Designated Player Rule
The Designated Player Rule, nicknamed the Beckham Rule, was adopted as part of the salary cap regulations of Major League Soccer for the 2007 season. The rule allows each MLS franchise to sign players that would be considered outside of the team's salary cap (either by offering the player higher wages or by paying a transfer fee for the player), allowing MLS teams to compete for star players in the international soccer market. Clubs have the option to use allocation money against a player's contract, so to avoid a player with a Designated Player level salary using one of the club's Designated Player slots. As of December 2015, there have been 114 designated players in the MLS.
The rule is informally named after David Beckham, in anticipation of MLS teams signing lucrative deals with internationally recognized players of Beckham's caliber. Beckham was the first player signed under this rule, signing a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy with guaranteed annual salary of $6.5 million.
The team salary cap was estimated to be around US$1.9 million in 2006, was $2.1 million in 2007, and was raised to $2.3 million for the 2008 season. As part of the 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the MLS Players' Union, the 2010 salary cap was $2.55 million, with an automatic five percent increase each year until the expiration of the agreement at the end of the 2014 season.
Under the 2007 rule:
- The rule expires at the end of the 2009 season, and must be renewed then or allowed to lapse.
- For each Designated Player, $400,000 of his salary is charged to the salary cap and paid by the league, with any remaining salary being paid by the team's owner. This value was increased for the 2009 season to $415,000.
- Prior to the 2007 season, there were three players whose salary exceeded $400,000. These players were Landon Donovan, Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson. According to the rule, these players were grandfathered in for the 2007 season, and the exemption was extended after the 2007 season, with the league planning to review the issue at a future date. It was possible that the league would be required to renegotiate these players' contracts or consider them Designated Players. However, prior to the start of the 2008 season, Johnson moved to Fulham of the Premier League, while following Dwayne De Rosario's signing by Toronto FC in January 2009, Ruiz was released by the club and left MLS to play for Olimpia Asunción. This left Donovan as the lone player whose 2009 salary remained grandfathered under the exemption provision. However, there were several more players whose guaranteed salary exceeded the Designated Player amount, but whose salary cap expense was actually lower than their true salary due to the allocation rule. These players include Shalrie Joseph ($450,000), Christian Gomez ($430,000), Dwayne De Rosario ($425,750), and Taylor Twellman ($420,000).
- Each team initially had one Designated Player spot, but could trade their Designated Spot to another team; teams were allowed a maximum of two Designated Players.
- Only $325,000 of a team's second Designated Player counted against the salary cap, which was increased to $335,000 in 2009.
The 2010 changes:
- The rule has no expiration date.
- For each Designated Player, $335,000 of his salary is charged to the salary cap and paid by the league ($167,500 for DP players joining during the MLS summer transfer window), with any remaining salary being paid by the team's owner. This amount is halved for Designated Players signed in the middle of the season. The salary cap value of Designated Players can also be reduced using allocation money. Finally, teams whose Designated Players transfer abroad in the middle of a season can recoup part of the Designated Players' salary cap value.
- Landon Donovan is no longer grandfathered into the rule and must be considered a Designated Player.
- Each team is allowed two Designated Player spots, and they can no longer trade their Designated Player spots. The New York Red Bulls will receive $70,000 in allocation money in return for the nullification of their 2007 trade with Chivas USA for an additional Designated Player spot. This means that both New York and Chivas USA will have two Designated Player spots for the 2010 season.
- Teams can pay a $250,000 "luxury tax" for the right to sign a third Designated Player. This $250,000 would be distributed equally to all MLS teams that have not signed a third Designated Player in the form of allocation money.
The 2012 changes:
Starting with the 2012 season, the rule was changed with respect to younger players. MLS announced the changes in August 2011 after clubs expressed concern about signing young international players with no guarantees that they would develop into stars.
- Designated Players over the age of 23 will carry a salary budget charge of $350,000, unless the player joins his club in the middle of the season, in which case his budget charge will be $175,000.
- Designated Players 21–23 years old count as $200,000 against the club's salary budget.
- Designated Players 20 years old or younger count as $150,000 against the club's salary budget.
- The budget charge for the midseason signing of a young Designated Player (23 years old and younger) is $150,000 and this amount cannot be lowered with allocation funds.
- Clubs will not have to buy the third DP roster slot to accommodate Designated Players 23 years old and younger.
- Age of player is determined by year (not date) of birth.
The maximum budget charge for Designated Players over age 23 was increased to $368,750 for 2013, $387,500 in 2014, $436,250 in 2015, $457,500 in 2016, and $480,625 in 2017. The budget charge for those who join during the midseason transfer window has remained at one-half of the full-season cap charge since the inception of the rule. The budget charges for younger players have not changed since 2012.
The rule is informally named after soccer star David Beckham, in anticipation of MLS teams signing lucrative deals with internationally recognized players of Beckham's caliber. As it turned out, Beckham was indeed the first player to be signed under this rule, signing a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy worth up to $250 million over five years, with direct guaranteed compensation from MLS and Galaxy at $6.5 million a year. The rest of Beckham's increased earnings would come from Beckham regaining the entirety of his image rights, of which Real Madrid had owned fifty percent, effectively doubling his existing endorsement income, as well as new endorsement deals, a share of jersey sales, bonuses, etc.
