MLS, how the market works

Superdraft, money allocation, designated players, ranking, etc. This is how MLS teams buy soccer players

MLS, how the player market works

Watching some matches on television or simply trying to follow the adventure abroad of great champions like Pirlo, Gerrard and the extraordinary Giovinco over the years, you have surely wondered how transfer market in mls.

Yes, because offers and counteroffers are not talked about on a daily basis, often not even direct negotiations. This is because in the league there is a salary cap that each franchise is obliged to comply with a series of rules different from those that we Europeans are used to and aimed at maintaining a certain balance between the forces on the field. Foreign players can be registered, even exceeding the salary cap for (maximum three) designated player. However, to clarify, let’s recap the modalities of the market.


It works like the NBA, with MLS teams picking the best players from multiple colleges in a precise pick order based on the previous season’s standings. The last classified chooses the first and so on for several laps.

Assignment process

The positioning ranking, always based on the ranking of the previous season from the last classified who will choose first, is also used to give preference in the purchase of American players who come from abroad and want to play in the MLS. Pick slots can be sold to other teams in negotiations.

money allocation

This is the money that each team has available at the beginning of the season, $150,000. Those who did not make the playoffs in the previous season, those who qualified for the Concacaf Champions League, the Expansion team in the first season, and those who sell players abroad get bonus money. This money can also be used to lower a player’s salary in favor of the salary cup and to buy players.

Designated Players

This rule allows MLS clubs to have a maximum of three players with a salary or transfer cost above the salary cap. For these players the salary, for example Insigne, Vela and associates, will weigh only as a percentage of the salary budget because it will be partially reimbursed by MLS itself.

Trade winds

When a player is sold, we speak of a “trade”. A player can be sold for slots to SuperDraft, money allocation and slots for a foreign player.

re-entry project

In this Draft, the players cut from the lists of the other teams are selected.

Free agents and loans

There is talk of free players, while loans are a little used practice when it comes to MLS

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