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MLS spells out rules for USL loans

The Philadelphia Union will be able to loan players from USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC for Open Cup matches, exhibitions and in cases of injuries to first team players.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer's roster rules for the 2016 season have at last given clarity to questions over how and when players from USL affiliates can be loaned to the first team.

According to the 2016 MLS Player Rules and Regulation Summary released on Friday, the Philadelphia Union will be able to loan players from Bethlehem Steel FC for Open Cup matches, exhibition games and in "extreme hardship" cases, which in one scenario would occur when Andre Blake is away on international duty and Matt Jones or John McCarthy are injured.

These short-term USL-to-MLS loans are also permitted for CONCACAF Champions League matches, which of course won't impact the Union this season.

MLS clubs are allowed to sign players to these short-term loan agreements for "up to four-day contracts" and "may sign a player to a maximum of four short term agreements each season (maximum of 16 days)."

The rules also include a section about MLS-to-USL loans, allowing for roster and budget relief for only one player loaned to an USL affiliate provided the player is loaned for the duration of the USL season, is under age 25 and has a total compensation less than or equal to the MLS Senior Minimum Salary.

What isn't spelled out in the rules - but could end up in USL's roster rules for the season - is any limit on the number of players the Union could loan to Bethlehem Steel FC at a time.