Current Designated Players
|Year signed||Player||Nation||Current club||2016 Guaranteed compensation|
|2012||Higuaín, FedericoFederico Higuaín||ARG||Columbus Crew SC||$1,175,000|
|2013||Valeri, DiegoDiego Valeri||ARG||Portland Timbers||$550,000|
|2013||Dempsey, ClintClint Dempsey||USA||Seattle Sounders FC||$4,605,492|
|2013||Diaz, MauroMauro Diaz||ARG||FC Dallas||$544,400|
|2014||Laba, MatíasMatías Laba||ARG||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||$720,500|
|2014||Bradley, MichaelMichael Bradley||USA||Toronto FC||$6,500,000|
|2014||Edu, MauriceMaurice Edu||USA||Philadelphia Union||$793,750|
|2014||Villa, DavidDavid Villa||ESP||New York City FC||$5,610,000|
|2014||Kaká, Kaká||BRA||Orlando City||$7,167,500|
|2014||Piatti, IgnacioIgnacio Piatti||ARG||Montreal Impact||$425,000|
|2014||Zusi, GrahamGraham Zusi||USA||Sporting Kansas City||$732,102|
|2014||Pérez García, MatíasMatías Pérez García||ARG||Orlando City||$250,000|
|2014||Adi, FanendoFanendo Adi||NGR||Portland Timbers||$712,500|
|2015||Róchez, BryanBryan Róchez||HON||Orlando City||$279,500|
|2015||Accam, DavidDavid Accam||GHA||Chicago Fire||$770,938|
|2015||Torres, ErickErick Torres||MEX||Houston Dynamo||$650,000|
|2015||Altidore, JozyJozy Altidore||USA||Toronto FC||$4,825,000|
|2015||Giovinco, SebastianSebastian Giovinco||ITA||Toronto FC||$7,115,556|
|2015||Rivas, CarlosCarlos Rivas||COL||Orlando City||$80,000|
|2015||Manotas, MauroMauro Manotas||COL||Houston Dynamo||$85,000|
|2015||Doyle, KevinKevin Doyle||IRL||Colorado Rapids||$1,120,000|
|2015||Pirlo, AndreaAndrea Pirlo||ITA||New York City FC||$5,915,690|
|2015||dos Santos, GiovaniGiovani dos Santos||MEX||LA Galaxy||$4,250,000|
|2015||Verón, GonzaloGonzalo Verón||ARG||New York Red Bulls||$500,000|
|2016||Dawkins, SimonSimon Dawkins||JAM||San Jose Earthquakes||$800,000|
|2016||Movsisyan, YuraYura Movsisyan||ARM||Real Salt Lake||$200,000|
|2016||Gruezo, CarlosCarlos Gruezo||ECU||FC Dallas||$686,500|
|2016||Kouassi, XavierXavier Kouassi||CIV||New England Revolution||$890,542|
|2016||Gashi, ShkëlzenShkëlzen Gashi||ALB||Colorado Rapids||$1,668,750|
|2016||Kamara, KeiKei Kamara||SLE||New England Revolution||$1,000,000|
|2016||Rubio, DiegoDiego Rubio||CHI||Sporting Kansas City||$333,000|
|2016||Espinoza, RogerRoger Espinoza||HND||Sporting Kansas City||$800,000|
|2016||Howard, TimTim Howard||USA||Colorado Rapids||$2,575,000|
|2016||Villalba, HéctorHéctor Villalba||ARG||Atlanta United FC||$170,258|
|2016||Lodeiro, NicolásNicolás Lodeiro||URY||Seattle Sounders FC||$1,743,429|
|2016||Bedoya, AlejandroAlejandro Bedoya||USA||Philadelphia Union||$1,166,254|
|2016||Kljestan, SachaSacha Kljestan||USA||New York Red Bulls||$687,500|
|2017||Almirón, MiguelMiguel Almirón||PRY||Atlanta United FC||$n/a|
|2017||Nikolić, NemanjaNemanja Nikolić||HUN||Chicago Fire||$n/a|
|2017||Elis, AlberthAlberth Elis||HND||Houston Dynamo||$n/a|
|2017||Mensah, JonathanJonathan Mensah||GHA||Columbus Crew SC||$n/a|
|2017||Fernandes, GersoGerso Fernandes||GNB||Sporting Kansas City||$n/a|
|2017||Rusnák, AlbertAlbert Rusnák||SVK||Real Salt Lake||$n/a|
- Chart indicates when players signed their Designated Player contract, not necessarily their first year in MLS.
- Player salaries include compensation from their MLS contract, not including any bonuses or compensation from contracts with individual teams or their affiliates.
Past Designated Players
- ‡ – indicates players who originally signed with MLS at a salary lower than a Designated Player level but later had their salary increased to a Designated Player level.
- † – indicates players who still continued to play in MLS but had their contracts negotiated below a Designated Player level.
- Player list comes from MLSsoccer.com and is ordered by their time played in MLS.
Past and present Designated Players by country
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In the first four seasons of MLS's Beckham Rule, which allowed clubs to sign up to three designated players outside the salary cap, ....
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