Designated Player Rule

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Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy's former Designated Player

The Designated Player Rule, nicknamed the Beckham Rule,[1] 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.[1][2] 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.[3][4]


The team salary cap was estimated to be around US$1.9 million in 2006,[5] was $2.1 million in 2007, and was raised to $2.3 million for the 2008 season.[6][7] 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[7][8] 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,[9] 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.[7]

The 2010 changes:[10]

  • 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:[11]

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.[12]


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.[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

Current Designated Players[edit]

Year signed as DP Player Nation Current club 2017 Guaranteed compensation[13]
2012 Higuaín, FedericoFederico Higuaín  ARG Columbus Crew SC $1,050,000
2013 Alonso, OsvaldoOsvaldo Alonso  CUB Seattle Sounders FC $1,141,667
2013 Valeri, DiegoDiego Valeri  ARG Portland Timbers $2,607,500
2013 Dempsey, ClintClint Dempsey  USA Seattle Sounders FC $3,892,934
2014 Laba, MatíasMatías Laba  ARG Vancouver Whitecaps FC $885,500
2014 Bradley, MichaelMichael Bradley  USA Toronto FC $6,500,000
2014 Edu, MauriceMaurice Edu  USA Philadelphia Union $818,750
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 $450,000
2014 Zusi, GrahamGraham Zusi  USA Sporting Kansas City $757,102
2014 Adi, FanendoFanendo Adi  NGR Portland Timbers $1,736,254
2015 Accam, DavidDavid Accam  GHA Chicago Fire $820,938
2015 Torres, ErickErick Torres  MEX Houston Dynamo $665,000
2015 Altidore, JozyJozy Altidore  USA Toronto FC $4,875,000
2015 Giovinco, SebastianSebastian Giovinco  ITA Toronto FC $7,115,556
2015 Rivas, CarlosCarlos Rivas  COL Orlando City $375,000
2015 Pirlo, AndreaAndrea Pirlo  ITA New York City FC $5,915,690
2015 dos Santos, GiovaniGiovani dos Santos  MEX LA Galaxy $5,500,000
2015 Verón, GonzaloGonzalo Verón  ARG New York Red Bulls $500,000
2015 Ramírez, Juan EdgardoJuan Edgardo Ramírez  ARG Colorado Rapids $100,000
2016 Wright-Phillips, BradleyBradley Wright-Phillips  ENG New York Red Bulls $1,635,000
2016 Dawkins, SimonSimon Dawkins  JAM San Jose Earthquakes $800,000
2016 Movsisyan, YuraYura Movsisyan  ARM Real Salt Lake $1,973,750
2016 Gruezo, CarlosCarlos Gruezo  ECU FC Dallas $731,500
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 $800,000
2016 Espinoza, RogerRoger Espinoza  HND Sporting Kansas City $850,000
2016 Howard, TimTim Howard  USA Colorado Rapids $2,475,000
2016 Villalba, HéctorHéctor Villalba  ARG Atlanta United FC $770,750
2016 Lodeiro, NicolásNicolás Lodeiro  URY Seattle Sounders FC $1,743,429
2016 Bedoya, AlejandroAlejandro Bedoya  USA Philadelphia Union $1,197,250
2016 Kljestan, SachaSacha Kljestan  USA New York Red Bulls $787,500
2017 Wondolowski, ChrisChris Wondolowski  USA San Jose Earthquakes $800,000
2017 Chalá, AníbalAníbal ChaláL  ECU FC Dallas $333,000
2017 Almirón, MiguelMiguel Almirón  PAR Atlanta United FC $2,297,000
2017 Nikolić, NemanjaNemanja Nikolić  HUN Chicago Fire $1,906,333
2017 Elis, AlberthAlberth Elis  HND Houston Dynamo $423,000
2017 Mensah, JonathanJonathan Mensah  GHA Columbus Crew SC $844,000
2017 Fernandes, GersoGerso Fernandes  GNB Sporting Kansas City $591,258
2017 Rusnák, AlbertAlbert Rusnák  SVK Real Salt Lake $882,813
2017 Colmán, CristianCristian Colmán  PAR FC Dallas $385,000
2017 Alessandrini, RomainRomain Alessandrini  FRA LA Galaxy $1,999,401
2017 Martínez, JosefJosef Martínez  VEN Atlanta United FC $1,041,310
2017 Blanco, SebastiánSebastián Blanco  ARG Portland Timbers $1,075,008
2017 Van Damme, JelleJelle Van Damme  BEL LA Galaxy $662,500
2017 Montero, FredyFredy Montero  COL Vancouver Whitecaps FC $1,800,000
2017 Moralez, MaximilianoMaximiliano Moralez  ARG New York City FC $2,000,000
2017 Barnes, GilesGiles Barnes  JAM Orlando City $781,250
2017 Shea, BrekBrek Shea  USA Vancouver Whitecaps FC $670,000
2017 Schweinsteiger, BastianBastian Schweinsteiger  GER Chicago Fire $5,400,000
2017 Džemaili, BlerimBlerim Džemaili   SUI Montreal Impact $n/a
2017 Savarino, JeffersonJefferson Savarino  VEN Real Salt Lake $n/a
2017 Qazaishvili, ValeriValeri Qazaishvili  GEO San Jose Earthquakes $n/a
2017 Martínez, TomásTomás Martínez  ARG Houston Dynamo $n/a


  • L - Player is away on loan
  • Chart indicates when players signed their current Designated Player contract, not necessarily their first year in MLS.
  • Other players in MLS may also be paid a salary that takes them above the Designated Player threshold, but they have had their salary reduced against the salary cap using General or Targeted Allocation Money.[14]
  • 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[edit]


  • ‡ – 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[16] and is ordered by their time played in MLS.

