NEW YORK_ (Thursday, December 14, 2023) – _Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors met today and announced the following new Sporting and Competition initiatives that will be implemented ahead of the 2024 MLS season.
Highlighted by innovations piloted in MLS NEXT Pro, the approved initiatives prioritize player health and safety, evolving the game while upholding the integrity of the competition.
New Competition Initiatives
Off-Field Treatment Rule
The Off-Field Treatment Rule allows medical professionals with time to assess and treat players off the field of play in a less pressurized environment.
If a player with a suspected injury remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds, the referee will stop play and wave the medical crew onto the field to evaluate the player. When safe, the player will be removed from the field and remain off the field for a minimum of two minutes for further assessment and treatment.
First implemented in MLS NEXT Pro midway through the 2022 season and continued through the entirety of the 2023 season, the Off-Field Treatment Rule has allowed medical staffs time to treat players, while also allowing match play to resume quickly.
Exceptions to the Off-Field Treatment Rule include instances of potential head injury, goalkeeper injuries, serious medical events, and fouls resulting in yellow or red cards.
Timed Substitution Rule
Maximizing effective match time, the Timed Substitution Rule requires that a substituted player exit the field within 10 seconds. Failure to exit from any point on the field within the 10 seconds will cause the incoming player to wait for a 60-second holding period, before entering the game at the next stoppage. During the holding period and prior to the substitute entering, the team will play down a player. Exceptions to the rule include injury and goalkeeper substitutions.
Enacted in MLS NEXT Pro during the 2023 season, 99.7% of the more than 3200 substitutions were completed in 10 seconds or less.
In-Stadium VAR Announcements
Pending International Football Association Board (IFAB) approval, VAR decisions will be announced by the referee to fans in stadium and viewers at home.
Stoppage Time Clock
Scoreboard, video boards, and/or stadium clocks will run until the completion of each half, including any additional time at the end of either the first or second half (ex: 95:04).
Return To Play Equity
Opposing players that simultaneously incur head injuries requiring off-field treatment, who are subsequently cleared to return to play, will return to the game at the same time, once both medical evaluations have been completed.
Roster and Budget Guideline Updates
Discovery Slot Reduction
Beginning after the 2024 Roster Compliance date, MLS will reduce the number of Discovery List slots per club from seven players to five. Expansion club San Diego FC may will maintain seven Discovery List slots beginning January 1, 2024, through the 2025 Roster Compliance Date, at which point the number of slots will be reduced to five.
General Allocation Money for Designated Player Transfers
Following the transfer of a Designated Player who meets the TAM eligibility parameters, a club may now elect to receive a portion of transfer fees as General Allocations Money (GAM).
Previously, any transfer or loan revenue from Designated Players could not be assigned as General Allocation Money.
For a player to be considered a Domestic Player in the applicable season, residency must be established, or the player has to have appeared for an immigrant visa interview by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window.