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2016 Major League Soccer Competition Guidelines

2016 MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER COMPETITION GUIDELINES
 
CONFERENCES:
MLS will have 20 clubs for the league’s 21st season. The 2016 conference alignments 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
 
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 5 home and 5 away matches 
  • Clubs will play each of their 9 conference opponents at least twice (1 home, 1 away)
  • Clubs will play 6 additional intra-conference games – 3 home and 3 away
 
POINT SYSTEM: Teams will receive 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie and 0 points for a loss.
 
GAME DAY ROSTERS: Each team can select a maximum of 18 players on their game day roster. Teams are allowed 3 substitutions per game.
 
TEAM BENCHES
  • The Home Team will be allowed a maximum of 17 individuals on their bench (9 staff, 7 players, and 1 Physician). 
    • The Home Team will be required to have a Team Physician attend each MLS match. The Team Physician may either sit on the Home Team bench or at the 4th Officials table. 
  • The Visiting Team will be allowed a maximum of 16 individuals on their bench (9 staff, 7 players).
  • Suspended players and/or coaches may not be in the technical area or on field level.    
 
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 additional time (a.k.a. "stoppage time”) at the end of each period (first half, second half, and if applicable, first extra time period and second extra time period during playoff matches) to allow for injuries, time-wasting and/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 1st 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 marked with a "+" sign and the additional minutes. For example, a goal scored 3 minutes into first half stoppage time will be officially identified as happening at "45 ’ + 3’".
 
HYDRATION BREAKS: In 2016, the League Office will mandate the use of hydration breaks if the WetBulb Globe Temperature measures 82 degrees or higher.
 
The 4th official will be responsible for reading the WetBulb Globe Temperature at the kickoff spot at the conclusion of pre-game warm ups and the conclusion of the first half.
 
Implementation and control of the breaks will be managed solely by the referee
  • Each break will last up to 3 minutes in length and held approximately 30 minutes into each half (around the 30th and 75th minute respectively).
  • The ball must be out of play for the break to commence.
  • The clock will continue to run and all time allotted for the break will be added to stoppage time.
 
MATCH POSTPONEMENT: In the event a match is abandoned at any point prior to its conclusion, it will be postponed, rather than cancelled and/or final. In the event the game is postponed at any point, any remaining time will be completed the following day or as soon as practical.
 
CLICK HERE for the complete match postponement guidelines.
 
PLAYING FIELD DIMENSIONS AND MARKINGS:  The game will be played on a field that remains the same size throughout the League Regular and Post-Season, unless a change is approved by the League and the visiting club is notified at least 72 hours in advance of the game. The dimensions and markings of the field will conform to MLS standards and the FIFA Laws of the Game.  No logos on the field, goal nets or corner flags will be allowed without prior League, USSF, and CSA written approval. 
 
Except where stadium design deems it impossible or impractical, the playing field will be at a minimum 70 yards wide by 110 yards long. 
 
 
OFFICIATING AND DISCIPLINARY PROTOCOL
 
REFEREES: All referees in MLS are either USSF (United States Soccer Federation) or CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) registered referees.  Referees for all MLS games will be trained, assigned and evaluated by PRO (Professional Referee Organization).
 
REGULAR SEASON CAUTIONS AND SUSPENSIONS: Fines and suspensions will be levied against players for yellow card accumulations during the Regular Season as follows:
 
  • Player accrues 5 yellow cards: $250 fine and suspension from his next MLS Regular Season Game;
  • Player accrues an additional 3 yellow cards after having been fined and suspended for the initial five cards: $500 fine and suspension from his next MLS Regular Season Game;
  • Player accrues additional 3 yellow cards after having been fined and suspended for a second game: $750 fine and suspension from his next MLS Regular Season Game;
  • Player accrues additional 2 yellow cards after having been fined and suspended for a third game: $1000 fine and suspension from his next MLS Regular Season Game;
  • For each 2 yellow cards thereafter, Player will be fined $1000 and suspended from his next MLS Regular Season Game.
 
GOOD BEHAVIOR INCENTIVE
In 2016, if a player appears in 5 consecutive matches without receiving a card or supplemental discipline, that player will automatically have 1 caution removed from his cumulative yellow card total.  For clarity, a player cannot have a negative yellow card accumulation total; the Good Behavior Incentive reset can only reset to a zero (0) card total.  The Good Behavior Incentive can be applied a maximum of 3 times throughout the season.
 
(e.g. A player on his third caution of the season appears in 5 consecutive matches without receiving a card or supplemental discipline removes 1 caution from his cumulative total leaving the player with a total of two. This player now has two remaining Good Behavior Incentive opportunities for the 2016 Season.)
 
SERVING SUSPENSIONS: Players suspended from MLS Regular Season and Playoffs games that are called in for National Team duty will have their suspension(s) held in abeyance until they return from the full completion of their international duty.
 
DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE
As in 2015, the Disciplinary Committee will be comprised of 3 former MLS players, 1 former MLS coach and 1 former MLS referee.  The Disciplinary Committee will have the authority to act in following instances:
 
  1. Where the referee sees an incident and issues a red card, the Committee may review the play for further disciplinary action, over and above the mandatory suspension and fine.
 
  1. Where the referee does not see the incident (e.g., an off-the-ball offense) and therefore does not have the opportunity to act, the Committee will review any and all evidence and may act to discipline a player.
 
