MLS is making 24 rule changes, including adding a 10-second "shot clock" for substitutes.
MLS is making 24 rule changes, including adding a 10-second “shot clock” for substitutes.

Major League Soccer said it will make two rule changes during the 2024 season that will cut down on the number of timeouts.

The changes—an off-field treatment rule and a timed substitution rule—were passed by the board of governors on Thursday. They were made along with some other small changes to the roster rules and on-field rules.

The league didn’t make any big changes to how rosters can be made, like raising the salary cap or adding an extra designated player spot, as league commissioner Don Garber hinted at last week in his “state of the league” speech.

The off-field treatment rule says that any player who is down and seems to be hurt for at least 15 seconds must be taken off the pitch by medical staff and treated on the sidelines for at least two minutes. Injuries that happen because of fouls that get yellow or red cards will not count against the two-minute rule.

There were tests in MLS Next Pro, a training league that has been around for two years. During that time, stoppages dropped from an average of six per match to 1.22.

With the timed change rule, players will have to leave the pitch within 10 seconds of being taken out of the game. If they don’t leave the pitch in time, their replacement will have to wait an extra minute and come in during the next break. It’s not a rule for goalkeepers or subs who come in for injuries.

The league says that out of the more than 3,200 changes made during the 2023 MLS Next Pro season, only 10 got the one-minute penalty.

There won’t be a big difference for most fans between the three announced changes to the rosters. None of them will have a big effect on the league.

Five players have been cut from discovery lists, which give rights to different players outside of the league if they come to MLS. Transfer fees from designated player transfers or loans can now be used as general allocation money. And to be considered a domestic player, residency “must be established, or the player has to have appeared for an immigrant visa interview by the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window.”

It was rumoured, albeit mostly informally by outsiders, that the league could take extra steps to help its teams consistently be more competitive with Liga MX teams. This was especially true after the Leagues Cup was expanded and the two leagues worked together more.

But Garber shot that idea down last week, at least for now.

“The time will come when we no longer need to be segmenting our spending and not necessarily to provide more freedom, but because all of the objectives that we were looking to achieve with all of these strategic initiatives will have been achieved and therefore we can move in a different direction,” he stated.

“I think you’ll start seeing in the years ahead some streamlining of those rules now that we have more fans, particularly more fans that are looking from outside the United States with football fans of international leagues here and are looking at clubs that don’t have those restrictions.”I can tell you that it has worked really, really well for us so far. We will change things because we will no longer need them. Sure, the league office, all of our clubs, and our fans will see it as a new day when that time comes.

Other small changes that MLS agreed to were that stoppage time will now be shown on the scoreboards (they used to stop at 45 and 90 minutes); referees will now call VAR decisions; and when two opposing players get head injuries at the same time and need to be treated off the pitch, they will both come back to play at the same time.

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