Connect with us

Sporting KC

Peter Vermes Hints at Big MLS Rule Changes

Could major rule changes be coming to Major League Soccer as early as this summer? Sporting KC’s Peter Vermes gives us clues.



Credit: SevenOne Magazine

In 2023, Inter Miami signed one of the best soccer players in the world. Maybe one of the, if not the best, ever. Lionel Messi now plays in Major League Soccer. With his signing last summer, many around the league expected MLS to look to massively overhaul their rules in the offseason. Instead, they did almost nothing. Then, on Wednesday, word started to come out of some potential rule changes.

First, Tom Bogert of The Athletic reported a change could be coming as early as this summer. It’s the same rumor that was said to be happening in the offseason. It is a decoupling of the U-22 Initiative slots from the third Designated Player spot. As the rule is currently written, teams that have three ‘true’ DPs that all make salaries above $1,683,750 (in 2024) can only have one U-22 player on their roster. If a team keeps at least one of their three DPs below that threshold, they can sign three U-22 players.

As a reminder, a U-22 player can be purchased via an unlimited transfer fee, but only hit the budget at a very reduced charge as long as they make $683,750 (in 2024) in wages or less. That’s how Miami just spent over $8 million on another player when they seemingly should be out of money.

I think this is a good move, but it’s not transformative. U-22 players rarely hit right now and make a huge impact. Sporting Kansas City have three of them (Robert Voloder, Logan Ndenbe and Marinos Tzionis) and they’ve had little impact overall. Ndenbe broke out in the playoffs but fought for time all year before that. Tzionis and Voloder have yet to become regular contributors and might not ever hit that level.

Other teams have been more successful, but leaguewide there have been a lot more misses than hits. The rumor is this rule change could go into effect as early as this summer and teams could have three U-22 Initiative players no matter what their Designated Player situation is.

However, the second rumor comes from close to home. Peter Vermes, Sporting KC’s Chief Soccer Officer and Manager, stopped by The Program to give us a hint of what may be coming in the near future. The rule change talk starts around 16:50.

First, a caveat. He is only alluding to changes and I’m reading between the lines. He says he can’t discuss changes that haven’t happened yet, but of course CSOs are involved in these talks and Sporting KC Co-Owner Mike Illig sits on the newly renamed Sporting and Competition Committee. Illig and Vermes certainly have talked, and teams are no doubt making plans for potential changes.

But potential is the key word. They aren’t final until they are announced.

“There are also some possible initiatives that are coming out and they could be activated still in this season,” started Vermes. “If they do, they could be game changing in a lot of different ways. It could really make us, and all the other teams in this league, re-think the way that we build our rosters. I’m interested to see how and when those initiatives get implemented. They really could be game changing for our league.” 

“They could be very favorable,” continued Vermes. “I’ve always been in this world where, when you are building a roster, you should have the flexibility to do it, even if you are under a cap structure, you still should have the flexibility to do it based on your club’s philosophy. I think for a long time now, the roster guidelines have been sort of cookie cutter. And the bigger markets have always had the advantage because they bring in more sponsorship money, they have bigger stadiums, all the other bigger things that go with it. Which in turn allows them to spend more money in the areas… the DPs, the U-22 Initiatives, those type of areas.”

Peter goes on to talk about how Sporting KC have always accomplished more with less and they were signing players in a lower budget range long before MLS invented Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). When the rule rolled out, back in December 2017, that took away an advantage KC had. Then, he said the line that really jumped out at me.

“We might get the ability to spend more money across more players, where the other [teams] might choose to spend more money across a limited amount of players and not get the ability to do both,” said Vermes. “Which I think would be advantageous to the league because now you’re also staying within the salary cap guidelines, but you have more flexibility within that and that would be music to my ears.”

Yours and mine both!

This would seem to imply, and this is just a guess, some sort of wild restructuring of MLS salary budget rules. Right now, Messi makes more than $20 million and he counts the same on the budget as Daniel Salloi who makes just over a million. If instead, there was some sort of salary ceiling and floor, it could prevent the cheap teams from not investing at all, but let teams spread out their money over multiple players instead of relying so heavily on so few.

Vermes goes on to say some of the rules could change as early as this summer, which lines up with Bogert’s reporting. But if the changes are as big as implied, that could mean great news for many different reasons. Teams wouldn’t be beholden to building their rosters in very limited ways. Additionally, the quality of play around the league has the potential to greatly increase. Also, there would be less of an excuse for the smaller market teams not to succeed. If they have the ability to spend to have higher quality players at spots 4-15, for example, on the roster, they can conceivably overcome a team that is super top heavy.

I for one am excited to find out more on these potential changes and see how teams take advantage of the rules going forward.

Recent Comments

KC Soccer Journal in your Inbox!

Be the first to know when news breaks, sign up to get all of our posts sent directly to your inbox.


Follow us on Twitter