MLS ceased operation of the Reserve Division and decreased the number of developmental players from 10 per club to no more than four. The elimination of the Reserve Division was a move to divert funds to more directed programs, including a bolstered senior roster and increased commitment to the Generation adidas. Each team will be permitted to carry 18, 19 or 20 senior roster players (at its option) within the overall salary budget (the limit in 2008 was 18 senior roster players).
The 2009 season will start on March 21, one week earlier than the 2008 season. Each team will play 30 regular-season games. During the 2009 regular season, MLS will either clear its schedule on two weekends, or play with a reduced schedule over four weekends, to reduce World Cup qualification conflicts. This, the elongated window of the schedule, and a few additional weeknight games, is aimed at reducing the number of conflicts with FIFA fixture dates that teams have faced in recent years. Of the 15 teams that will compete in 2009, seven will be in the Eastern Conference and eight will be in the Western Conference, where Seattle Sounders FC is the additional team. Each team will play every other MLS team home and away, for a base of 28 games. Two additional games against intra-conference rivals will complete each team's 30-game schedule.
A total of eight teams will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2009. At the conclusion of the regular season, the top two teams in each conference will earn automatic berths. The next four teams in the standings, regardless of conference, will earn wild-card berths. This is the same format used in 2007, the last time MLS had an uneven number of teams in each conference.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIONS AND U.S. OPEN CUP
MLS teams may participate in either the CONCACAF Champions League or SuperLiga - but not both. All U.S.-based MLS teams will participate in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
2009/2010 Concacaf Champions League
(1) Columbus Crew (MLS Cup Winner)
(2) Houston Dynamo (takes Supporters' Shield Winner slot because Columbus Crew won MLS Cup)
(3) New York Red Bulls (MLS Cup Runner-Up)
(4) U.S. Open Cup Winner (D.C. United)
SuperLiga 2009 Participants
The top four teams, based on regular-season record, who are not competing in Concacaf Champions League:
New England Revolution
Kansas City Wizards