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 company's salary cap. This can be done in one of two ways by the company. They can offer the player a higher salary or pay the player a transfer fee to secure the player to their team.
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 internationally, so no player is off the table for recruiting.
You might hear the Designated Player Rule referred to as the Beckham Rule, which is a reference to soccer star David Beckham, who is known as one of the most talented soccer players of all time. Beckham was the first player to be recruited under the Designated Player Rule, which coined the title.
This rule received this informal title when companies started recruiting players that were as talented and coveted as Beckham. There are now over 100 Designated Players in the MLS. In 2019 alone, 21 players were added as Designated Players.
Players who sign as Designated Players are guaranteed an agreed upon salary that does not fall within the limitation of the company's typical player salary.