Past and present Designated Players by country[edit]

No. of players Country Players
26 Argentina Argentina Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Hernán Bernardello, Claudio Bieler, Sebastián Blanco, Milton Caraglio, Mauro Diaz, Fabián Espíndola, Marcelo Gallardo, Federico Higuaín, Sebastián Jaime, Matías Laba, Claudio López, Cristian Maidana, Juan Manuel Martinez, Tomás Martínez, Lucas Melano, Javier Morales, Maximiliano Moralez, Lucas Ontivero, Matías Pérez García, Ignacio Piatti, Juan Ramírez, Mauro Rosales, Diego Valeri, Gonzalo Verón, Héctor Villalba
18 United States United States Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Eddie Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Claudio Reyna, Brek Shea, Chris Wondolowski, Graham Zusi
8 Brazil Brazil Denílson, Luciano Emilio, Geovanni, Gilberto, Jéferson, Kaká, Kléberson, Rafael
7 Colombia Colombia Juan Pablo Ángel, Fabián Castillo, Diego Chará, Andrés Escobar, David Ferreira, Mauro Manotas, Fredy Montero
Mexico Mexico Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Omar Bravo, Nery Castillo, Giovani dos Santos, Luis Ángel Landín, Rafael Márquez, Erick Torres
6 England England David Beckham, Jermain Defoe, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Liam Ridgewell, Bradley Wright-Phillips
Honduras Honduras Jerry Bengtson, Alberth Elis, Roger Espinoza, Óscar Boniek García, Alexander López, Bryan Róchez
Uruguay Uruguay Álvaro Fernández, Nicolás Lodeiro, Federico Puppo, Arévalo Rios, Octavio Rivero, David Texeira
5 Ecuador Ecuador Juan Luis Anangonó, Aníbal Chalá, Carlos Gruezo, Oswaldo Minda, Joao Plata
4 Germany Germany Torsten Frings, Frank Rost, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Christian Tiffert
Scotland Scotland Kris Boyd, Shaun Maloney, Kenny Miller, Barry Robson
3 France France Romain Alessandrini, Eric Hassli, Thierry Henry
Italy Italy Marco Di Vaio, Sebastian Giovinco, Andrea Pirlo
Nigeria Nigeria Fanendo Adi, Kennedy Igboananike, Obafemi Martins
Switzerland Switzerland Blerim Džemaili, Innocent Emeghara, Blaise Nkufo
Venezuela Venezuela Fernando Aristeguieta, Josef Martínez, Jefferson Savarino
2 Albania Albania Hamdi Salihi, Shkëlzen Gashi
Canada Canada Julian de Guzman, Dwayne De Rosario
Chile Chile Pedro Morales, Diego Rubio
Ghana Ghana David Accam, Jonathan Mensah
 Ireland Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast Didier Drogba, Xavier Kouassi
Jamaica Jamaica Giles Barnes, Simon Dawkins
Netherlands Netherlands Danny Koevermans, Sherjill MacDonald
Paraguay Paraguay Miguel Almirón, Nelson Valdez
Spain Spain Mista, David Villa
1 Armenia Armenia Yura Movsisyan
Australia Australia Tim Cahill
Belgium Belgium Jelle Van Damme
Costa Rica Costa Rica Álvaro Saborío
Cuba Cuba Osvaldo Alonso
The Gambia The Gambia Mustapha Jarju
Georgia (country) Georgia Valeri Qazaishvili
Grenada Grenada Shalrie Joseph
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Gerso Fernandes
Hungary Hungary Nemanja Nikolić
Israel Israel Omer Damari
Montenegro Montenegro Branko Bošković
Panama Panama Gabriel Torres
Peru Peru Andrés Mendoza
Portugal Portugal José Gonçalves
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Kei Kamara
Slovakia Slovakia Albert Rusnák
Sweden Sweden Freddie Ljungberg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Wahl, Grant (November 28, 2011). "Hollywood Ending: If this was indeed David Beckham's final game in MLS, he went out in style, carrying the Galaxy to a championship and affirming the value of star power in America". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved November 25, 2011. In the first four seasons of MLS's Beckham Rule, which allowed clubs to sign up to three designated players outside the salary cap, .... 
  2. ^ a b Lansley, Pete (April 13, 2007). "Becks could be the next American idol". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "PlayersUnion". Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Beckham hopes to make US history". BBC. January 12, 2007. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  5. ^ Goff, Steven (April 26, 2006). "Palencia Has Richest MLS Salary". Washington Post. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  6. ^ Mickle, Tripp (November 26, 2007). "Debate highlights MLS salary cap split". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c Bell, Jack (March 18, 2009). "In M.L.S., Designated Players Do Not Guarantee Great Expectations". New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Galaxy, Milan, Inter wait on Becks". CNN. February 24, 2009. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Fulham complete Johnson signing". BBC Sport. January 23, 2008. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. 
  10. ^ Mayers, Joshua (April 1, 2010). "Major League Soccer adds second DP slot, can purchase a third (league release)". The Seattle Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  11. ^ "2012 MLS Roster Rules". Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Roster Rules and Regulations". Major League Soccer. Retrieved May 11, 2015. 
  13. ^ "2017 MLS Player Salaries" (PDF). 2017 MLS Player Salaries. Major League Soccer Players Union. 
  14. ^ "MLS Roster Rules and Regulations -". Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  15. ^ "A Look into NYCFC's 2014 Payroll (or "David Villa is making k")". Empire of Soccer. Retrieved May 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Designated Player". Retrieved December 28, 2016. 

External links[edit]