by Ryan Bailey

MLS 101 is your guide to the rules and regulations that will shape Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team. Here, we look at soccer’s loan system and how it works…

What is a loan?

In a loan move, a player can temporarily play for a team other than the one they are under contract with. Typically, the club receiving the loaned player will pay his salary during the loan spell.

For example, D.C. United’s Paul Arriola is on loan at English Championship club Swansea City until the end of the 2020-21 season. Arriola’s move currently doesn’t have an option to buy and D.C. United can recall him from the loan early if they wish. Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris was also on loan this season at Swansea, but has returned to the U.S. following a serious knee injury.

Several players on Charlotte FC’s inaugural roster are on loan, prior to first kick in 2022. Sergio Ruiz has been loaned to Las Palmas in Spain’s Segunda Division, Riley McGree is with Birmingham in the English Championship and Brandt Bronico will play the 2021 season on loan with the Charlotte Independence.

Loans can last for just a few weeks, a full season, or multiple seasons, and they can happen in a variety of circumstances and for many reasons.

Why do teams loan their players?

Primarily, a loan allows a club to get valuable game experience for squad players who are not regularly making the first team.

The arrangement is beneficial for the parent club, who can effectively have their player developed by another club, and for the receiving club, who will typically try and arrange a loan when injuries or deficiencies in a certain area mean they need some temporary backup.

In the case of Charlotte FC, loans are necessary in the interim period before the inaugural 2022 season. Charlotte players are gaining experience and game minutes in other leagues that will serve as ideal preparation for the 2022 campaign.

“We’ve tried to be thoughtful with the players that we’ve signed in deciding where to loan them until we start in 2022,” says Bobby Belair, Director of Player Personnel at Charlotte FC. “Each player’s situation is unique and our mindset has been to put them in the best situation in order to continue to develop and be prepared for our inaugural season. That means quality training, matches, and overall comfortability with the loan club for the player.

“When signing additional new players, we will have to find them a temporary home until 2022. Our technical staff has a very diverse and vast network around the world, so we feel confident that we will continue to find good situations for Charlotte FC players.”

Charlotte’s players will be recalled from their loans in time for the pre-season in January 2022.

Can players be loaned between MLS teams?

It is reasonably common for MLS players to be loaned to other leagues. Per MLS rules, a player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a non-MLS club (subject to the receiving club’s applicable federation’s transfer window), and subject to the consent of the player.

However, intraleague loans between MLS clubs are slightly rarer—and they have not always been permitted.

Thanks to the trade mechanism, loans were deemed unnecessary when MLS began in 1996. However, the proliferation of the Academy system and the expansion of rosters necessitated the use of the loan system, which was formally introduced in MLS in 2013.

Ahead of the 2021 season, a few intra-league loans have already been arranged. Sebastian Berhalter, son of National Team coach Gregg Berhalter, has been loaned to Austin FC by Columbus Crew. Atlanta United purchased Andrew Gutman from Scottish giants Celtic in early March and immediately sent him on loan to the New York Red Bulls.

Do loans affect an MLS team’s salary budget and roster spots?

Players who are with an MLS club on loan will affect the salary budget and take up a roster spot.

“Each deal may be worked differently, but for the most part, the MLS club will have to take on the player’s salary in their budget,” says Belair. “International spots also come into play here and must be considered if the player is not domestic. Often, when a team trades for an international spot, it means they are lining up a transfer or loan to bring in a new player.”