MLS 101

MLS 101: What is a Designated Player?

MLS 101 is your guide to the rules and regulations that will shape Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team. Here, we focus on the stars of the roster…

Since his arrival in Los Angeles in 2007, David Beckham has had a fundamental impact on soccer in the United States. The English midfielder, who won two MLS Cups and two Supporters’ Shields during his playing career in California, helped push the profile of the sport into the mainstream. Now, as co-owner of Inter Miami, Beckham continues his mission to increase the appeal of the beautiful game on these shores.

Beckham’s impact, however, is not just cultural: his arrival from Real Madrid_ literally_ changed the rules of the game, as it necessitated the creation of the Designated Player Rule.

What is the Designated Player Rule?

As of the 2020 season, every MLS team is entitled to have 30 players on their roster. Their salaries are covered by the Salary Budget, which is capped at $4.9m and will rise to $5.21m for Charlotte MLS’ inaugural season.

However, the exception to this rule are Designated Players, or DPs, whose salary and transfer fees are allowed to exceed the maximum Salary Budget Charge. The maximum Salary Budget Charge per player on the roster is $612,500. So, any compensation for a DP above that level is met by the club outside of the Salary Budget.

The rule was created in 2007 to allow LA Galaxy to bring in Beckham, whose salary would not have been feasible within the existing wage structure.

In 2019, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was paid a league-high $7.2m, which would have exceeded LA Galaxy’s entire Salary Budget.

How many Designated Players can a team have?

Every team can have up to three DPs. The first two DP slots are granted automatically, but the third must be purchased from the league using General Allocation Money (more on that shortly).

Any DP who is 23 years old or younger is classed as a Young Designated Player. These players carry a lower maximum Salary Budget Charge ($150,000 for players 20 and under; $200,000 for those aged 21-23).

Are Designated Players the only way in which teams can exceed their salary cap?

No, clubs can also use the aforementioned General Allocation Money to exceed their Salary Budget. In 2020, each team is allotted $1,525,000.

As an expansion team, Charlotte MLS will also receive additional General Allocation Money.

Can DP slots be traded?

Designated Player spots may not be traded. However, teams can trade International Roster spots.

Every team is granted the right to have eight international players on their team. Those spots can be traded for players or Allocation Money.

What kind of Designated Players will Charlotte’s MLS team select?

Charlotte MLS is in the process of building its roster and has identified some key DP targets.

“We want a DP to be a leader of the team, and a great professional who is still hungry to win games,” says Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. “They will fit in with our culture and playing styles, and will be role models that younger players will look to, and learn from.”