What Is The MLS Designated Player Rule?

Every single transfer season, player transfer fees (and wages) in football — especially in Europe — increases astronomically, but that’s not the case in the Major League Soccer (MLS).

MLS clubs are restricted by salary caps, but they can still secure world-class talent through what is known as the Designated Player (DP) rule.

In this piece, FootballOrbit explains what the Designated Player is.

What is the MLS Designated Player Rule?

MLS Designated Player Rule

The Designated Player Rule allows Major League Soccer clubs to sign up to three players that would be considered outside their salary cap.

What is the MLS salary cap?

The salary cap or salary budget in MLS is the maximum amount of money each team is allowed to devote towards their roster outside of specially designated players.

Introduced in 1996, it was to prohibit team owners from excessively spending on player salaries and to maintain a competitive balance among all teams.

The Designated Player Rule allows teams to either pay higher wages (or higher transfer fees) for the signed player.

The rule, created ahead of the 2007 season, enables MLS teams to compete for star players in the international football market. These players can be superstar European veterans or rising stars in South America.

Furthermore, the Designated Player Rule is also known as the Beckham Rule; because it was introduced when Los Angeles Galaxy where about to sign superstar David Beckham in 2007.

Beckham was the first player signed under this rule, signing a lucrative 5-year deal worth $250 million (£200m).

In 2022, a Designated Player who is at least 24 years old during the League Year will carry the Maximum Salary Budget Charge ($612,500) unless the player joins his club after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window — in which case his budget charge will be $306,250.

A Designated Player who is 23 years old (or younger) during the League Year (the age of the player is determined by year — not date — of birth) will carry the following Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge, which is: ages 20 and younger: $150,000, ages 21-23: $200,000.

If such a Young Designated Player joins the club after the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window, he will carry the Mid-Season Young Designated Player Salary Budget Charge of $150,000.

In 2023, the base salary cap is set to be $5.2 million, with an additional $1.9 million available in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $2.7 million in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).

The Supplemental Roster (slots 21-28 in a squad) can include Homegrown signings, Generation adidas players and minimum salary players.

Notable Former MLS Designated Players

David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Gonzalo Higuain and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy).

David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC).

Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez and Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls).

Kaka (Orlando City), Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders), Wayne Rooney (D.C. United).

Other include: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sebastian Giovinco, Miguel Almiron, Jermaine Defoe and Didier Drogba.

Current MLS Designated Players

MLS Designated Player Rule
Lorenzo Insigne in action for Toronto FC

Some of the current Designated players are among the highest paid players in the MLS.

Atlanta United: Josef Martinez, Luis Araujo, Thiago Almada.

Austin FC: Sebastian Driussi, Alexander Ring, Emiliano Rigoni.

Charlotte FC: Karol Swiderski, Kamil Jozwiak.

Chicago Fire: Xherdan Shaqiri, Jairo Torres.

FC Cincinnati: Brenner, Luciano Acosta, Obinna Nwobodo.

Colorado Rapids: Kevin Cabral.

Columbus Crew: Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelaraya, Cucho Hernandez.

FC Dallas: Franco Jara, Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco.

D.C. United: Taxi Fountas, Victor Palsson, Christian Benteke.

Houston Dynamo: Teenage Hadebe, Sebastian Ferreira, Hector Herrera.

Inter Miami: Rodolfo Pizarro.

LA Galaxy: Chicharito Hernandez, Douglas Costa.

Los Angeles FC: Carlos Vela, Denis Bouanga.

Minnesota United: Emmanuel Reynoso, Luis Amarillla, Mender Garcia.

CF Montreal: Victor Wanyama

Nashville SC: Hany Mukhtar, Walker Zimmerman.

New England Revolution: Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, Giacomo Vrioni.

New York City FC: Talles Magno, Thiago Martins.

New York Red Bulls: Patryk Klimala, Luquinhas.

Orlando City: Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, Martin Ojeda.

Philadelphia Union: Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag.

Portland Timbers: Yimmi Chara, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Evander.

Real Salt Lake: Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach.

San Jose Earthquakes: Cristian Espinoza, Jamiro Monteiro.

Seattle Sounders: Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, Albert Rusnak.

Sporting KC: Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda.

St. Louis SC: Klauss, Eduaro Lowen.

Toronto FC: Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi.

Vancouver Whitecaps: Ryan Gauld, Andres Cubas.

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