Major League Soccer as a Case Study in Complexity Theory

54 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2016 Last revised: 9 Aug 2017

See all articles by Steven A. Bank

Steven A. Bank

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: 2017


Major League Soccer has long been criticized for its “Byzantine” roster rules and regulations, rivaled only by the Internal Revenue Code in its complexity. Is this criticism fair? By delving into complexity theory and the unique nature of the league, this Article argues that the traditional complaints may not apply in the context of the league’s roster rules. Effectively, critics are applying the standard used to evaluate the legal complexity found in rules such as statutes and regulations when the standard used to evaluate contractual complexity is more appropriate. Major League Soccer’s system of roster rules is the product of a contractual and organizational arrangement among the investor-operators. Its rules are complex in order to keep the investors aligned toward a common goal, while remaining flexible enough to pursue new opportunities and to react to changing circumstances. Although this complexity frustrates fans and other outside observers, it may be essential to ensuring the continued stability and future growth of the league.

Keywords: Contract Law, Major League Soccer, rules and regulations, contractual and organizational arrangements

Suggested Citation

Bank, Steven A., Major League Soccer as a Case Study in Complexity Theory (2017). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2017, UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 16-05, Available at SSRN:

Steven A. Bank (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

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