MLS has 29 clubs that will compete during the league’s 28th season in 2023. Conference alignment is as follows:
- Atlanta United
- Charlotte FC
- Chicago Fire FC
- FC Cincinnati
- Columbus Crew
- D.C. United
- Inter Miami CF
- CF Montréal
- Nashville SC
- New England Revolution
- New York City FC
- New York Red Bulls
- Orlando City SC
- Philadelphia Union
- Toronto FC
- Austin FC
- Colorado Rapids
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo FC
- Los Angeles Football Club
- LA Galaxy
- Minnesota United FC
- Portland Timbers
- Real Salt Lake
- St. Louis CITY SC
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Seattle Sounders FC
- Sporting Kansas City
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
MLS Regular Season
- Each of the 29 MLS clubs will play 34 matches in the MLS Regular Season, 17 at home and 17 away.
- All Clubs in the Eastern Conference will play all intra-conference opponents two (2) times and six (6) cross-conference opponents one (1) time. All Clubs in the Western Conference will play all intra-conference opponents two (2) times, one (1) to two (2) additional intra-conference opponents one (1) time, and six (6) to seven (7) different cross-conference opponents one (1) time.
- At the end of the MLS Regular Season, the top seven teams from each conference will automatically qualify to the Round One Best-of-3 series while the next two teams in each conference standings will qualify for a single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Wild Card match. The winners of each Wild Card game will earn a spot in the Round One Best-of-3 series.
POINT SYSTEM: Clubs will receive three points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss.
GAME DAY ROSTERS: Each team can select a maximum of 20 players (11 starters and nine substitutes) for its official match roster. Teams are allowed a maximum of five Normal Substitutions per game to be used over the course of three opportunities, excluding half-time and match delays, but including cooling and/or drink breaks.
Additionally, MLS will continue to implement the concussion substitutes initiative. This initiative allows teams to make up to two concussion substitutions during a match to replace players with concussions or suspected concussions, regardless of the number of normal substitutions already used. If a team elects to use a concussion substitution, its opponent will receive an additional substitution and opportunity.
- Both the Home Team and Visiting Team will be allowed a maximum of 19 individuals on their respective club benches (nine named substitute players, nine staff members, one club physician).
- Two Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs) must be on the bench and named to the nine-person staff on the official match roster.
- If the Visiting Team has no Official Team Physician on the bench, a maximum of 18 total individuals (nine staff and nine named substitute players) will be allowed on the bench.
- The Home Team is required to have its Team Physician attend each MLS match and be seated on the Home Team bench.
- All individuals seated in the bench area must be listed on the Official Match Roster
- Suspended players and/or coaches, injured players, and non-rostered players cannot be in the bench area, locker room or on field level from 90 minutes prior to kick-off until the conclusion of the match.
VENUE MEDICAL DIRECTOR: A Venue Medical Director (VMD) will attend every match during the MLS Regular Season and Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. Designated by the Home Team’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the VMD is a licensed physician, who must be qualified to evaluate and manage on-field emergencies, including head injuries, and be familiar with the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) of the venue. The VMD’s roles include making the final decision and plan of care in consultation with club medical staff on all emergency situations and evaluations of suspected head injuries and serving as an impartial physician in the event the Visiting club does not have a physician on-site.
- The VMD is positioned at the Fourth Official’s table for the duration of the match. The VMD may move away from the Fourth Official’s table to confer with medical professionals and/or technical staffs as needed but must return to the Fourth Official’s table.
GAME CLOCK: The official game time for all MLS 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 account for injuries, cooling breaks, video reviews, time-wasting, or any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart.
The stadium clock will start at kickoff of each half. The clock will count upward from 0:00 to 45:00 in the first half and from 45:00 to 90:00 in the second 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 marked with a "+" sign and the additional minutes. For example, a goal scored three minutes into first half stoppage time will be officially identified as happening at "45’+3’".
COOLING AND DRINK BREAKS: MLS mandates the use of cooling breaks if the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) measures 82 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Additionally, the referee can, at any time, implement a discretionary “drinks break” during cases in which player safety is determined to be at risk.
The Fourth Official will read the WBGT at the kickoff spot at the conclusion of the pre-match warmup. A second reading will occur after the whistle blows for the end of the first half to determine if a hydration break is needed.
Implementation and control of the breaks will be managed solely by the referee:
- Each cooling break will last between 90 seconds and 180 seconds in length based on the referee’s discretion, and each drinks break will last up to and not exceed one minute in length.
- Cooling and drinks breaks will be held approximately 30 minutes into each half (around the 30th and 75th minute, respectively). The ball must be out of play for either the cooling or drinks break to commence.
