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Competition Rules and Regulations

2015 MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RULES OF COMPETITION
 
CONFERENCES:
MLS will have 20 clubs for the league’s 20th season and will feature a new conference alignment.  Most notably, the Houston Dynamo and 2013 MLS Cup Champions Sporting Kansas City will move to the Western Conference, creating two 10-team conferences. The 2015 conference assignments are as follows:
 
Western Conference
Colorado Rapids
FC Dallas
Houston Dynamo
LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders FC
Sporting Kansas City
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
 
Eastern Conference
Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC
D.C. United
Montreal Impact
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Orlando City SC
Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC
 
REGULAR SEASON: 
  • Each of the 20 MLS clubs will play 34 games, 17 at home and 17 away.
  • Clubs will play each team in the opposing conference once for five (5) home and five (5) away matches 
  • Clubs will play each of their nine conference opponents at least twice (one home, one away)
Clubs will play six additional intra-conference games – three (3) home and three (3) away
 
POINT SYSTEM: Teams will receive three points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss.
 
REFEREES: All referees in MLS are either USSF (United States Soccer Federation) or CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) National Referees.  Referees for all MLS games will be trained, assigned and evaluated by PRO (Professional Referee Organization).
 
GAME CLOCK: The official game time for all Major League Soccer games will be managed on the field by the referee. If necessary, the referee may also allot extra time (a.k.a. "stoppage time”) at the end of each period (first half, second half, and if applicable, first overtime period and second overtime period during playoff matches) to allow for injuries, time-wasting or other disturbances.
 
The stadium clock will display the time from 0:00 to 45:00 and from 45:00 to 90:00 (plus stoppage time where applicable in each half). For statistical purposes, the minutes for goals, substitutions, yellow cards, etc., will be listed from the first minute until the 90th minute. A goal scored at 15 minutes 10 seconds will be listed as having been scored in the 16th minute. Events occurring during stoppage time will follow the international norm by being demarcated with a "+" sign and the extra minutes. For example, a goal scored three minutes into first half stoppage time will be officially identified as happening at "45 + 3".
 
GAME DAY ROSTERS: Each team can nominate 18 players for a game day roster. Teams are allowed three substitutions per game.
 
CAUTIONS AND SUSPENSIONS: A player will be suspended for one game upon receiving his fifth yellow card – regardless of the nature of the infraction that resulted in his being awarded a yellow card. A second suspension of one game would result after the awarding of an additional three cards, as would a third suspension after the awarding of card number eleven. When one yellow card away from being suspended for caution accumulation, if a player appears in three consecutive games without receiving a yellow card or disciplinary sanction, the player will have one yellow card expunged. A player may take advantage of the “Good Behavior” incentive only once throughout the season.
 
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: FORMAT
 
WHO QUALIFIES: Twelve teams, the top six from each conference at the end of the regular season, qualify for the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
 

In the Knockout Round, the third seed will play the sixth seed from their conference and the fourth seed will play the fifth seed from their conference in a single knockout match.   The winners from the Knockout Round matches will advance to their respective Conference Semifinals.  The lowest seeded teams that advance from the Knockout Round will play the first seed team in each of the respective Conference Semifinals while the highest seeded teams that advance will play the second seeded team in each of their respective Conference Semifinals. 

The four Conference Semifinals will be decided by two-game aggregate series, with the lower seed hosting the first leg and the higher seed hosting the second leg. If the aggregate score is tied after 180 minutes of play, the away goals rule will apply so as to be consistent with CONCACAF and FIFA practice. If the series remains tied, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played in their entirety, followed by penalty kicks, if necessary. The away goals tiebreaker will not apply to overtime in the second leg of any two-legged playoff series.

The two Conference Championships will be decided by a two-game aggregate series, with the lower seed hosting the first leg and the higher seed hosting the second leg. If the aggregate score is tied after 180 minutes of play, the away goals rule will apply so as to be consistent with CONCACAF and FIFA practice. If the series remains tied, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played in their entirety, followed by penalty kicks, if necessary. The away goals tiebreaker will not apply to overtime in the second leg of any two-legged playoff series.

 
MLS Cup will be a single championship match hosted by the finalist with the most regular season points. If the two finalists have the same number of regular season points, the tiebreakers for playoff qualification will be applied to determine the host team.
 
If the score is tied after 90 minutes of play, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played in their entirety, followed by kicks from the penalty mark, if necessary.
 
TEAM-STANDINGS TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURES
The team awarded the highest position in the MLS standings will be the team with the greatest number of points (three points for a win, one point for a tie, zero points for a loss).  In the event that two teams finish the regular season with an equal number of points, the following system will be used to break the tie:
 
  • Total number of wins
  • Goal Differential (GD)
  • Goals For (GF)
  • Fewest Disciplinary Points
  • Road Goals Differential
  • Road Goal For
  • Home Goals Differential
  • Home Goal For
  • Coin Toss (2 clubs) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)
     
    When two or more teams are tied in the standings on points, the above tiebreakers will be used until one team ranks ahead of the other(s).
 
MATCH POSTPONEMENT POLICY
Matches may be postponed when circumstances exist such that continuation of play would pose a threat to the safety of participants or spectators.
  • Postponement Policy
    • In the event a match is abandoned in or after the 76th minute (i.e. 75:00 on the official game clock), the result and all statistics will stand.
    • In the event a match is abandoned prior to the 76th minute, it will be postponed, rather than cancelled.  In the event the game is abandoned prior the 76th minute, any remaining time will be completed the following day or as soon as practical.
    • The League will determine in its discretion whether to postpone/abandon a match after considering all relevant factors and circumstances including:
      • Although not determinative, whether the delay in play exceeds 3 hours; and
      • Although not determinative, whether resuming play would begin after 12:00 am local time and/or whether the game would be completed by 1:00 am local time
  • Match Recommencement
    • The match must restart on the same spot where the abandoned match action occurred (i.e. free-kick, throw-in, goal kick, corner kick, penalty, etc.).  If the match was stopped during the normal flow of the game, a dropped ball on the spot where it was abandoned shall be used to restart
    • The match shall recommence with the same players on the pitch and substitutes available as when the match was initially abandoned
      • Any player in play at the time the match was abandoned who subsequently is injured before the resumption of the match and cannot play can only be replaced by a substitute on the official match day roster of the abandoned match.  Such substitute will NOT count against a team’s normally allotted substitutions.
    • No additional substitutes may be added to the list of players on the official match day roster.
    • The teams can make only the number of substitutions to which they were still entitled when the match was abandoned (except as provided above in the case of a subsequent injury)
  • Discipline
    • Single yellow cards imposed before the match was abandoned are not carried forward to any other matches before the abandoned match is completed
    • Players sent off during the abandoned match cannot be replaced and the number of players in the starting line-up remains as it was when the match was abandoned
    • Players who were suspended following a match played after the abandoned match in question can be included on the team sheet so long as they were on the official match day roster of the abandoned match
    • Any sanctions imposed before the match was abandoned remain valid for the remainder of the match
  • Authority of MLS
    • The kick-off time; date (foreseen for the following day) and location shall be decided by MLS in consultation with the participating teams