The MLS is a league that even most hardcore FMers struggle to manage in, but here’s your guide of how to manage in the good old US of A!
I will be running through the drafts, trades, how the league is structured and much more.
There are three drafts in a MLS save. Although the third draft, the Expansion Draft, will only open happen in your second season.
The MLS Superdraft is arguably the most important draft of all three. The MLS Superdraft drafts college graduates to MLS teams. There are four rounds and each team has four picks overall, teams can pass at any time, but this means that you will no longer be able to pick in any rounds. This draft happens every year. You can trade your pick for a better or worse pick to other MLS teams.
MLS Re-Entry Draft
The MLS Re-Entry is where players who declined a contract extension with their current side, can be selected by other MLS teams for free. Teams cannot pick players who rejected a contract from the same club. This draft happens every year.
MLS Expansion Draft
The MLS Expansion Draft only happens when an expansion team joins the league. Existing teams can protect 11 players from being picked, and only one player can be claimed from each roster, the expansion has five picks. This will only happen in your second season, for when FC Cincinnati joins the league. Generation Adidas and Homegrown players are automatically protected, and as soon as you have a player picked, you can’t lose anymore players.
Unlike the European leagues, the MLS has three different contract types, and you must juggle your roster to make sure you fit the regulations.
Senior Player – A everyday contract, their salary counts toward the cap. A few examples of Senior players are Dax McCarty (Chicago), Sean Davis (RBNY), Perry Kitchen (LA Galaxy). The minimum salary p/a for a Senior Player is $62,500 p/a
Generation Adidas – GAs are younger players who don’t count towards the cap, they are home-grown players and are sourced from the local area. They may skip college and come straight to MLS. Examples of generation Adidas’ are Mo Adams (Chicago), Joao Moutinho (LAFC) and Gordon Wild (Atlanta).
Designated Players – DPs are commonly big-name players, who don’t count towards the cap. Examples of DPs currently in MLS are Kaku (RBNY), Carlos Vela (LAFC) and Michael Bradley (Toronto). You can have up to 3 DPs.
International – Players who do not hold a green card and are an international player. You can have a maximum of 8 internationals in the roster, unless you acquire more slots. If they don’t hold a US Green Card, and they will take an international slot, a green circle will appear by the name with “Int”.
Trading For Players
Instead of paying a direct transfer fee, MLS franchises “trade” to one and another. For example, if Team A wants to sign Alex Muyl and Team B offer Sal Zizzo and a 2020 1st round pick. If both teams then agree on the deal, Team B will acquire Alex Muyl, whilst Team B will acquire Sal Zizzo, and also gain the draft pick.
You can also offer the following assets in trades:
- General Allocation Money – GAM can be used to reduce the cost of a Senior player’s cap impact, sign new players, trade to other teams or offer new contracts.
- Targeted Allocation Money – TAM can be used to trade to other teams, convert a DP to a non-DP contract or sign new homegrown players.
- Current Roster – You can offer players in your current roster as part of the deal
- International Slots – Each team has 8 slots, it is possible to trade a slot for anything from one to five years, or even permanently. Be careful though, if you go over 8 foreign players and can’t register them, they get released!
- Player Rights – Players that are sold out of MLS – and not traded – remain the right of the last MLS club they played for before they left MLS. Rights can last until when their contract would have expired, or permanently.
- Draft Picks – You can offer future draft picks in trades.
MLS Supporters’ Shield / Regular Season
The regular season and Supporters Shield runs from March to October.
To start off with, there are two mini-leagues within one league – the Eastern and Western Conferences. Teams play 34 games throughout the season (17 home, 17 road) and they will play each team in the same conference twice, and teams in the other conference once.
There are 11 teams in the East, and 12 in the West. However, starting in the 2019 it will be an even number of teams in each conference.
Points are tallied up (normal rules apply, 3 points for a win, a point for a tie/draw and zero for a loss) and whoever has the most wins the Supporters Shield, the trophy bestowed to the team with the best regular season record. The only exception is that the MLS uses wins rather than GD to decide positions if teams finish on the same points
Whilst the Supporters Shield is a trophy and you should aim to win it, it does not determine the league winner. Instead, similar to other American sports such as the MLB and NFL, the MLS use play offs to determine the league winner.
The top six (seven from 2019) teams from both the East and West qualify for the Play Offs – the top two from each conference automatically qualify for the Semi-Finals and then the knockout begins! To start with, the third-seed play the sixth seed, whilst the fourth plays the fifth, in a single match to determine who will advance to the Conference Semi-Finals. After this, the four teams remaining from each conference play it out to get to the Conference Final – the final barrier before reaching MLS Cup. The conference Semi Finals and Finals are two-legged ties.
The winners of the East and West then advance to MLS Cup Final, which is a single match hosted by the club with the better record during the regular season, the winner of that match is the champion of MLS.
Winning the MLS Cup will also qualify you for the North American Champions League.
Following the 2018 season in real life, MLS have announced plans to make the ties one legged starting in the 2019 season but this has not been replicated in game yet, but I expect this to be done in the January update.
US Open Cup
The US Open Cup is one of the few competitions in USA that is ran by US Soccer rather than MLS. Teams based in America can take part in the cup. Teams in Canada can’t enter, instead they take part in the Canadian Championship.
Very few MLS clubs find any importance in the competition, so don’t worry too much if you don’t win it!
MLS teams join the cup in round four, the rest of the US soccer structure begin in round one.
Winning the US Open Cup will also qualify you for the North American Champions League.
The Canadian Championship is contested by six teams based in Canada, and the teams in MLS that take part are Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. Winning the championship will qualify you for the North American Champions League.
The MLS also awards rivalry cups when teams wins series over their rivals for example, Atlantic Cup (New York Red Bulls v DC United), Brimstone Cup (Dallas v Chicago), Hudson River Derby (New York Red Bulls v NYCFC).
The board do not rate these as important as they bring no prestige to the club and, are just there to deepen the rivalry between the teams.
Submitting The Roster
Just like the English Premier League, the MLS has a roster and each season you have to submit your roster. Your roster can be as little as 15 players (I wouldn’t recommend it though…) but you can’t have more than 30 players. All 30 of these players can be called up and used in your matchday squad throughout your MLS season. For the 2018 MLS season on Football Manager 2019, each team has a salary cap of £3,012,000 per annum. Unlike most leagues who work out their players wages weekly, the MLS does it yearly.
The cap only applies to “on budget” players, these are players on Senior contracts, so up to twenty players. The maximum wage that can be paid to an individual player without using allocation money to buy down their contract is $480,635 p/a.
The cap doesn’t apply to off budget players, these are players who will be on either Senior Minimum Salary or Reserve contracts. Players on SMS contract must earn at $65,000 p/a, whilst Reserves must earn at least $53,000 p/a.
The roster must also only have 8 international players (unless you have more international slots), a maximum of 3 DPs, a max of 10 off budget players, no more than 6 reserves and a maximum on 4 non-homegrown reserves.
Don’t forget you can use GAM (General Allocation Money) to buy down the cost of the cap impact for your players!
The following teams from Major League Soccer are on Football Manager 2019:
- Atlanta United
- Chicago Fire
- Columbus Crew
- D.C. United
- Montreal Impact
- New York Red Bulls
- New York City FC
- New England Revolution
- Toronto FC
- Orlando City
- Philadelphia Union
- FC Cincinnati (2019 onwards)
- Colorado Rapids
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo
- LA Galaxy
- Minnesota United
- Real Salt Lake
- Sporting Kansas City
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Seattle Sounders
- Vancouver Whitecaps
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