San Diego FC continues to take steps towards bringing top division men’s soccer to the region. And from the sounds of it they are motivated to field big name talent from the beginning

Many aspects of the new franchise have been made public. We know they will play at Snapdragon Stadium. Their Right to Dream Academy is under construction at Singing Hills, and their logo dropped back in October.

Now, the main and titanic task that the franchise will have to face is to build a competitive team. Both team officials and fans must deal with the strict and complex rules designed by MLS for roster design. Below, we will try to explain in the simplest way possible the rules imposed by the league on roster construction.

Salary Limit and Designated Players

Each MLS squad may have up to 30 players. The rules are the same for all teams, with a maximum salary limit of $5.2 million among all players. However, there are so-called franchise players, or designated players, who do not have salary restrictions. It depends on each franchise how much they want to pay those players. Each team can have a maximum of three designated players per squad, meaning there are three players whose pay will not apply to the club’s salary limit. Franchise players are usually the stars of the teams and the league, international stars who contribute to the global appeal of MLS.

If we take the example of the most high-profile case in the league, Inter Miami, Leo Messi is the team’s main franchise player with a base salary of about $20 million. Sergio Busquets and the Argentine Leonardo Campana are the other two players who occupy the designated players spots.

Under this Designated Player rule, there are also figures such as Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC), the Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago FC), Thiago Almada (Atlanta United), Luis Muriel (Orlando FC), Emil Forsberg (New York Red Bulls), and Héctor Herrera (Houston Dynamo).

In the case of San Diego FC, there have already been rumors about them pursuing a handful of players who would fit this profile. One example is Mexican star “Chucky” Lozano. The current PSV Eindhoven player could be the main target of San Diego FC to lead the team’s inaugural campaign. According to The Athletic his addition on a $12 million transfer will soon be official. Sergio Ramos, another big star rumored for the project, would also arrive with a designated player salary.

Draft and Expansion Project

As in other major sports in the United States, the “Superdraft” is also held annually in soccer, in which college players are chosen, although non-university players can also be selected. Each team can select up to three players in the draft, and those teams that were in the worst position in the previous MLS season have preference.

The expansion teams in the league, such as San Diego FC, are the first to choose players, a measure that encourages new MLS teams to obtain the best university talents. The next draft will take place in January 2025 and will be a very important opportunity for San Diego FC to obtain some of the top young talents from around the country.

In addition to the draft, there is also the “Expansion Draft.” It allows each new team that enters the league to strengthen its squad before by selecting up to five players from other teams in the league (designated players from other teams are not an option). If a team loses a player, they will be safe from losing another player in the following year’s Expansion Draft.

Academy Players and Right to Dream

One of the most important pillars of the San Diego FC project is its academy, with the construction of “Right to Dream” in El Cajón. This complex will have soccer fields, a training facility, residence, and all the amenities to host the best young talent in our region and give them all the tools needed to pursue a professional soccer career.

The investment in the academy will exceed $150 million, and it is expected to attract not only the best young players but also the best coaches, physios, scouts, and professionals to become a reference not only locally but also nationally.

In short, there are multiple rules and conditions that San Diego FC must take into account before forming the first squad in the team’s history. There are just over nine months left to put together a list of players that will make the thousands of football fans at Snapdragon Stadium roar.

Recap most important rules:

•             Maximum of 30 players per squad

•             A maximum salary limit of $5.2 million among the entire roster

•             Up to three franchise players per squad without salary restriction

•             Three players selected in the Draft

•             San Diego FC can choose up to five players from other teams in the “Expansion Draft”


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