Is There A Minimum And Maximum Age To Play In The MLS? (Explained)

The Major League Soccer (MLS) competition is the highest level of football competition in the United States soccer league system. It was launched in 1996, only two years after the World Cup in 1994, following its establishment in 1993. It does, however, have its own set of rules that differ from those in South America or Europe.

The age limit in certain categories of MLS players is one of its distinguishing rules. This American soccer top flight appears to have stricter regulations than any other leagues in terms of team squads and player ages. You may be wondering how many player categories there are in the squad and what their age limit is like.

Check out here for more details about it:

Is there a minimum age to play in the MLS?

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is unlike any other major football league in the world. It has established fairly complicated rules regarding the team squad and age limit. Let’s have a look at the details of the player category in the MLS team roster to find out about its minimum age.

Each MLS team is only allowed to have 30 players in the squad. This is made up of various player categories based on salary caps.

  1. Senior roster: Players earning as much as US $ 612,500 per year have no minimum age.
  2. Supplemental roster: Players earning as much as US $ 84,000 per year for their salary generally have no minimum age. There are no more than ten slots for those players in the team squad. They will be enlisted into these three groups as follows:
    1. Players with a minimum salary US $ 84,000 per year still have no minimum age.
    2. Players with a minimum salary US $ 65,500 per year (the minimum salary for Reserved players) still have no minimum age.
    3. Homegrown players have no minimum age.

Moreover, each MLS team is given permission to sign players whose salary is above the salary cap limit (US $ 612,500 per annum) under Designated Player rule. Such is imposed by MLS to attract football stars around the world such as David Beckham, Gonzalo Higuian, David Villa and Didier Drogba. The minimum age for Designated Players is 24 years old.

If the clubs want to sign star players aged below 24 years old, then they will be registered as Young Designated Players. The salary for such figures is quite strict too. This would be US $ 200,000 per year for those aged 21 – 23 and only US $ 150,000 per annum for those aged U20.

In addition, should the clubs plan to snatch any footballers who never play in MLS before as well as included in MLS SuperDraft, they must be 18 years old (for domestic ones) and 17 years old (for non US/ Canada citizens). Those players are bound to be enlisted in the Discovery List by the clubs first before officially signing a contract.

Who are The Youngest Players to have played in the MLS?

A number of teenagers have been eligible to play in MLS at a very young age. Most of them were definitely from the clubs’ academy. Here are the top three youngest players in MLS history.

#1 Maximo Carrizo

Maximo Carrizo made history as the youngest player ever to sign a professional contract with New York City FC in February 2022 at the age of 14. He then made his debut for the NYCFC II match against Inter Miami II in July. It was the game in MLS Next Pro, the third-tier in the American soccer system.

The Argentine youngster was a product of NYCFC academy. Carrizo is a central midfielder and currently named in Argentina U17 national team. He can also play wide as right midfielder or winger.

#2 Axel Kei

The second youngest player in MLS is Axel Kei. The Abidjan-born American teenager joined Real Salt Lake professionally on January 14, 2022 after spending two years in the club’s academy. He was still 14 years and 15 days old back then.

Unlike Carrizo who has yet played for the first team, Kei has featured in League Cup Showcase, a friendly tournament in September 2022. The centre forward has yet been given the opportunity to join the senior team in a regular season.

#3 Freddy Adu

Carrizo’s and Kei might have toppled Freddy Adu on the list. He might be only the third youngest player in MLS but the first one to make a debut in the senior side with DC United. Adu was still 14 years and 292 days old when he came off the bench against San Jose Earthquakes back in April 2004.

The former USMNT frontman also became the youngest scorer in MLS history. He bagged a goal against NY Metrostars on April, 17, 2004. Sadly, his career did not turn out as expected.

The 33-year old forward is ironically without a club at the moment. He had brief stints in various clubs from Benfica and Monaco to Turkish second tier Caykur Rizespor and Swedish third tier, Osterlen FF. His lack of physical fitness and development have been deemed to be the reason for his flop.

Is there an age limit to play in the MLS?

MLS also has certain rules about the age limit in the club squad. It can differ from one category to the next. The age limit regulation is primarily concerned with new signing players.

In the club’s roster, there is no age limit for senior and supplemental players. This applies only to Reserve Minimum Salary Players and Homegrown Players. They must be no older than 24 and 15 years old respectively.

If the club is keen on signing players from the second and third tier leagues (USL Championship/ MLS Next Pro) on a short-term basis, they must be at least 25 years old. Unfortunately, they can only play at most in two MLS games under such a contract.

Who are the Oldest Players to have played in the MLS?

Several veteran players were still given a chance to feature in MLS games. Naturally, most of them were the goalkeepers. Check out the top three oldest players in MLS history below:

#1 Pat Onstad

The Canadian shot-stopper is the oldest one to ever play in MLS games. He did it on April, 4, 2011 with DC United when he was already 43 years old 2 months and 22 days. Unfortunately, he was unable to help his team to secure a point as they lost 4-1 to Colorado Rapids.

Onstad earned 60 caps in the international fixtures. He was a part of the squad when Canada won CONCACAF Gold Cup 2000. The former San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo goalie was awarded The MLS Goalkeeper of the year in 2003 and 2005.

#2 Preki Radoslavjevic

The Belgrade-born attacking midfielder is the second oldest player in MLS. He played his final game for Kansas City Wiz (now Sporting Kansas City) against FC Dallas on October, 15, 2005. He even scored a goal in that game when he was 43 years old 3 months and 21 days.

Preki was a prolific goal scorer. He won MLS top scorer award, plus MVP award twice in 1997 and 2003. The former Everton man bagged 71 goals in 218 games for Kansas City Wizards.

The current Seattle Sounders head coach assistant made 28 appearances for USMNT. He managed to net four goals and was a member of USA squad in World Cup 1998.

#3 Kasey Keller

He was one of the best USMNT shot-stoppers in history. Keller played his last match on October, 23, 2011 for Seattle Sounders at the age of 41 years 10 months and 24 days. He helped his team beat Chivas USA 3-1 on that day. 

Keller had a decorated career in Europe. He was the first goalie to feature in English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and German Bundesliga. The former Fulham man even brought Leicester City to win League Cup in 1997.

The ex Rayo Vallecano, Spurs and Gladbach goalkeeper has 102 caps with USMNT. Keller was named in World Cup squad in 1990, 1998, 2002 and 2006 edition. He also helped USA win CONCACAF Gold Cup four times in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007.


Age limit does exist in MLS, although it does not apply in all players category in the team roster. MLS tends to have strict rules on it, which distinguishes the American soccer top flight.

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