- The clock will continue to run, and all time allotted for the break will be added to stoppage time.
- Players must remain on the field of play.
- Coaches cannot leave their respective technical areas.
- Bench personnel cannot enter the field of play (excluding medical personnel).
MATCH POSTPONEMENT: Matches may be postponed when circumstances exist such that continuation of play would pose a threat to the safety of participants or spectators. In cases where a match is postponed prior to kick-off, but after the official match roster exchange, clubs will be permitted to change their rosters regardless of whether the rescheduled match occurs on a date prior to or after the next match in either club's schedule.
PLAYING FIELD DIMENSIONS AND MARKINGS: The match will be played on a field that remains the same size throughout the MLS Regular Season and Postseason, unless a change is approved by the League and the Visiting Team is notified at least seven days in advance of the match. The field dimensions and markings will conform to MLS standards and The International Football Association Board (The IFAB) Laws of the Game. No logos on the field, goal nets or corner flags will be allowed without prior written approval from the League Office.
The playing field will be at a minimum 70 yards wide by 110 yards long.
BALL STANDS: Ball Stands will be implemented in all matches during the MLS season as an opportunity to increase effective match time and to reduce match manipulation and gamesmanship. All MLS stadiums will provide a total of 14 Ball Stands, with five positioned on the sideline opposite the benches, two outside each club’s technical area for a total of four on the bench sideline, one additional one on the bench side at midfield, and two behind each goal line for a total of four.
- The on-field players for the team in possession of the restart can access the Ball Stand ball.
- Teams not in possession of the restart and bench personnel from either Club are prohibited from accessing the Ball Stand ball.
Ball Stand Equipment
If a Ball Stand is broken or becomes inoperable during the match, the home club will be responsible for immediately installing the onsite replacement.
Officiating and Disciplinary Protocol
REFEREES: All MLS referees are either USSF or CSA registered match officials, who are trained, assigned and evaluated by the Professional Referee Organization (PRO).
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 five yellow cards: $250 fine and a suspension from his next MLS Regular Season match.
- Player accrues an additional three yellow cards (eight total): $500 fine and a suspension from his next MLS Regular Season match.
- Player accrues an additional three yellow cards (11 total): $750 fine and a suspension from his next MLS Regular Season match.
- Player accrues an additional two yellow cards (13 total): $1,000 fine and a suspension from his next MLS Regular Season match.
- For each two yellow cards after the player’s fourth suspension, the player will be suspended from his next MLS Regular Season match and his fine will be doubled (e.g., fifth yellow card accumulation suspension: $2,000 fine)
GOOD BEHAVIOR INCENTIVE: A player will automatically reduce his yellow card accumulation total by one yellow card each time he appears in five consecutive matches without receiving a yellow card, red card or supplemental discipline in such matches. For clarity, a player cannot have a negative yellow card accumulation total; the Good Behavior Incentive can only reset to a zero-card total. This incentive will be automatically applied a maximum of three times throughout the course of the MLS Regular Season.
For example, if a player on his third caution of the season completes five consecutive matches without receiving a card or supplemental discipline, that player will have one yellow card caution removed from his cumulative total, leaving the player with a total of two yellow cards. This player now has two remaining Good Behavior Incentive opportunities for the MLS Regular Season. If that player completes five more consecutive matches without receiving a card or supplemental discipline, one more yellow card is removed from his cumulative total leaving the player with a total of one yellow card and one more Good Behavior Incentive opportunity.
BENCH BEHAVIOR POLICY:
Coaches, staff and substitute(d) players will be fined and/or suspended if they leave the bench to:
- Egregiously protest (as determined by the MLS Disciplinary Committee or the League Office) an official’s decision.
- Express dissent toward an official.
- Engage in acts of unsporting and/or irresponsible behavior.
- Under the IFAB Laws of the Game, bench personnel can be issued any combination of the following: “Technical Area Warnings,” yellow cards and red cards.
MLS Disciplinary Committee or League Office:
- Disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to:
- Coaches and/or players who leave the bench to protest an official’s decision.
- Audio captured from field microphones and official’s wireless communications devices can be used to issue supplemental discipline.
- The first violation will serve as the club’s official warning.
- Any additional violations of the policy will result in fines and/or suspension.
- The first violation will serve as the player’s official warning.
- Any additional violations of the policy will result in fines and/or suspension.
- Additional Authority
- The MLS Disciplinary Committee will have the authority to waive the aforementioned warning and impose suspensions and/or fines on any incident it deems to be egregious.
Coaches, Team Officials, and Club Staff Members:
- In all instances, coaches and all technical staff will generally be held to a higher professional standard than players.
