MLS Changes Designated Player Rule

During an afternoon conference call with the media on Tuesday, Major League Soccer’s Vice President of Competition and Player Relations announced a significant change to the league’s Designated Player rule.  The call was attended by various print, online and broadcast media outlets and was hosted by Dan Courtemanche, the league’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

Boiled to its essence, the amended DP rule allows teams that sign players 20 and under that would count as DPs while significantly lessening the salary budget.  There is a similar reduction for players 23 and under.  In real terms, the salary budget “hit” for the youngest DP’s will be only $125,000 while the older group counts at $200,00.  This significantly reduces the percentage of salary budget taken up by younger designated players while theoretically providing teams with extra motivation to pursue rising stars around the globe.  The new rule will specifically not apply to American and Canadian players.  As Mr. Durbin rightly pointed out during the call, the Generation Adidas program provides a mechanism for the best American stars to avoid impacting team budgets.

During the call, Durbin repeatedly emphasized that teams had been reluctant to purchase young potential stars because the risk of “missing” on such a purchase could significantly burden a team budget.  Teams can also take risks on players with the hope that they can earn significant value during a future sale of same player.  Announcing the change now allows teams to start the process of locating and securing these types of players well in advance of ther 2012 campaign.

Overall this seems like a great move for the league. The promise of more players like Fabian Castillo and Freddy Montero coming to MLS is certainly a positive for the league.  Such players add quality to the league, increase excitement among fans interested in following young talents and bring the possibility of significant sales in the future.