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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.
     
    The third and sixth and fourth and fifth teams in each conference will play a single knockout game each, the winner of which will advance to the Conference Semifinals and face the first and second place teams in the conference, respectively.
     
     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).