- A coach, technical staff member or team official guilty of misconduct may be issued a yellow card or red card by the referee.
- Any coach, technical staff member or team official sent off from an MLS match by the referee shall receive a minimum of an automatic one-match suspension and fine.
- Any coach, technical staff or team official acting in an unprofessional manner, in the opinion of the League, shall be subject to a fine and/or suspension as determined by the League Office.
- As per The IFAB Laws of the Game, if the offender cannot be identified, the most senior coach in the technical area at the time of the incident will receive the yellow card or red card.
- Major fines and/or suspensions, at the sole and absolute discretion of the League Office, shall be levied against players, coaches, or other team officials for conduct detrimental to MLS (whether or not they were cautioned by the referee for such match conduct).
- Medical staff who receive a red card during a match will miss the remainder of that match and will receive a minimum of an automatic one-match suspension and fine.
- The League, in its sole discretion, can suspend any member of the medical staff retroactively if warranted.
- If a suspension occurs because the medical staff has been found guilty of match official assault/abuse or an egregious act (as determined by the MLS Disciplinary Committee or the League Office), the medical staff member will not participate in any matchday related activities (e.g., player care) and is prohibited from entering the stadium tunnel area, locker rooms or field level at any time on matchday.
TEAM OFFICIAL REGULAR SEASON CAUTIONS AND SUSPENSIONS: The club will be responsible to track yellow card totals for team officials during the Regular Season and postseason. Fines and suspensions will be levied against team officials for yellow card accumulations during the Regular Season as follows:
- Team Officials (including coaches) who accumulate three (3) yellow cards over the course of the Regular Season shall be fined and suspended for their next MLS Regular Season match.
- Yellow Card Accumulation thresholds will reset at the beginning of each season.
- The League Office may use discretion to apply any appropriate sanction regardless of the aforementioned recommendations.
- Similar to the application of yellow card accumulation for players, yellow cards will reset at the end of the MLS Regular Season (if a team qualifies for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs) and also before MLS Cup.
Yellow Card Accumulation for Second Yellow Cards
- In cases where a team official (including coaches) is issued two yellow cards in the same match, only the first yellow card will be applied to that individual’s Yellow Card Accumulation total. The second yellow card, which resulted in the issuing of a red card, will not be counted against that individual’s Yellow Card Accumulation total.
- If a team official receives a first yellow card to trigger Yellow Card Accumulation, and in the same match receives a second yellow card that results in a red card, that individual will serve a total of two suspensions: one suspension for the red card and one suspension for Yellow Card Accumulation.
ENTERING THE FIELD OF PLAY: Bench personnel, including players, are prohibited from entering the field of play at any time (excluding medical staff needed to tend to an injury).
- Any bench personnel, including substitute(d) players, who enter the field during a non-confrontational incident (as determined by the MLS Disciplinary Committee) and excluding spontaneous and momentary “celebrations”, will be issued a written warning for the first offense and be fined for subsequent violations.
- Any bench personnel, including substitute(d) players, who enter the field during a confrontational incident or acts in a confrontational manner (as determined by the MLS Disciplinary Committee) will be suspended and fined.
- The MLS Disciplinary Committee will have the authority to waive the warning and impose suspensions and/or fines on any non-confrontational incident it deems to be egregious and/or repeat behavior of an individual.
THROWING/KICKING AN OBJECT TOWARD A FAN(S): Any player(s) or staff member who throws (strikes) or kicks an object (e.g., ball) toward a fan(s) is subject to sanctions including fines and/or suspensions.
GAME SUSPENSION MANIPULATION: Players suspended from MLS Regular Season and postseason games who are released from their clubs for National Team duty will have their suspension(s) held in abeyance until the full completion of their international duty. International duty begins on the player’s call-in start date and ends upon the completion of the player’s final scheduled match during that specific FIFA International Window.
- A player will have his suspension held in abeyance if: (i) he leaves prior to the opening of the international window and/or; (ii) he returns to the National Team during the same window.
MLS DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE: The mission of the MLS Disciplinary Committee is to ensure player safety and preserve the integrity and reputation of Major League Soccer. The MLS Commissioner, in his sole discretion, may issue disciplinary action for any on-field misconduct.
The MLS Disciplinary Committee, comprised of three former MLS players (one designated by the MLS Players Association), one former MLS coach and one former MLS referee, will use the following parameters in determining when it can act under Video Review:
Parameter 1: Where the Officials Do Not See the Incident, and therefore do not have the opportunity to act, the Committee will review any and all evidence and may act to discipline a player (i.e., an off-the-ball offense).
