With the Seattle Sounders defeating Toronto FC in a penalty kick shootout last night in MLS Cup, the entire league has officially entered the offseason with Sporting Kansas City. With Seattle winning, that’s two consecutive years that SKC have been painfully eliminated from the playoffs by the team that went on to win the MLS Cup. This one hurt a little more since Seattle’s game winning goal shouldn’t have counted. Last year, while unlucky, Portland’s win was at least legitimate.
Enough about the past, the offseason is a time to look forward to the future. Everyone has the same 0-0-0 record and stand on level ground. Because the MLS season lasts so long (March 6th through December 10, 2016 — nine lone months) there is no time to be wasted in getting the offseason going. It started today with a three-hour trade window in which Sean Johnson was traded twice and Atlanta United were especially busy. Here is a breakdown of what is coming in the next days, weeks and months.
We’ve covered the expansion draft pretty extensively. Whether it’s our round table on who to protect, our protected list for the Mock Expansion Draft, or losing Graham Zusi in the SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft.
Well things get real starting on Monday, December 12, 2016, as all the MLS clubs will release their actual protected lists. Then at 1 PM CT on Tuesday, December 13, the draft itself will be held. Sporting KC only stand to lose up to one player (as opposed to two in prior years) with Atlanta and Minnesota only getting five picks each. Only half the leagues teams will lose a player. For the full, complicated, official rules, the league has you covered.
Just after the Expansion Draft gets completed, at 4 PM CT on Tuesday, December 13, 2016, free agents can begin negotiating with clubs. Free agency, as with all things in MLS, isn’t as straight forward as other leagues. Players have to be out of contract, but there are lots of other rules too.
“Players 28-years-old and older with eight years of MLS service who are out of contract, or have not had their option exercised, are eligible for Free Agency in 2016, allowing them the freedom to negotiate a new contract with any MLS club, including their previous club, subject to certain restrictions. A player has fulfilled a year of service if he was on a club’s roster prior to August 15 or played in at least one regular season or postseason game in the relevant year.”
The players that are currently set to be free agents for Sporting KC are Brad Davis (retiring), Chance Myers, Jacob Peterson, Paulo Nagamura and Justin Mapp. Mapp of course was the first ever free agent signed in MLS history. That worked out really well for Mapp but really bad for SKC. Not to say there won’t be good players available but it’s possible Sporting will be hesitant this time around.
So, if you haven’t figured it out, MLS loves drafts. The Waiver Draft and Re-Entry Drafts are a direct product of MLS being a single entity. The Waiver Draft is mostly filled with young players who aren’t eligible for the Re-Entry Draft (more on that in a second). The list of players eligible for this draft will be released Wednesday the 14th, and the draft itself will be held on Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 1 PM CT.
Don’t expect much to happen because if a player is young and good, he’s likely already under contract and not eligible for this. Players not selected typically end up in lower level leagues, so it’s possible some names on this list could end up in USL or with the Swope Park Rangers.
Re-Entry Draft (Stage 1 and Stage 2)
Starting at 4 PM CT on Thursday teams are no longer able to re-sign their Re-Entry eligible players and the list of players will be made available. Per the league, there are two ways to be eligible to be drafted:
First, players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years of MLS experience whose contract options were not exercised by their clubs are available at their option salary for 2017.
Second, players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary are available for at least their 2016 salary.
For Sporting KC, their eligible players would appear to be Kevin Ellis and Alec Kann, both of whom were said to be in negotiations to sign extensions. If those don’t get done by Thursday, then they could be selected. That’s actually how Kann joined SKC after last season.
Stage 1 of the draft will be held at 2 PM CT on Friday, December 16, 2016 with Stage 2 set for Tuesday the 22nd at 2 PM as well. As for the difference in the stages, with Stage 1 players have their options picked up by their new club or getting a “Bona Fide Offer.” In Stage 2, teams can negotiate new deals with the players they select. Players can choose to opt out of the Re-Entry Draft process.
Sporting KC have only ever selected Kann and in 2010 they drafted Frankie Hejduk from the Columbus Crew. On the other hand, they’ve lost Eric Kronberg (2014), Andy Gruenebaum (2014), Aaron Hohlbein (2010) and Josh Wolff (2010).
Combine, SuperDraft and Whatnot
After all those drafts things calm down for a couple weeks for the holidays before January gets it all going again. The 2017 MLS Player Combine will run from January 7th through the 12th and then the 2017 MLS SuperDraft will be held on Friday, January 13, 2017.
Stay with us at The Blue Testament for coverage of all these events and all the movement from Sporting Kansas City over the coming days, weeks and months.