  1. Where the referee sees an incident and either does not act, or rules only a foul or only a yellow card (i.e., anything other than a red card), the Committee will not in general issue a suspension, unless:
    1. The play in question is, in the unanimous opinion of the Committee from all available video evidence, a clear and unequivocal red card; AND
    2. The play in question is of an egregious or reckless nature, such that the Committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game.
  2. The Committee will automatically review any incident that forces a player to be immediately substituted out of the game due to an injury through contact with an opponent
   
Additional information about the Disciplinary Committee procedures are available by CLICKING HERE.
 
2016 AUDI MLS CUP PLAYOFFS
 
QUALIFICATION: Twelve teams, the top 6 from each conference at the end of the regular season, qualify for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
 
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 (3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, 0 points for a loss).  In the event that 2 teams finish the regular season with an equal number of points, the following system will be used to break the tie:
 
1.Total number of wins
2.Goal Differential (GD)
3.Goals For (GF)
4.Fewest Disciplinary Points*
5.Away Goals Differential
6.Away Goal For
7.Home Goals Differential
8.Home Goal For
9.Coin Toss (tie of 2 clubs) or Drawing of Lots (tie of 3 or more clubs)
 
When 2 or more teams are tied in the standings on points, the above tiebreakers will be used until 1 team ranks ahead of the other(s).
 
* Disciplinary Points are calculated as follows:
  1. Foul = 1 point
  2. Yellow Card = 3 Points
  3. 2nd Yellow Card = 3 Points
  4. Straight Red Card = 7 Points
  5. Coach Dismissal = 7 Points
  6. Any Supplemental Discipline = 8 points
 
FORMAT: The 3rd seed will play the 6th seed, and the 4th seed will play the 5th seed, in each conference in a single knockout game, hosted by the higher-seeded clubs.  The winners of each knockout game will advance to the Conference Semifinals. The lower-seeded winners of the knockout games will face the 1st place teams in the conferences.  The higher seeded winners from the knockout games will face the 2nd place teams in the conferences.
 
The four Conference Semifinals will be decided by a two-game aggregate series, with the lower seed hosting the 1st leg and the higher seed hosting the 2nd leg. If the aggregate score is tied after 180 minutes of play, the away goals tiebreaker 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 extra time in the 2nd 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 tiebreaker 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 extra time in the 2nd 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 MLS Cup 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.
 
Playoff Disciplinary Guidelines
  • Yellow card accumulation thresholds are reset entering the MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • A player who reaches an accumulation threshold in the last 2016 MLS regular season match (e.g. 5th, 8th, etc.) is eligible for the MLS Cup Playoffs and is eligible for the first regular season match of 2017.
  • A player who receives a red card in his last 2016 MLS regular season match is suspended for the next match for which he is eligible including the MLS Cup Playoffs match or the first regular season match of 2017.
  • A player sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee will have any corresponding suspension applied to the next match(es) for which he is eligible including a MLS Cup Playoff match(es) or the next season’s regular season match(es).
 
  • Once the MLS Cup Playoffs begin and up until MLS Cup (when playoff yellow card accumulation will again reset), a player accumulating two yellow cards will be suspended for the next Playoff match for which he is eligible, except as detailed below (if a player’s club does not advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the suspension does not carry over to the 2017 MLS regular season).
  • A player who accumulates two yellow cards in any of the following matches is suspended for his next match: Knockout Round match, Conference Semifinal Leg 1, Conference Semifinal Leg 2, Conference Championship Leg 1.
  • A player who earns his second yellow card in the Conference Championship Leg 2 is eligible to play in MLS Cup.
    • For the avoidance of doubt, playoff yellow card accumulation resets entering MLS Cup.
 
  • A player who earns two yellow cards in the same match is suspended for the next match for which he is eligible including MLS Cup.
  • In an instance where a player earns two yellow cards in the same match, neither yellow card will count against his playoff yellow card accumulation. This is different from the regular season.
  • For example, if a player earns a yellow card in the Knockout Round match and then two yellow cards in the Conference Semifinal Leg 2, that player would be suspended for the Conference Championship Leg 1 due to the red card/second caution but would remain on one yellow card for his accumulation total. If the player’s club does not advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the red card suspension will carry over to the 2017 MLS regular season.
 
  • A player who earns a straight red card in the same match in which he previously has earned his second cumulative yellow card may be suspended for his next two MLS Cup Playoff matches.
    • For example, a player earns a yellow card in the Knockout Round match. He then earns a yellow card (his second cumulatively) in the Conference Semifinal, Leg 2 AND a straight red card (different from earning a second yellow card) in the same match. The player is suspended for the Conference Championship, Leg 1 (due to the red card) and is suspended for the Conference Championship Leg 2 (due to playoff yellow card accumulation).
    • However, if a player earns a yellow card in the Conference Semifinal Leg 2 and then earns both a yellow card (his second cumulatively) in the Conference Championship Leg 1 AND a straight red card in the same match, then the player is suspended for the Conference Championship Leg 2 (due to the red card) but is not suspended for MLS Cup as the yellow card accumulation re-sets entering MLS Cup.
 
  • A player who earns a red card in any MLS Cup Playoff match, whether a straight red card or two yellow cards, is suspended for his next match (if this occurs in MLS Cup, then the suspension carries over to the first regular season match of 2017).
 
  • A player sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee will have any corresponding suspension applied to the next match(es) for which he is eligible including any MLS Cup Playoff match(es) or MLS Cup or the 2017 MLS regular season.  In instances in which a player receives a yellow card in a match and the Disciplinary Committee acts to suspend the player for the offense, the yellow card will not count toward the player’s cumulative yellow card total.