MLS still looking for Canadian roster rule fix

Mark Abbot (Darryl Dyck/CP)

PORTLAND, Ore. — MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott says the league is committed to finding a solution to the treatment of Canadian players on different sides of the border.

Under current league roster rules, so-called domestic slots on Canadian team rosters can be filled by either Canadians or Americans.

But for U.S. teams, domestic players must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident (green card-holder) or have some other special status (such as refugee or asylum status). Canadians don’t qualify as domestics south of the border.

In essence, it means Canadians have to compete with Americans north of the border and the rest of the world south of it.

MLS clubs based in Canada are required to have a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters.

Asked about the rules south of the border, Abbott referred to a U.S. law that governs disparate treatment of non-U.S. nationals.

"Basically anybody who's not a U.S. citizen has to be treated the same," he said.

"That being said what we've committed to the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) -- because we want Canadian soccer to be successful, we want the national team there to be successful -- is that we want to look at potential solutions that can help."

Abbott said he had nothing to share in terms of a resolution "other than to say it's a commitment that we made that we would work with them on."

Asked if he saw light at the end of the tunnel, Abbott said: "In my experience when people are committed to solving a problem, they'll find a way to solve that problem."

"I don't know what the specific solution is other than to say we value our relationship with the CSA tremendously. Our view is that we're as invested in wanting soccer to be successful in Canada as anybody. Three of our teams, three of our great teams are up there."

In other league news:

-- Abbott said he is meeting potential buyers of Chivas USA, the ailing Los Angeles franchise taken over by the league earlier this year, and anticipates a sale "in a reasonable period of time."

-- Teams will play a 34-game schedule again next season, starting in early March and ending with the MLS Cup in early December.

-- Abbott repeated that MLS has looked at changing its schedule to fit FIFA's calendar but has ruled out any imminent shift. That goes against what FIFA president Sepp Blatter said this week in Toronto. Abbott was at a loss to explain where Blatter got that from.

-- He reiterated that promotion/relegation will never happen in MLS.

-- The league's plan to reach 24 teams by 2020 provides "the right balance" for its business model.