Posted: Saturday November 11, 2006 6:45PM; Updated: Saturday November 11, 2006 6:45PM
David Beckham has long talked of one day playing in the MLS.
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
FRISCO, Texas -- In a move that could add a lot more star power to Major League Soccer, the league has passed a new rule that will allow its teams to sign a limited number of international superstars -- a major change that opens the door for world-class players like David Beckham, Ronaldo and Luis Figo to join MLS.
The so-called Designated Player Rule (commonly known as the Beckham Rule) will allow each of the league's 13 teams to sign one player whose salary is not limited in any way by the league's $1.9-million-per-team salary cap. MLS investors approved the rule at the league's Board of Governors meeting here on Saturday.
"This is a major change in our philosophy," says MLS commissioner Don Garber, noting that the 11th-year league has taken a conservative approach to signing top-level international players in hopes of avoiding the demise of previous American soccer leagues like the NASL.
But it's a change that should add a lot more buzz to the league. If a team like the Los Angeles Galaxy wants to sign a star like, say, Beckham, MLS now provides a mechanism for making it happen. Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas recently told the BBC that his team would be interested in acquiring Beckham, who has yet to sign a new contract with Real Madrid.
If Beckham does not sign a new contract with Real Madrid, the Galaxy and MLS could begin negotiating with Beckham as soon as January.
"This provides the opportunity for someone like David Beckham to come into the league," says Garber. "We now have a mechanism so a team can sign somebody who earns the kind of money David Beckham earns. But nobody should just assume that David Beckham is coming into the league."
Beckham is only the most obvious of the players MLS can now pursue under the Designated Player Rule. But he's hardly the only one. As Garber says, "We've done a lot of research asking, 'Does it make economic sense to bring in certain players that could potentially drive our business in ways that other players haven't?' But it's not just about David Beckham."
Under the new rule, each Designated Player will count for $400,000 against a team's salary cap. All of the player's salary beyond $400,000 will be paid for by the individual MLS team owners. Additionally, a Designated Player slot can be traded, although each team will not be allowed to have more than two Designated Players. The second Designated Player for a team will have a cap value of $325,000.