Major League Soccer (MLS) stands out in the football world with its own rules that set it apart from other major leagues.
One thing that fans often wonder about is the age limit for players in the MLS.
Today, we’re going to explain the age restrictions without getting too technical. We’ll break down the unique rules that affect player rosters and the specific age requirements.
This way, you’ll have a simple guide to understand how the MLS deals with player ages.
It’s like taking a quick tour of the MLS rulebook to see how they handle the age side of things in an easy-to-understand way.
What Is The Minimum Age To Play In The MLS?
The minimum age to play in Major League Soccer is not explicitly defined across all categories, as different rules apply to various player designations.
However, players need to comply with FIFA regulations, as MLS is affiliated with FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.
FIFA sets a minimum age for the international transfer of players, which is typically 18 years old.
However, there are exceptions for players aged 16 or older if certain conditions are met, such as the player moving with their family to the country in which the new club is located.
Let’s break down the specifics of player categories in the MLS team roster to understand the minimum age requirements.
Each MLS team can only have 30 players in their squad, and these players fall into different categories based on salary caps.
The 30-Player Squad Rule In MLS
Every MLS team operates with a maximum squad size of 30 players, a crucial piece of the puzzle when understanding age limits in the league.
- Players earning up to US $612,500 per year have no minimum age requirement.
- Players earning up to US $84,000 per year generally have no minimum age.
- Ten slots in the team are reserved for these players.
- Subcategories include:
- Players with a minimum salary of US $84,000 per year, who still have no minimum age.
- Players with a minimum salary of US $65,500 per year (the minimum for Reserved players), also have no minimum age.
- Homegrown players have no minimum age.
- Subcategories include:
The player allocation is structured into three segments, each with specific guidelines for player types and minimum salary requirements.
Slots 21-24: These slots can be occupied by Senior Minimum Salary Players ($85,444), including Homegrown Players, Generation Adidas Players, and specifically designated players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft.
Homegrown Players earning more than the Senior Minimum Salary (subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy).
All players in these slots must receive a base salary at least equal to the Senior Minimum Salary ($85,444).
Slots 25-28: These slots may be filled by players earning the Reserve Minimum Salary ($67,360), which may include Homegrown Players.
Homegrown Players earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary (subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy), or Generation Adidas Players earning the Reserve Minimum Salary.
It’s important to note that Reserve Minimum Salary Players in these slots must be 24 years or younger during the League Year.
Senior Minimum Salary Players are not allowed in these slots unless they are Homegrown Players benefiting from the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
All players in slots 25-28 must be paid a base salary that is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary ($67,360).
Slots 29-30: These slots must be filled exclusively with Homegrown Players, either earning the Reserve Minimum Salary ($67,360) or earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary (subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy).
All players in these roster slots must receive a base salary that is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary.
MLS Designated Players and Age
The MLS introduces a fascinating concept with Designated Players, allowing teams to sign players whose salaries surpass the cap limit of US $612,500 per annum.
- Designated Players must be a minimum of 24 years old.
- Young Designated Players cater to star players below 24, with specific salary limits:
- Players aged 21–23: US $200,000 per year.
- Players under 20: US $150,000 per year.
MLS SuperDraft and New Signings
Certain age criteria come into play for clubs eyeing fresh talent from the MLS SuperDraft or players who have never played in the league before.
- Domestic players must be 18 years old.
- Non-US/Canadian citizens must be 17 years old.
- Clubs need to enlist these players in the Discovery List before officially signing them.
MLS Homegrown Player Subsidy
The Homegrown Player Subsidy in Major League Soccer provides certain benefits for Homegrown Players occupying Supplemental Roster slots 21-30.
- Earnings Allowance:
- Homegrown Players in slots 21-30 have the flexibility to earn, in aggregate each year, up to $125,000 above the Reserve Minimum Salary (if in slots 25-30) or Senior Minimum Salary (if in slots 21-24). This allows clubs to reward their Homegrown talent beyond the standard minimum salaries.
- Targeted Allocation Money (TAM):
- Clubs have the option to use up to $200,000 of their available Targeted Allocation Money to sign new Homegrown Players to their first MLS contract. However, this utilization is subject to League review and approval.
- Notably, Targeted Allocation Money cannot be applied to a Homegrown Player who has been previously signed to MLS. This provision ensures that the TAM is directed toward fostering the growth and development of emerging talents entering the league for the first time.
MLS Homegrown International Rule
Players meeting the Homegrown Player requirements from an MLS club academy in the U.S. or Canada, or a Canadian Approved Youth Club, are considered domestic players, bypassing the need for an international roster slot.
- The player must have joined an MLS club academy or a Canadian Approved Youth Club by the year in which they turned 15.
- The player’s first professional contract must be signed with MLS or an affiliate (MLS NEXT Pro).
In 2023, 233 international roster slots are distributed among the 29 clubs, tradable in full-season increments. Clubs may have more or fewer than eight slots through trades.
- U.S.-based clubs may consider a player with U.S. permanent residency, obtained while employed by MLS, as a domestic player if residency is granted or an immigrant visa interview occurs by the Roster Compliance date (Feb. 24, 2023, at 8 p.m. ET).
- Canada-based clubs follow a similar rule but extend it to U.S. or Canadian permanent residency.
Canadian Club Designation:
Each Canadian club can designate up to three International Players, under contract with MLS and registered with Canadian clubs for at least one year, who won’t count toward the International Roster Slots. Eligibility requires meeting contract and registration requirements by the Roster Compliance date (Feb. 24, 2023, at 8 p.m. ET).