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FCD 101: MLS Roster Rules and FC Dallas

Explaining the overwhelming confusion and mystery of MLS rules in small, simple words

MLS: MLS SuperDraft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Major League Soccer has numerous rules which guide the creation of teams’ rosters. These rules are designed to promote American talent as well as create league parity by enforcing a salary cap. MLS is a convoluted mess and explaining how any of the rules work is difficult. This article will explain MLS roster rules and use FC Dallas 2017 roster for examples along the way. So what zany rules does the MLS use to achieve its’ objectives and how do they apply to FCD?

Designated Players

Designated players (DP’s) are players who make a higher salary than most other members of a team. The rule was introduced to help the L.A. Galaxy acquire David Beckham in 2007, but has since undergone a series of changes. Now teams can have three Designated Players. Designated players receive high salaries from their clubs. Some, like Sebastian Giovinco, make more than most of their teammates combined. To keep this from affecting the salary cap, only about $450k of a DP’s salary goes toward the salary cap, with that number being smaller for young DP’s. They still get paid more (for example Giovinco makes around $7 million a year), but for the salary cap it only counts as $450k. This lets teams acquire talents that would be too expensive to justify under the salary cap, by making their salary on the roster cheaper.

FC Dallas Designated Players are: Mauro Diaz, Cristian Colman, and Carlos Gruezo.


In order to ensure that MLS clubs promote American talent, MLS limits the number of international players a team can have. Most teams have eight international spots, though some teams trade these spots around. Internationals are any player that is not an American citizen, or that does not have permanent residence (green cards). Players from other countries who have green cards count as domestic players. At FC Dallas: Atiba Harris, Tesho Akindele, Javier Morales, and Maxi Urruti are all examples of players who were born outside the U.S.A. but are not internationals on the roster. Anyone without citizenship or another special status counts as an international.

FC Dallas Internationals are: Carlos Cermeño, Anibal Chala, Cristian Colman, Mauro Diaz, Maynor Figueroa, Hernan Grana, Carlos Gruezo, and Roland Lamah.

Homegrown Players

Homegrown Players are players who play, or have played in a team’s youth academy prior to signing for the club. These players get special consideration in the roster rules in order to promote the development of talent. Homegrown players can be placed in unique spots on the roster where they will not count towards the salary cap. Homegrown players do not always occupy these spots, but often these players do not count against the salary cap and as such can be very advantageous. FC Dallas has the best academy in the league and takes pride in the number of Homegrown players it produces.

FC Dallas current Homegrown Players are: Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa, Jesse Gonzalez, Coy Craft, Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira, Aaron Guillen, Paxton Pomykal, and Bryan Reynolds.

Roster Formation

The roster itself is a bit confusing. The first 20 roster slots are on-budget senior roster slots. This means that players in these 20 spots count towards the salary cap, which in 2017 is $3.84 million dollars. The players in these 20 roster slots, can’t collectively make more than $3.84 million a year, ignoring the extra money made by DP’s which does not count against the cap. Then there are two types of off-budget roster slots in MLS, supplemental and reserve. The details aren’t necessarily crucial to know. Suffice it to say that these 8 spots are for players who make low salaries, are homegrown players, or in some special cases, draft picks. This is how FC Dallas takes advantage of homegrown players. Players in these 8 roster slots do not count against the salary cap and FC Dallas signs a lot of quality homegrown players.

Note: During the writing of this article it was announced that MLS will be adding two more roster slots specifically for homegrown players. The specifics of this change won’t be made clear until the 2017 roster rules come out, but it is obvious that Dallas will take advantage of these rules to have 30 players by the start of the 2017 season.

FC Dallas Roster

FC Dallas roster is currently speculative. Players could be loaned out before the start of the season, and new players could come in. As of the time of writing, the roster likely looks something like this.

Senior Roster 1-20

  • Kellyn Acosta (HG)
  • Tesho Akindele
  • Michael Barrios
  • Carlos Cermeño (I)
  • Anibal Chala (I)
  • Cristian Colman (DP) (I)
  • Mauro Diaz (DP) (I)
  • Maynor Figueroa (I)
  • Hernan Grana (I)
  • Jesse Gonzalez (HG)
  • Carlos Gruezo (DP) (I)
  • Jacori Hayes
  • Atiba Harris
  • Matt Hedges
  • Ryan Hollingshead
  • Roland Lamah (I)
  • Javier Morales
  • Chris Seitz
  • Victor Ulloa (HG)
  • Maxi Urruti
  • Walker Zimmerman

Supplemental 21-24

  • Coy Craft (HG)
  • Walker Hume
  • Adonijah Reid
  • Aaron Guillen (HG)

Reserve Roster 25-28

  • Reggie Cannon (HG)
  • Jesus Ferreira (HG)
  • Paxton Pomykal (HG)
  • Bryan Reynolds (HG)
(HG) = Homegrown; (DP) = Designated Player; (I) = International

More Information

This is meant to be a basic starting point for understanding MLS wacky roster rules. As such, some things have been omitted or simplified for the sake of brevity. If you are interested in the more detailed rules about the formation of rosters refer to this link.