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2016 Major League Soccer Rules of Competition

CONFERENCES:

The 2016 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 REGULAR SEASON 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

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).

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: DISCIPLINARY GUIDELINES

A. Yellow card accumulation thresholds are reset entering the MLS Cup Playoffs.
(1) A player who reaches an accumulation threshold in the last 2015 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 2016.
(2) A player who receives a red card in his last 2015 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 2016.
(3) 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).
 
B. Once the MLS Cup Playoffs begin and up until MLS Cup (when playoff yellow card accumulation will again reset), a player accumulating two (2) yellow cards will be suspended for the next MLS Cup Playoff match for which he is eligible with 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 2016 MLS regular season).
(1) A player who accumulates two (2) 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.
(2) A player who earns his second yellow card in the Conference Championship Leg 2 IS ELIGIBLE to play in MLS Cup.
i.For the avoidance of doubt, playoff yellow card accumulation resets entering MLS Cup (or following the Conference Championships).
 
B. A player who earns two (2) yellow cards in the same match IS SUSPENDED for the next match for which he is eligible including MLS Cup.
(1) Also, in an instance where a player earns two (2) yellow cards in the same match, neither yellow card WILL COUNT against his playoff yellow card accumulation. This is different from the regular season.
i.If a player earns a yellow card in the Knockout Round match and then two (2) 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 (1) 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 2016 MLS regular season.
 
C. 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 (2) MLS Cup Playoff matches.
(1) For example, if 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).
(2) 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.
 
D. A player who earns a red card in any MLS Cup Playoff match, whether a straight red card or two (2) 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 2016).
 
E. 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), MLS Cup or the 2016 MLS regular season.
 

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: MATCH DELAY PROCESS

 
Each MLS Cup Playoff match will be played in its entirety. This rule differs from the MLS regular season where the match result and statistics may be considered official and final after the 76th minute of play.
  1. Match Postponement
In the event an MLS Cup Playoff match is postponed for any reason (e.g., severe weather), play will resume at the moment at which the match was stopped, whether the match is resumed after the postponement period or rescheduled for a later date. If an MLS Cup Playoff match is postponed, resumed after the postponement period, or rescheduled for a later date, all match conditions and statistics will remain constant including the following:
  1. Official Lineup.  The Official Lineup (Match Roster) signed by each Club and submitted to the Referees prior to the match will not change in any way.
  2. On-Field Discipline.  All instances of on-field discipline will apply to the match in its entirety (e.g., a player sent off during play before the match is postponed will not be allowed to appear when the match is resumed, and players holding yellow cards in the match will continue to hold those cards).
  3. Officiating Crew.  Should a match be postponed to a later date, the League and PRO will make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the same officiating crew completes the entire match.
  4. Substitutions.  No additional substitutions will be allowed beyond the current three (3) substitution rule.
 
B. Restart
 
When restarting a match that has been postponed, Referees will be instructed to restart play at the exact time at which it was stopped.  Referees will utilize the appropriate restart when commencing the match.  If the match is stopped at a dead-ball situation, it will be resumed by allowing the appropriate Club to take the restart they were awarded before play was suspended (e.g., throw-in, goal kick, etc.).  If the match is stopped during the run of play, it will be resumed with a dropped ball at the location on the field where the ball was when the match was postponed. 
 
C. Curfew
 
The League Office will determine, in its discretion, whether to postpone/abandon a match after considering all relevant factors and circumstances including;
  1. Although not determinative, whether the delay in play exceeds three (3) hours; and
  2. Although not determinative, whether resuming play would begin after 12:00 am local time and/or whether the match would be completed by 1:00 am local time. 
 
Authority of MLS
  • The kick-off time; date and location shall be decided by MLS in consultation with the participating teams