Sporting Kansas City’s offseason kicked into full gear on Wednesday when announcements came down about the contract situations of lots of players including Matt Besler, Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez and Winston Reid (more on Reid and Guti here).
It doesn’t stop there. MLS Cup is on Saturday, December 12th and from there it’s a series of events until the holidays hit and the news goes silent (outside of those tasty, tasty transfer rumors). Let’s break it all down.
December 13th - 8:00 AM CST - Half Day Trade Window
The 45 day roster freeze ends and the trade fury can begin. Peter Vermes talked about teams being unwilling to make trades, so we’ll see if that holds true on Sunday. In past seasons we’ve seen SKC make maneuvers to protect themselves ahead of the expansion draft, but as you’ll see below, that’s a non-issue for Sporting KC.
You never know what will happen but remember when SKC traded for a retired player? It ultimately didn’t work out (it was an effort to protect different players in the expansion draft) as Latif Blessing was selected by LAFC.
After the trade window (at 12:00 PM CST) there is a blackout period where clubs cannot trade and/or sign players until after the 2020 Expansion Draft.
December 15th - Expansion Draft
Austin FC will join MLS in 2021 and the roster build really starts to take shape in the half-day trade window and, of course, the expansion draft. They’ll choose five players that are unprotected with no more than one coming from an individual team. Nothing to worry about Sporting KC fans, the club is exempt after losing Jimmy Medranda to Nashville SC in 2019. Worry in 2021 when Charlotte are coming into the league and statistically are likely to take a Sporting KC player.
December 16th - End of Year Waivers
Previously referred to as the “Waiver Draft,” teams will “pick” in reverse order of their finishing position, with Austin picking last. Players in this process are ones that don’t qualify for the Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency (see below). The players selected here tend to be younger or have really low MLS tenure. Just four players were selected in 2019. The list of eligible players will come out on Dec. 14th.
December 16th - Free Agency Opens
First, from the league:
“Clubs may engage with players, other than their own, that are eligible for Free Agency. Free Agency eligible players are out-of-contract and option-declined players who are at least 24 years old and who have completed a minimum of five service years.”
These rules are new in 2020 with the previous requirements making only fairly old players (at least eight years MLS experience) available. With the requirement down to five years and 24-years-old, we should see the best crop of free agents ever. Even still, the ‘five years in MLS requirement’ complicates things as you could see players not technically as free agents but in the Waiver or Re-Entry Draft.
This list will also come out on Dec. 14th.
December 17th - Re-Entry Draft (Stage One)
Here it starts to get pretty complicated. This also goes in reverse order of finishing (with Austin going last). To be eligible you have to be out of contract (or have had your contract option declined) and have at least a year of MLS experience and be 22-years-old.
In Stage One, if a club drafts a player they either must exercise their previous contract option or make a Bona Fide Offer to the player. What that means isn’t clearly defined, but it seems to mean they can’t take a pay cut (or at least not a significant one). Dec 14th is the day these players will be listed by MLS.
December 22nd - Re-Entry Draft (Stage Two)
The requirements to be listed are the same. Any player who doesn’t opt out after Stage One or re-sign with their previous team, will be eligible. The difference in Stage Two is that when a club drafts the player they are “required to make a genuine offer to the player within seven days.” In previous years, all indications are this can include pay cuts or not picking up all the previous options in a contract.
In either Stage One or Two, if a player and team that draft them don’t come to an agreement, the team holds the right of first refusal. It’s a rule in MLS that essentially ties a player to a club (in this case one they never played for) so if they want to sign elsewhere, compensation has to be given (like allocation money) to the drafting team.
Here are the full rules for the Re-Entry Drafts.
What About International Transfers?
Those can happen at any time outside of times that MLS designates a “roster freeze” date. Technically they can’t play in games until the transfer windows open, which will be in early 2021.
Another factor here is when can teams in other countries sell their players? Again, technically at any time. However, often times teams want to be able to buy other players, so that requires their transfer windows to be open (dates for all the leagues in the world) to replace the players they’ve lost.
Beyond these dates, things are a bit up in the air. Preseason announcements should come out in the coming weeks as well as sorting out who is in the CONCACAF Champions League (is it Sporting KC). Reports are the MLS regular season will start in March, but there is a lot to be worked out on that front too. Stick with The Blue Testament and we’ll keep you in the know.