April 5 (UPI) -- Major League Soccer will participate in a trial program that allows for concussion substitutes during games, starting with the 2021 season, the league announced Monday.
The National Women's Soccer League, the United States Soccer Federation, the United Soccer League and National Independent Soccer Association also will participate in the program, MLS said in a news release.
"We believe it reduces competitive pressures, which forces the prioritization of the health and safety of the player above everything else," Jeff Agoos, MLS senior vice president of competition and medical administration, told MLSSoccer.com.
The program allows teams to make up to two substitutions per game to replace players who have either sustained a concussion or are suspected to have a concussion. The substitutions will not count toward teams' five-player substitute allowance.
Once a team uses a concussion substitute, the opposing team also will be allowed to have an extra substitution. MLS teams have three opportunities per game to introduce substitutes.
The International Football Association Board set a trial period for 20 months to test the program in competitions around the world. FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, also approved the program.
"We've always prioritized player health and safety," Agoos said. "We've been trying to implement some version of this for a long period of time. It's been about whether we could align with the governing bodies to implement this protocol."
Health professionals will watch game broadcasts and work as spotters to assist medical officials to determine if players need to be replaced in games due to potential concussions.
Match officials are not part of the team's decision-making process to determine if a player should be substituted due to a potential concussion.
The trial runs through Aug. 31, 2022. The IFAB will decide at its annual meeting in March if the trial period should be extended, stopped or made permanent.
The 2021 MLS season starts April 17.