*Parameter 1 incidents are subject to consideration of the Official Warning and Official Notices clause.
Parameter 2: Where the Officials See an Incident and issue(d) a red card, the Committee may review the play for further disciplinary action. Supplemental discipline (suspension and/or fine) will be administered if the Committee believes:
- The offense is egregious in nature; and/or
- It must act to protect player safety; and/or
- It must protect the integrity of the game; and/or
- The player is guilty of repeat behavior.
*Parameter 2 incidents are subject to consideration of the Official Warning and Official Notices clause.
Parameter 3: Where the Officials See an Incident, and Do Not issue a red card or act on a case of clear and obvious simulation/embellishment that meets the conditions for suspension, the Committee shall issue the following:
A. One (1) Match Suspensions - On incidents in which PRO acknowledges an on-field referee/VAR error AND the Committee is unanimous at Red Card and One (1) match or Action Taken (simulation/embellishment) or in cases pursuant to Official Warnings or repeat behavior
B. Two (2) or more Match Suspensions - On incidents in which discipline warrants at least a two (2) match suspension.
The play in question must be, in the unanimous opinion of the Committee from all available evidence:
- a clear and unequivocal red card; and
- egregious or repeat behavior in nature, and/or
- such that the Committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game; and/or
- Clear and obvious simulation/embellishment.
*Parameter 3 incidents are subject to consideration of the Official Warning and Official Notices clause.
Official Warnings and Official Notices
As described in this section, an official disciplinary warning (an “Official Warning”) or an official disciplinary notice (an “Official Notice”) may be issued to a player under the following circumstances:
Official Warnings: If the play in question was (A) in the unanimous opinion of the MLS Disciplinary Committee from all available evidence, an act of clear and obvious simulation or embellishment that resulted in a penalty kick or a red card (including a second yellow) to the opposing player, or (B) in the unanimous opinion of the MLS Disciplinary Committee from all available evidence, a clear, obvious and unequivocal red card and the offense was egregious in nature and/or the MLS Disciplinary Committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game and (C) the play was seen by the official but the player was not issued a red card for the incident and PRO does not acknowledge a referee/VAR error, the MLS Disciplinary Committee may issue an Official Warning to the player with notice to the player’s club and the MLSPA.
- If the player, having already been given an Official Warning under this Section 1, subsequently commits a similar offense in the same League Season that is also reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee under the same parameters and circumstances described in (A) or (B) above, the MLS Disciplinary Committee may deviate from Parameter 3 and issue the player a one-game suspension and accompanying fine.
- The “probationary" period for incidents of Serious Foul Play will be cleared by the player if he does not receive a yellow or red card or supplemental discipline in his next five (5) consecutive MLS Regular Season matches.
- In cases where a player is guilty of Violent Conduct repeat behavior, the player will remain on probation for the remainder of the season, including post-season.
Official Notices: In cases of repeat behavior (i.e., more than one instance in which the player was reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee) for an offense of a similar nature in which the actions do not merit an Official Warning, a suspension and/or fine, the MLS Disciplinary Committee may issue an Official Notice to the player, with notice to the player’s club and the MLSPA, to indicate the player’s behavior is being monitored for future offenses.
- The purpose of the Official Notice in these instances is to notify the player that his conduct is approaching, but has not yet crossed, the “line” by which he may be disciplined.
- The “probationary" period will be cleared by the player if he does not receive a yellow or red card or supplemental discipline in his next three (3) consecutive MLS Regular Season matches.
- In subsequent instances of similar behavior, the fact that the player has previously been issued an Official Notice for particular conduct may not be used by the MLS Disciplinary Committee as an aggravating factor when considering discipline. In other words, each play is reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee on its own merits without consideration to prior instances of the same or similar conduct.
All Official Warnings and Official Notices will reset at the end of each League Season.
EXCEPTIONS TO PARAMETERS UNDER VIDEO REVIEW:
The MLS Disciplinary Committee may act on any incident in which Video Review is either non-operational, or the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and/or referee misapply the Video Review Manual protocol.
- In instances when Video Review is non-operational, or the VAR and/or referee misapply the Video Review protocol, the MLS Disciplinary Committee may act according to the above listed parameters, except there shall be no minimum match suspension threshold to act.
- The MLS Disciplinary Committee will generally follow the above parameters. However, the Commissioner still maintains the authority to determine whether on-field misconduct has occurred, and can issue supplemental discipline, including fines and suspensions, for off-field misconduct deemed detrimental to the reputation and public image of MLS, the club, and/or the game of soccer.
Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs
Find more information coming later in 2023.