In yet another change in roster rules, MLS announced this evening that it would be increasing team rosters to 26 as part of its initiative in incentivize teams to develop and retain home grown players. These players will be signed to Generation Adidas contracts meeting that their salaries will not count against the salary cap. According to the press release, “players registered for at least 12 months in an MLS youth program become eligible to sign a professional contract with that team without entering the MLS SuperDraft. These are known as Home Grown Players, and teams may sign up to four such players per year.”
A further part of the new development is a significant change in the transfer benefits for teams that sell home grown players. Clubs now retain 3/4 of transfer fees for home grown players while the maximum amount of money that becomes an allocation from a transfer is increased to $650,000 (from $500,000). This change is obviously connected to the new Designated Player rules that permit teams to use allocation money to pay down player salaries. This change both incentivizes teams to develop players in their youth programs and to retain the services of Designated Players.
Teams such as New York, Houston and DC that have worked to develop players in their youth systems will definitely benefit from the new rules. Moreover, these rules should encourage young players to look to MLS because teams will have solid financial reasons to sell young players on to bigger leagues. One caveat; the league has reduced the percentage of transfer fees that get paid to teams (as opposed to the league) for players who have less than three years of MLS service.
We think this is a great move by MLS. Well run youth programs are essential to improving the product on the field. At the same time, providing more money to teams from transfers will assist in the signing of Designated Players which will improve the product on the field. Thus, MLS has found a system that encourages better soccer on both ends. Finally, by adding additional roster spots, teams can carry more players and provide them with an opportunity to train at a high level. The next step will be the addition of a reserve team.