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The new MLS rules and roster regulations and how they affect you

The single biggest change is in the playoffs where two-legged series now use away goals as the first tiebreaker.

This lucky fan got an autographed version of the MLS roster rules and regulations!
This lucky fan got an autographed version of the MLS roster rules and regulations!
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As happens basically every year, MLS tweaked a few of their rules and roster regulations ahead of the 2014 season. There's nothing in there that's too earth-shattering, but there are lots of little things that start to add up. If you want a complete rundown of all the changes, I highly recommend reading Josh Mayers' post at the Seattle Times.

I'm not going to do anything as thorough as Josh, so you should probably read him if you're really interested in the nitty-gritty details but don't feel like actually reading the rules yourself. That said, we talk about this stuff so often here, I figured we shouldn't just assume that you've already read Josh. More importantly, I wanted to make sure our readers had access to those rules and regulations (they are linked in the subject headers below).

Competition rules

The single biggest change is that all two-legged playoff series will now use the away-goal rule as the first tiebreaker. Anyone who follows soccer anywhere should be familiar with this rule, which basically means that if two teams are tied on aggregate goals at the end of regulation, the team who scored more goals on their away leg is the winner without having the play overtime. If the two teams do get to overtime, away-goals are no longer in effect.

This is colloquially referred to as "away goals counting double", but that's just a stupid thing that people say because they once heard someone with an accent say it. If you lose 4-2 on the road, for instance, the score is not effectively tied.

As someone who's never really been a fan of using the two-legged format in the MLS playoffs, I think this is a step in the wrong direction. Home-field advantage is already nearly nonexistent and by further reducing the chance of overtime, this removes even more of it.

The other notable rules change is in regards to tiebreakers in the standings. Wins are still the first tiebreaker, but goal-difference has been moved up to second. This is a change for the better, although I'd probably just prefer that GD was No. 1. Back in 2012, as you may remember, goals scored were the No. 1 tiebreaker. After that was roundly criticized, goals were moved to the second tiebreaker after wins in 2013. Now goals scored is down to No. 3, which is just fine.


1. Total number of wins
2. Goal Differential (GD)
3. Goals For (GF)
4. Fewest Disciplinary Points
5. Road Goals Differential
6. Road Goal For
7. Home Goals Differential
8. Home Goal For
9. Coin Toss (2 clubs) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)

Roster rules

There were a bunch of little changes in this area, and again I'd really suggest you read Josh for the full breakdown. Most of them have to do with slight changes to the salary structure. Per the CBA, the salary budget is now $3.1 million, the minimum salary for league veterans is up to $48,500 and no one is making less than $36,500. Designated Players now count no more than $387,500 against the budget. They count $193,750 if they join at midseason. Youth DPs ($200,00 for ones 21-23 years old and $150,000 for those 20 years old or younger) remain the same and don't change if signed at midseason.

Most of this simply tracks with the 5 percent CBA-mandated raises.

The primary transfer window has been pushed back about a week to May 12 and the secondary window runs from July 8 to Aug. 6. Only players who are under contract in a foreign league are subject to the transfer window status. Rosters must be finalized on Sept. 15.

The only other really noteworthy change is in the "clarification" of how the Allocation Ranking applies to Designated Players. I put quotes around that for a reason, as this is the wording: "Designated Players of a certain threshold - as determined by the League - are not subject to allocation ranking." In other words, the league is just telling us that they will decide when it applies and when it doesn't. So deal, I guess.

Obviously, all of this still leaves a lot of room for clarification. I'll give the league credit for at least getting this out before the start of the season, but there are some gray areas so opaque as to basically be worthless. Certainly all part of a growing league, but not something we necessarily need to like.

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