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What is the MLS Designated Player rule? How does the ‘Beckham rule’ benefit Messi in Miami?

The rule was introduced in 2007 to allow David Beckham to join the league with huge wages and will be crucial again for the transfer of Lionel Messi.

Messi played against Beckham during the Englishman's final season of professional football.
Action ImagesAction Images via Reuters

Leo Messi’s move to the MLS is the league’s most significant incoming signing since David Beckham. Coupled with the quality of playing coming to Inter Miami, Messi will command a huge wage. Though the figure has not been released, Spanish sports media Sport has reported that the Argentine has been offered a four-year contract, earning $54 million per season across those four years.

Were this to be his salary, it would far exceed the budget restriants imposed by the league. Players can earn a maximum of $651,250 in a year. However, some players can be marked ‘Designated Players’ (DP) and have no maximum salary they can earn. Messi will definitely be one of these players.

How the Designated Player rule works

Introduced in 2007 to help attract David Beckham to the league, each MLS team is allowed to have up to three designated players on their roster. These designated players can be signed for salaries that exceed the standard budget constraints imposed by the league.

The purpose of the DP rule is to provide teams with the flexibility to sign high-profile, high-earning players without compromising the overall financial structure of the league. By allowing clubs to pay significant salaries to a few key players, MLS aimed to enhance the quality of play and generate more attention from fans and media.

Designated players have played a crucial role in the growth and development of MLS, attracting well-known international stars such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, and now Leo Messi. These players have contributed to raising the league’s profile on a global scale as well as local. Soccer