Soccer Designated Player Rule

Soccer Designated Player Rule

The designated player rule is an important rule for understanding how Major League Soccer (MLS) players are acquired. Read below for the history of the designated player rule and how it works!

What is the designated player rule?

The designated player rule in soccer is a rule in MLS where up to three players can be considered for play with payments that exceed the team’s salary cap. This causes a lot of competition within the MLS, as every team is competing to recruit the best players before another team gets the opportunity. This rule applies to teams both nationally and internationally, so no player is off the table for MLS recruiting.

The Beckham Rule

The designated player rule is commonly referred to as the Beckham Rule because of its association with the transfer of soccer star David Beckham. After Beckham was transferred to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, MLS officials quickly approved the designated player rule. The common story is that the league did so because they specifically wanted to attract players of the same quality and status as Beckham. Thus, the Beckham Rule was born.

There are now over 100 designated players in the MLS. In 2019 alone, 21 new players were added as Designated Players. Players who sign as Designated Players are guaranteed an agreed upon salary that does not fall under the limitation cap of the company’s typical player salary.


What is a young designated player in MLS soccer?

In MLS soccer, a young designated player is any designated player who is 23 years old or younger at the start of the league year. Unlike older transfer players, young designated players will have a special salary budget charge (based on their age range) that their team has to pay for being signed.

How many designated players does each MLS team have?

Each team in Major League Soccer (MLS) is allowed to have three designated players on their roster. These designated players do not count toward the team’s salary cap, and are therefore typically very expensive players.