Regular Season Match Delay & Postponement
The determination of whether a match is considered "delayed" or "postponed" shall be made by the League Office in its sole and absolute discretion.
Once the League Office has made a determination that a match is "postponed," the League Office shall issue an official communication confirming the match is "postponed." Matches may be delayed or postponed when circumstances exist such that the start or continuation of play would pose a threat to the safety of participants or spectators.
Regular Season Match Postponement After Roster Exchange and Prior To Kickoff
In cases where a match is postponed prior to kickoff, but after the Official Match Roster exchange, clubs will be permitted to change their roster regardless of whether the rescheduled match occurs on a date prior to or after the next match in either club’s schedule.
Regular Season Restart of a Postponed Match After Kickoff
The recommenced match must restart on the same spot where the postponed 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 postponed shall be used to restart.
- The match shall recommence with the same players on the field and substitutes available as when the match was initially postponed. For example, if a player receives a red card and reduces his club to 10 players on the field before the match is postponed, his club cannot replace him and will resume the postponed match with 10 players.
- The club’s Official Match Rosters are frozen on the match recommencement day, subject to the exceptions below.
- No additional substitutes may be added to the list of players on the Official Match Roster.
- The teams can only make substitutions to which they were still entitled when the match was postponed (except as provided below and in the case of a subsequent injury and/or unavailability).
Injured or Unavailable Players
During the MLS Regular Season, any player in-play at the time the match was postponed, who is subsequently injured or unavailable due to a trade, loan or transfer before the resumption of the match and cannot participate can only be replaced by a substitute on the Official Match Roster of the postponed match (subject to the goalkeeper exceptions below). In the MLS Regular Season, such substitute will NOT count against a team’s normally allotted substitutions or one of their three substitution events. For any open substitute position(s) in a recommenced match that was originally filled for the postponed match but is now vacant due to an injury or unavailable Player, Clubs may place any Player(s) from their active Club roster as of the date of the postponed match on the match day roster as a substitute(s). Moving a Player from the Club’s roster as of the date of the original match directly into the starting lineup is prohibited, unless done via a pre-match substitution or in the case of a Goalkeeper Exception.
- trade, loan or transfer) for the match recommencement, the backup goalkeeper from the postponed Official Match Roster is inserted into the match without using a substitution or substitution event. An additional goalkeeper can be added to the substitutes’ bench from the team’s eligible active roster, which does not count as a substitution or an event.
- If the backup goalkeeper from the postponed match is unavailable (e.g., due to injury, trade, loan or transfer), an additional goalkeeper can be added to the substitutes’ bench from the club’s active roster as of the day of the original match and can be used as long as the club has a substitution remaining and a substitution event.
- If the starting goalkeeper is subbed out of the match prior to postponement and is replaced by the backup goalkeeper, the club must complete the recommenced match with only the backup goalkeeper. No allowances will be made to add an additional goalkeeper to the Official Match Roster as a substitute.
- If the backup goalkeeper is substituted into the postponed match for the starting goalkeeper and the backup becomes unavailable (e.g., due to injury, trade, loan or transfer) for the recommenced match, a goalkeeper from the eligible active roster as of the day of the postponed match can be inserted into the match without using a substitution or substitution event. The starting goalkeeper who was substituted out of the postponed match is not eligible. No allowances will be made to add an additional goalkeeper to the Official Match Roster as a substitute or substitution event.
Regular Season Match Postponement Discipline
Regular Season Match Discipline Prior To Match Commencement
In the event a match is commenced and postponed to a later date prior to its completion, the following shall apply to incidents that took place prior to the match being postponed:
- Any yellow card earned during the postponed match shall immediately count towards a player’s season total.
- If such yellow card triggers a suspension due to yellow card accumulation, the player shall be suspended for his next MLS Regular Season game.
- For example, if a player begins the postponed match with four yellow cards in his yellow card accumulation total, and he receives his fifth yellow card prior to the match being postponed, the player will be suspended for his next MLS Regular Season game. He will, however, be eligible to play in the recommenced match.
- If a Player receives his fifth yellow card in the recommenced portion of the match, the Player will be suspended for his next MLS match.
Red Card/Second Yellow Card
- In the event a player is issued a red card during the postponed match, he will be suspended from his next MLS Regular Season game. He will not be eligible to participate in the recommenced match, and the club will not be able to replace the player. The dismissed player will not be able to sit on the bench for the recommenced match. For clarity, the club must play down a player for the remainder of the recommenced match.
- In the event a player is issued a second yellow card during the postponed match, he will be suspended from his next MLS Regular Season match. He will not be eligible to participate in the recommenced match and the team will not be able to replace the player. The dismissed player will not be able to sit on the bench for the recommenced match. For clarity, the club will play down a player for the remainder of the recommenced match. Such second yellow card shall not be added to the player’s yellow card accumulation total.
- In the event that a player is issued his second yellow card during the recommencement of the match, the player will be dismissed from that match and will serve his suspension in his next MLS match.
- In the event that a player receives supplemental discipline from the Disciplinary Committee for an incident that occurred during the postponed match that did not result in a send-off, the player will serve such discipline (e.g. suspension) in his next MLS Regular Season game(s).
