By Michael Lewis Editor

Major League Soccer came down hard on Inter Miami CF, finding the team a record $2 million and imposing other sanctions for it violating the league’s salary budget and roster guidelines last season.

In a Friday evening news dump concerning the 2020 scandal, MLS also slapped managing owner Jorge Mas with a $250,000 fine and suspended former Inter Miami COO and sporting director Paul McDonough through the end of the 2022 season.

The league also imposed a reduction of $2,271,250 in allocation dollars for the next two seasons.

These violations included the incorrect roster categorization for players Blaise Matuidi and Andrés Reyes, who should have occupied a Designated Player slot. They also included undisclosed agreements that resulted in the underreporting of salary budget amounts for players Leandro González Pirez, Nicolás Figal and Julián Carranza.

“The integrity of our rules is sacrosanct, and it is a fundamental principle of our league that our clubs are responsible for adhering to all league regulations,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.  “Our rules will not be compromised. These sanctions reflect the severity of Inter Miami’s violations, should encourage complete cooperation by all parties in future investigations, and will serve as a deterrent for clubs from violating roster rules.”

The league stated that Mas should have known better. As managing owner, Mas approved all player-related agreements and transactions. “He was ultimately responsible for making sure Inter Miami had sufficient controls and protocols in place to ensure compliance with MLS rules,” an MLS statement said. “While Mas was cooperative with the league’s investigation and importantly, alerted league investigators to critical information regarding undisclosed player-related agreements, investigators found that he failed to disclose his knowledge of the Matuidi violation at the appropriate time required under MLS rules.”

In its MLS inaugural season in 2020, Inter Miami CF finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 7-13-3 mark and 24 points. Despite the poor record, the team qualified for the playoffs under temporary revised postseason qualifying rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the league’s severe sactions, Mas did not disagree with the sanctions and said that the team would get its act together in the future.

“Inter Miami CF acknowledges that the club violated Major League Soccer’s roster rules in our first season,” Mas said in a statement.

“We have worked closely with MLS to address these issues and have made significant changes in our management structure.  Following our inaugural season, we took a deep look at our soccer operations leadership group and made decisions that not only strengthened our internal roster compliance measures, but also better positioned us to build a sustainable, long-term competition strategy with the hiring of Chris Henderson as chief soccer officer and sporting director in 2021.

“Inter Miami is an ambitious club with big aspirations. We believe our fanbase, market and ownership group propel us to be one of North America’s most followed fútbol teams in the world. We are committed to supporting our team and building a roster we are proud of.”

The league stated that none of Inter Miami’s players were the subject of the investigation, committed any violation nor were aware of the violations.  Their current contracts with MLS remain in full force and effect, the league added.

McDonough, who since moved on as Atlanta United’s vice president of soccer operations, agreed to part ways with the team in a mutual agreement, the club said. A search for a successor is underway as McDonough’s duties will be handled on an interim basis by team president and CEO Darren Eales, United announced. McDonough can petition the commissioner’s office on of after March 1, 2022 for a review of his suspension.

MLS also said that its investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Inter Miami owners Marcelo Claure, Masayoshi Son, Jose Mas and David Beckham.