Does MLS Use the New FIFA Rules?

Like all leagues, MLS has to follow the FIFA rules, but it usually doesn’t adopt the changes right away.

Who decides the FIFA rules?

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body responsible for setting and maintaining the rules of football, which are also known as the Laws of the Game. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) works closely with IFAB and is one of its members, but it is not solely responsible for setting the rules.

IFAB consists of representatives from FIFA and the four British football associations, which are the English Football Association (FA), the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the Football Association of Wales (FAW), and the Irish Football Association (IFA). FIFA has four votes, while the other members have one each.

So any changes need FIFA’s approval, but the four other members could vote to block changes FIFA wants. Changes to the Laws of the Game are typically discussed and approved during IFAB’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).

When do the FIFA rules change?

FIFA rules, or the Laws of the Game, can change after discussions and approval during the International Football Association Board (IFAB) Annual General Meeting (AGM). The AGM usually takes place in the first quarter of the year, typically between February and March.

Once the proposed changes are approved, they come into effect on or around June 1st of the same year. However, the exact date may vary, and individual football associations or competitions may decide to implement the changes at the beginning of their respective seasons or competitions.

Do leagues have to follow the FIFA rules?

Unlike other sports where leagues operate independently, all major professional soccer leagues are FIFA members. As a FIFA member, each league is required to follow the Laws of the Game as set by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

In some cases, proposed changes are trialed by specific leagues with FIFA and IFAB approval. For example, MLS was one of the first leagues to trial VAR before it became permanent.

This is a vastly different process from other major American sports leagues where each league can essentially set its own rules. When it comes to rule changes, each league has a different process.

  • NFL: The NFL Competition Committee, which consists of team owners, general managers, and coaches, reviews and proposes rule changes. These changes are then presented during the NFL Annual Meeting, where they are voted on by team owners. A proposed rule change requires at least 24 of the 32 owners to vote in favor for it to be approved.
  • MLB: Rule changes in Major League Baseball are typically proposed by the MLB’s Playing Rules Committee or the Office of the Commissioner. The proposed changes are then discussed and voted on by team owners or general managers during league meetings. Once approved, the changes are implemented in the upcoming season.
  • NHL: The NHL has a Competition Committee that consists of players, general managers, and owners. This committee reviews and proposes rule changes, which are then voted on by the NHL Board of Governors. A proposed change requires majority approval to be implemented.

When does MLS start using the new FIFA rules?

While most of the world follows a fall-to-spring calendar, which is why the FIFA rules change in the summer, MLS’s summer schedule creates a problem. The changes take effect in the middle of the MLS season. In addition, MLS typically begins play before the annual rules meeting, so it wouldn’t be possible to get permission to start using the new FIFA rules from the beginning of the season.

In most cases, MLS finishes the season under the old rules and adopts the changes next year. However, the league has previously made midyear changes at a specific point in the season such as the All Star break.

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