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MLS Rules Fines Only — No Forfeit — for FC Dallas Using Ineligible Player Against Orlando City

Rules are rules, except in MLS, apparently.

MLS: FC Dallas at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Well we finally have our decision on FC Dallas’ illegal use of Michael Barrios and it doesn’t help Orlando City. In fact, it doesn’t really punish FC Dallas all that much and it certainly isn’t fair to the teams battling Dallas for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The league has simply fined FC Dallas $75,000 in General Allocation Money and an additional $25,000 for using the ineligible Barrios against the Lions in a 0-0 draw on Sept. 30 — an infraction first reported by Paul Tenorio.

FC Dallas broke an MLS rule which states:

4.2.4.1.a. Starting Player. -An injured or ill starting player's vacant Official Match Roster position may only be filled by a named substitute listed on the Official Match Roster, thus leaving a vacant substitute position on the Official Match Roster. -The resulting vacant substitute Official Match Roster position may only be filled by a player from the Club's eligible active roster. -The injured or ill player will be ineligible for the match and cannot sit on the Club's bench.

Barrios was pulled from the club’s Official Match Roster 15 minutes prior to kickoff, being replaced by Tesho Akindele but oddly added to the list of substitutes. He then made an appearance in the 84th minute as a substitute.

Here’s what the league had to say about it the decision:

“The referee crew’s administrative error and decision to place Michael Barrios on the official match roster was carefully considered while making the decision to sanction FC Dallas for this rule violation,” said MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. “However, all of our clubs are aware of game day roster rules and FC Dallas should have removed Barrios from the official match roster.”

Note that FIFA does not have any specific ruling in regards to match rosters and sanctions for violations. It is purely at the MLS’ discretion on how to handle such incidents. However, about every competition typically rules a forfeit when ineligible players are used, from Flourent Malouda’s participation in the Gold Cup, to The Villages having a U.S. Open Cup win overturned, to World Cup qualifying, to your daughter’s U-12 game.

What does this mean for Orlando City? Well exactly what many of us here expected. Bad news. While City stood to benefit by getting two desperately needed points and pulling within two points of sixth-place New York Red Bulls, the Lions now sit in even more unlikely spot to make the playoffs despite being the team that actually followed the rules.

Call it whatever you like, but I can't say any of us here are surprised that a major market team was in line to benefit from this decision and that’s the way MLS leaned. Despite an obvious infraction and a healthy amount of support — pundits and MLS execs alike — the league decided that a slap on the wrist was better than actually enforcing its rules in a manner consistent with nearly every other governing body in the world.

It’s disappointing to say the least that MLS made a poor decision of seemingly following business over integrity. And now we know what the dollar value of an MLS point is.