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MLS announces new competition and roster guidelines for 2024 season

Initiatives tested in MLS NEXT Pro will hit the big stage in the new year

Los Angeles Football Club v Columbus Crew - 2023 MLS Cup Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Major League Soccer announced on Thursday a new set of rules and initiatives that will be implemented during the 2024 season.

According to MLS Communications, many of these initiatives were tested in MLS NEXT Pro during the 2023 season and were approved for the 2024 MLS season by the MLS Board of Governors

Competition Rule Changes

Off-Field Treatment Rule

This rule states that the referee will stop play if a player stays on the ground for more than 15 seconds with a potential injury. Medical crews will immediately be allowed onto the field to administer treatment and the player will then be safely removed from the field. However, rather than return after a short delay, the player will be held out of the field for at least two minutes. Exceptions include head injuries, goalkeeper injuries, serious medical events and yellow/red card fouls.

This rule is aimed at allowing medical personnel to adequately assess and treat injuries and for the game to resume faster. The main impact will likely be a reduction of players frivolously diving to the ground in order to kill time. If anyone decides to do so, they condemn their side to playing a man down for a brief period of time. Overall it should improve the viewing experience with games featuring more soccer and less stoppage.

Timed Substitutions

Here’s another rule that will hopefully cut out restart delays and allow for more soccer in matches. This rule states that substituted players much exit the playing field within 10 seconds of the personnel change being announced. Failure to do so will result in the incoming player being held out for 60 seconds before entering at the next stoppage. Teams will once again have to play a man down during this period. Exceptions include injury and goalkeeper substitutions.

According to MLS Communications, 99.7% of the 3200 substitutions during the 2023 season were done in 10 seconds or less.

In-Stadium VAR Announcements

If you watched the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup or the FIFA U20 World Cup, you’ve seen this rule in action. Like in the NFL, video review decisions will be announced by the referee to everyone in the stadium and on broadcast. This is aimed at increased transparency of referee decisions and so fans can have a better understanding of what is going on.

Stoppage Time Clock

Another rule change aimed at improving the fan experience at games. Rather than stop at 45’ or 90’, game clocks in the stadium will run until the end of each half. This will include any time added on to the end. Gone are the days of fans having to guess how much time is left for their teams to hold out a result or turn things around.

Return to Play Equity

This basically states that players on different teams that are removed from the field for head injury treatment will return at the same time after both are cleared to play. This will help keep things balanced so that one side doesn’t have to play a man down through no fault of their own.

Roster and Budget Changes

Despite the rumors flying around about a 4th DP slot or major roster rule overhaul, no significant changes occurred in this department. However, there were three changes announced:

Discovery Slot Reduction

MLS clubs will go from having seven discovery slots to five. This affects the “discovery process” which allows MLS clubs scout and sign players that are not under contract within MLS. For more information on this process, check out MLS’ Roster Rules and Regulations.

General Allocation Money for Designated Player Transfers

This rule states that clubs may receive a portion of transfer fees for designated players as General Allocation Money. This only applies to transfers of designated players who meet TAM eligibility, which means they must earn between $651,250 and $1,651,250 to receive GAM.

Residency Deadline

This changes the requirement for a player to be considered a domestic player during a season. The rule states “the a player has to have appeared for an immigrant visa interview by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window.”

What do you think of these rule changes? Let us know in the comments below.