Major League Soccer teams will be allowed to sign high-profile players such as David Beckham, Ronaldo or Luis Figo after club owners Saturday approved a change to salary-cap regulations.
The "Beckham Rule" will give MLS teams the authority to acquire players outside the $2 million-per-team salary cap, which will be "significantly" increased to accommodate the new policy, MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said.
MLS, which for 11 years has paid all players out of a central fund, will be responsible for up to $400,000 of the player's salary, but the rest will paid for by the team.
Each team initially will receive one "designated player" roster slot, which can be traded among teams. No team, however, will be allowed more than two designated players.
"We believe this league has established a solid foundation over 11 years," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "Now it's time to refocus our efforts to make our games more exciting than they already are."
The decision in Frisco, Texas, comes a day before the league's MLS Cup championship between the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo and a day after the MLS announced a rule change that will allow teams to sign players out of their own youth development systems without subjecting them to the draft.
The Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls have been linked in reports to Beckham, who is under contract with Real Madrid but has a youth academy at the Galaxy's Home Depot Center.
"The purpose of this is to give teams the flexibility to construct the rosters the way they want," Gazidis said. "Some teams want to have star players. Others will choose a different route.
"In this period of time over the next five years, as the ball rolls in our direction, we want to give it a little bit of an extra push."
Several players, such as the Los Angeles Galaxy's Landon Donovan, the Kansas City Wizards' Eddie Johnson and Chivas USA's Francisco "Paco" Palencia, already exceed the $400,000 limit, and will be "grandfathered" for one year under the new rule. However, in 2008, they also will come under the designated player rule. The rule will expire after the 2009 season and be reviewed.
The designated players still will sign contracts with the MLS, subject to league review, but the responsibility to attract the player will be on the team, Gazidis said.