Last week Major League Soccer announced the schedule for all the mechanisms, drafts, etc. that will be playing out over the coming weeks and months for all 24 (soon to be 26) MLS teams. While the MLS Cup Playoffs are in full swing, things are about to heat up for the teams already eliminated and the teams that are about to be eliminated.
Sporting Kansas City haven’t announced any moves since the season ended, but rumors are already starting to swirl. On the next to last BS the Podcast of the season, Benny Feilhaber dropped some news that players are already gone even though those moves haven’t been announced. No specific names were mentioned but it’s well worth a listen just to hear Feilhaber, Ike Opara and Johnny Russell speak candidly on Yohan Croizet, Colton Storm and Gedion Zelalem (among others).
Without further ado, on to the 2019-20 MLS and Sporting KC offseason schedule.
At Any Moment
Sporting KC (and all the eliminated MLS teams) can pick up or decline options on their players whenever they want. Teams like FC Cincinnati have already started to announce their moves. In past MLS seasons, basically immediately after the season ended, moves started. In 2019, that hasn’t been the case, likely since the offseason is much longer.
Here is a complete list of all the SKC contracts, including all 12 who could be released outright by having their option declined or not being re-signed before 2020.
Monday, November 11th - Tuesday the 12th
At Noon CT, a two-and-a-half day trade window will open. This will be after a 10-week roster freeze that started back in August. In the past this window was a day or less, so the moves could be spread out a bit. Expect Peter Vermes to do some sort of finagling in an effort to protect players for the expansion draft. In 2014, he made three trades in a day including moves away for CJ Sapong and Aurelien Collin. In 2017 he traded for a retired player in an overly complicated move designed to all the team to protect an additional player. PV will be active.
Wednesday, November 13th
At 7:00 PM CT a blackout period begins until before the MLS Expansion Draft. No signings or trades can happen until after the draft.
Thursday, November 14th
This is the deadline to submit Bona Fide Offers. The definition of ‘Bona Fide Offer’ is a little vague but essentially it has to be ‘fair’ and even if the player rejects it, the team still holds that players rights.
Saturday, November 16th
By 9:00 AM CT, MLS teams must release their protected player list for Tuesday’s expansion draft. For the full expansion draft rules, head to the league’s official page.
Tuesday, November 19th
At 4:00 PM CT, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will select up to five players each from the other 19 MLS teams. Five teams: D.C. United, Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and the New York Red Bulls are exempt as they had a player selected in 2018 by FC Cincinnati. You may recall, Sporting KC was exempt from that draft as they lost Latif Blessing in 2017 to Los Angeles Football Club.
Thursday, November 21st
By 12:00 PM CT, MLS teams must exercise (or decline) all their player options. So while this can happen at any point, this is the deadline.
Monday, November 25th
At 2:00 PM CT the End-of-Year Waivers process will begin. In the past this has been referred to as the “Waiver Draft.” It’s essentially unchanged as teams go in reverse order of their finishing position (including the playoffs) with Nashville going 25th and Miami 26th. This is where it gets complicated and the league site has the full rules. As for who is eligible, I’ll let them explain:
“The MLS End-of-Year Waivers process consists of players who don’t meet the minimum years of service requirement for the Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency – mostly young players who are relatively new to MLS.”
Anyone not selected will immediately become available to be signed on a first-come, first-serve basis. I’d call them a free agent, but that means something else in MLS.
Also at 2:00 PM on the 25th, free agency begins. As of right now, free agency is very limited. There are ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations, but while those will almost certainly change this process, nothing is likely to change until the 2020-21 offseason.
To be a “free agent” in MLS players must be “out-of-contract [or] option-declined players who are at least 28 years old and who have completed a minimum of eight service years.” The players meeting that criteria will be released on the 22nd of November. Sporting KC should steer clear of this mechanism as that’s brought them such flops as Justin Mapp and Rodney Wallace.
Tuesday, November 26th
At 2:00 PM CT the league will commence with the Re-Entry Process: Stage 1. This was formerly known as the “Re-Entry Draft” (and on several rule sets for the offseason the league still slipped up and referred to this as a draft) but MLS seems to be distancing themselves from the word “draft” in all their offseason mechanisms. Like the Waivers Process, it’s in reverse order of standings with Nashville and Miami going last. The following three groups of players are eligible for selection per the league’s official site:
- Players who are at least 23 years old, have a minimum of three service years, and their contract options were not exercised by their clubs. These players will be available at their 2019 option salary.
- Players who are at least 25 years old, have a minimum of four service years, are out of contract, and their clubs do not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary. These players are available for at least their 2019 salary.
- Free Agents that choose to participate.
Tuesday, December 3rd
At 2:00 PM CT Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Process will get underway. It’s the same as Stage 1 though in the week that will have passed players can re-sign to their original teams or opt out of this process entirely.
The main difference between the two stages is the contracts that are offered. Here is how the official rules break it down:
- Clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer to, all players selected in Stage One and may not select their own draft-eligible players. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club’s roster.
- Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the Right of First Refusal for that player in MLS.
- All players who are not selected in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft will be made available again in Stage Two.
- If a player is selected, the drafting club will be required to make a genuine offer to the player within seven days.
- If an agreement cannot be reached between the drafting club and the player, the drafting club will hold the Right of First Refusal for that player in MLS.
- Clubs may not select their own draft-eligible players in Stage Two until all other Clubs have declined selecting such players.
The difference is mainly the words ‘Bona Fide Offer’ and ‘genuine offer.’ It’s incredibly unclear what each means as the definition of Bona Fide includes the word genuine. My guess, the second or the defined ‘genuine offer’ could be less since it’s in the 2nd stage. If memory serves me correctly, a team simply picks up the contract of a player they draft (unless that player was out of contract) under Stage 1 while in Stage 2 they can offer them a new (and presumably) cheaper contract.
Throughout the Offseason
Probably the most exciting part of the offseason is the news of players from outside of MLS coming into the league. The only real limitation on this is the blackout period before the expansion draft, but even during that time rumored signings will come out and players just won’t officially sign until after that point.