help to give the team a tiny bit of strength, and provide the team and the injured player a buffer so that they do not hurry back and wind up re-injured due to the pressure of a Playoff race in October.

While the MLS Player's Union and the Competition Committee would have to craft the rule adjustment it should at least do the following.

  • Apply to teams that will be without a player for 20+ MLS matches
  • Not allow said player to participate in any competitive non-league match
  • Provide an amount of Allocation Dollars, but not Salary Cap Relief
  • If the lost player is an international grant a additional international slot
  • Limit newly signed player through only two transfer windows
  • Limit number on 20 match list to 1 or 2 (6 match list is limited to 4 players)

Something structured along these lines would mean that a team could get a short term version of Mauro Rosales, a good player, but not a great one. In the case of the Seattle Sounders they could add two players but only up until the 2012 secondary transfer window. The players added would be those that are hungry for playing opportunities, but not at high salary. Instead they would have an infusion of cash through the allocation.

This does not add too much confusion to the rules, but a team like Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas losing their MVP caliber players deserve an oppotunity to replace their enourous losses. The league has the funds, and needs the quality to be replaced so that the gate and ratings are only dented within the MLS markets effected, rather than potentially destroyed.

This structure would no reward a team for being injured, but instead offer them the opportunity to no languish.

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