MLS discussing rule to lure more foreign talent

ORLANDO - Major League Soccer wants to encourage more David Beckham-style deals and is discussing a plan to double the roster spaces available to expensive foreign imports, the league's commissioner said on Tuesday.

Don Garber, commissioner of the North American league, said changes to the 'designated player' rule could be made next week and may mean allowing teams two such exemptions from the salary cap rather than one.

"It is in all of our best interests to ensure that we have star players that can help drive interest in our league and grow attendance and ratings," Garber said in a teleconference.

"It's possible we might increase the number of designated players, we haven't gotten there yet but it's conceivable that we could do that."

Major League Soccer teams operate under a total salary cap for their squad but can pay one player from their own budget, with only $400,000 counting towards their salary cap total.

Garber said that a change to that regulation was discussed with the players' union during recent contract talks but did not make up part of the final agreement.

Beckham, who suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury last week, earned a basic salary of $6.5 million with the MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy last season.

Asked what he considered to be the ideal type of player for the role, Garber said it needed to be players who could command attention locally and nationally and bring the MLS to a similar level of competition with the other leagues around the world.

"Somebody that can clearly move the needle on ticket sales and on sponsorship and on television ratings and get that buzz factor that we got with (Cuauhtemoc) Blanco and with David Beckham and a lesser extent, but an important one, with Juan Pablo Angel," said Garber.

Mexican Blanco of the Chicago Fire and Beckham at the Galaxy have both been credited with bringing extra revenue and credibility to their clubs while Colombian forward Angel has won respect for his performances with the New York Red Bulls.

Former Sweden striker Fredrik Ljungberg is also a popular figure with the Seattle Sounders.

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