Photo by ISIPhotos.com
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.
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.