Midway though its first season, MLS Next Pro is introducing two new competition rules. One is designed to decrease mid-game delays and the other intends to provide a greater benefit to teams whose opponents have committed red-card offenses.
Under the new red-card suspension policy, which goes into effect this week, a player who receives a red card will serve the one-game suspension against that same opponent when they meet again. The new rule also applies to ejections for second yellows.
(If the teams do not have a rematch during the current season, the red-carded player serves his suspension in the following game, as usual. If the ejection takes place in the final regular-season game, the suspension will be served in the playoffs, or the following year’s regular-season opener if the team hasn’t advanced to postseason play.)
The new “off-field treatment rule” requires a player who remains on the ground for longer than 15 seconds to be evaluated by a medical crew and assisted off the field. While play continues, the player will be treated on the sidelines by medical staff and must remain off the field for three minutes.
“Not only will it allow our medical professionals to treat our athletes in a less pressurized, more controlled environment,” said Ali Curtis, Senior Vice President of Competition & Operations of MLS Next Pro, “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.”
Exceptions to the three-minute requirement, include potential head injury, cardiac issue or other serious medical events (such as bleeding).
The referee will stop play if player is suspected to have an injury and remains down for more than 15 seconds. The referee will not stop play if the player indicates he does not require medical attention, or if the player voluntarily removes himself from the field.
The rule does not apply to goalkeeper injuries. And if a team chooses to substitute the player who has been treated off-the-field, it need not wait three minutes to send on the replacement.
Ahead the MLS Next Pro’s launch, Commissioner Charles Altchek told Soccer America:
“One of the exciting things about MLS Next Pro is that it’s a long-term project, and one that is going to evolve dramatically over the next number of years as we utilize it as a testing ground for ideas, both on and off the field, new technologies, new commercial concepts, new rules, competition rules, working with FIFA and IFAB to test new new ideas. We really want this to be a laboratory for all different types of innovations.”
More exceptions and specifics to the off-field treatment rule and red-card suspension policies are detailed in the 2022 MLS Next Pro Competition Guidelines.