- The player will, however, be eligible to participate in the recommenced match. This shall not apply to incidents that involve Referee Assault or Abuse, or other egregious incident, in which case the player will not be eligible to participate in the postponed match.
- In the event a that a player was serving a suspension in the postponed match, the player will not be eligible to play in the recommenced match.
- In the event that a player is to serve a suspension for yellow card accumulation, a second yellow card, a red card, and/or supplemental discipline from an incident that took place in a match prior to the recommencement of the postponed match, such suspension shall not apply to the recommenced match and the player shall be eligible to participate in such match.
- For example, if a player participates in a match that is postponed and then receives a red card or supplemental discipline in a match preceding the recommencement of the postponed match, he is eligible to participate in the postponed match and will serve the suspension in the match(es) immediately following the postponed match (unless he is serving a suspension for Referee assault or abuse).
- In the event a player is to serve a suspension for Referee Assault or Abuse, the player will not be eligible to participate in the recommenced portion of the match.
- In cases where a player is suspended prior to a recommenced match for an incident that results in a multiple match suspension (e.g., Violent Conduct), the League/Commissioner’s Office will determine the player’s eligibility depending upon the egregiousness of the offense. If the player is ultimately suspended by the League/Commissioner's Office, the recommenced match suspension will not count as part of their suspension total.
- Players serving suspensions for off-field misconduct detrimental to the public image of MLS, the club, and/or the game of soccer (pursuant to Article 20.2.(ii) of the CBA) are subject to discipline at the discretion of the Commissioner’s Office. If the Commissioner’s Office upholds the suspension, the player will not be eligible to participate in the recommenced portion of the postponed match.
- In such cases where a player is suspended prior to a recommenced match, the recommenced match WILL NOT count toward the player’s pre-determined match suspension total.
- For example, if a player is guilty of Referee Abuse in the match leading up to the recommenced match and is to begin a suspension, the recommenced match will not count as part of the suspension.
- In the case of Referee Abuse or Referee Assault and/or an off-field incident, the policies for replacing an ineligible player are as follows:
- Starting player: If the player deemed ineligible was a starter and was currently in the game when the match was postponed, he may be replaced by a player from the named substitutes list on the team’s Official Match Roster for that match.
- Such substitute will not count against a club’s normally allotted substitutions or substitution events.
- The resulting vacant substitute Official Match Roster position may not be filled and shall remain vacant for the entirety of the match.
- Substitute Player: If the player deemed ineligible was a player from the named substitutes list on the team’s Official Match Roster and currently on the substitutes bench when the match was postponed, his vacant Official Match Roster position may not be filled, and the vacant substitute’s slot cannot be replaced.
2023 MLS Cancellation Guidelines
Minimum Number of Games Played Policy
- In order to qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, a club must play at least 30 matches unless the failure to play 30 matches is the result of:
- The club’s opponents’, but not the club’s, inability to play a match due to the application of the COVID-19 protocols; or
- A decision by the League not to reschedule a match, in its sole discretion, including for competitive reasons; or
- Matches postponed/cancelled for other reasons (collectively, “Excused Cancelled Matches”).
Qualification to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
- Playoff qualification will be determined by the highest number of points in each respective conference if every club plays the same number of matches during the MLS Regular Season.
- In the event that any club in a conference is unable to play its full 34 match schedule due to the cancellation of one or more matches, qualification for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in that conference will be determined by points per game.
2023 MLS Forfeiture Guidelines
The League can declare a match to be forfeited because a club:
- does not arrive at the stadium on time, or
- is not prepared to, or does not commence playing an MLS match at its scheduled kick-off time, or
- due to a volitional decision by the club, the club does not complete the match, and the match is not played to conclusion on that day.
- In the MLS Regular Season, if the match is deemed a forfeit prior to the match’s start, the match’s pre-determined score will be 1-0.
- In the MLS Regular Season, if the match is deemed a forfeit after the match has kicked off the match's final score will be the better for the non-forfeiting club of either a 1-0 result or any goal-differential greater than one at the time of the forfeit.
- Example: In the 75th minute, the match is forfeited by Team B at a score of 4-1 in favor of Team A. Therefore, the final score is deemed to be 3-0. Hence, Team A receives three points for the win and a positive goal differential of three. Team B receives zero points and a negative goal differential of three.
- In the MLS Regular Season, a forfeit will not count as a completed match as it relates to individual discipline (i.e., yellow card accumulation, Good Behavior Incentive, suspension, etc.) unless the forfeit occurs on the final match of the season. In such a case, the individual WILL BE eligible for the first match of the MLS Playoffs.
- Example: If an individual is issued a red card in the first match of the season and the second match is deemed a forfeit, the individual must serve the suspension in the next match (i.e., the club's third match).
- Example: If an individual is issued a red card in the penultimate match of the season (e.g., 33rd match) and the final match is deemed a forfeit, the individual will be eligible for the first match of the MLS Playoffs and/or his next available match.
- In the MLS Regular Season, all discipline issued during any portion of a forfeited match that is played will count toward the individual's disciplinary record.
- Example: Player A receives a yellow card in the 25th minute of the match. In the 50th minute of the match, the game is deemed a forfeit. The yellow card issued to Player A will count towards the player's yellow card accumulation total.
- The League Office will use its sole discretion to issue additional sanctions and penalties if appropriate.