MLS Next Pro — a new third-tier league launched in 2022 that features mostly MLS reserve teams — is looking to change the game, literally. MLS Next Pro is in the middle of its first season and will be testing out two new rules effective immediately. One of the two new MLS Next Pro rules would be a game changer if it spread to the rest of the sport.
New MLS Next Pro Rules
The two new rules are called the Off-field Treatment Rule and the Red Card Suspension Rule. Let’s look at how they work.
Off-field Treatment Rule (3-Minute Timeout)
Rule: Players suspected to have an injury and stay on the ground for longer than 15 seconds will be evaluated and taken off the field by a medical team. Once taken off the field the player is then not allowed to come back into the game until three minutes have passed.
The MLS NEXT Pro league is trialling a new rule to counter time wasting.If a player is suspected to have an injury & is down for longer than 15 seconds, that player must leave the field of play for medical evaluation & cannot return for at least 3 minutes.
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) July 7, 2022
MLS Next Pro are implementing an ‘off-field treatment rule’ to combat time-wasting.The innovative new rule is the first of its kind in pro football and will be used to allow play to resume quickly, and provide time to assess and treat players.
— VERSUS (@vsrsus) July 7, 2022
An MLS Next Pro representative said the new rule is to prevent time wasting and let players receive better treatment.
“We are looking forward to implementing the Off-field Treatment Rule, as we believe it will positively impact our game in multiple ways,” said Ali Curtis, Senior Vice President of Competition & Operations of MLS NEXT Pro. “Not only will it allow our medical professionals to treat our athletes in a less pressurized, more controlled environment, but it will also address players or teams deliberately delaying the game in order to gain a competitive advantage. With less disruptions in play, fans watching will be able to enjoy more soccer and less stoppages.”
Red Card Suspension Rule
Rule: If a player receives a red card, then the one-game suspension will be served against the SAME team the player received the red card against.
It’s worth noting that in MLS Next Pro each team plays a 24-game regular season and plays its four divisional opponents either two or three times per season. This helps explain why this rule works in this league and probably wouldn’t extend to other leagues.
There are some more in-depth parts of this rule. Here are those extra details in MLS Next Pro’s rulebook in case you’re curious.
- All suspensions must be served during the same regular season, except in the event a red card occurs on the final game of the regular season. For example, if Team A does not play Team B again the remainder of the season, Team A’s player who received the red card would serve his 1 game suspension in the next regular season game.
- If a player receives a red card in his team’s last regular season game, then the 1 game suspension would be served in the playoffs (if applicable) or the first game of the next regular season.
- The rule applies in the event of a player trade. For example, if Player X from Team A receives a red card against Team B, and then is traded to Team C, he would serve his 1 game suspension when his new team (Team C) plays Team B; if his new team does not play Team B, then he would be suspended for the first game with his new team.