The 2021 Major League Soccer season has come to an end for Sporting Kansas City, along with most of the other teams in the league. With the end of the official season, comes the start of the offseason (all of The Blue Testament’s offseason content is here). MLS has so many roster mechanisms and shenanigans, it can be hard to keep up with, so we thought it might be nice to have the schedule all in one place.
As you’ve already seen, MLS teams have to turn in their roster moves within a day of being eliminated, which led to extra sadness of losing players being piled on to losing in the playoffs. As teams continue to be eliminated, they’ll have to make those announcements as well. Let’s look at what is coming up next.
December 12th - Half Day Trade Window
At 8:00 AM CST, a half day trade window that lasts until 12:00 PM CST, will commence. Rosters have been frozen for three months and a “blackout” period will start after this window closes until after the MLS Expansion Draft.
December 13th - Free Agents, Waivers, Re-Entry, Expansion Lists
MLS will release a complete and final list of all available free agents, players available for waivers, those that qualify for the various re-entry drafts and the expansion protected lists. That’ll be an interesting list to see who Sporting KC and other clubs can look to add to improve for 2022 and who could be potentially left exposed in the draft. Some of those names are already out and there is a good FanPost on some possible targets.
December 14th - MLS Expansion Draft
Charlotte FC will select up to five players from across the league to kick-start their roster build for 2022. San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC, LA Galaxy, Orlando City SC are all exempt having lost players in 2021 to Austin FC. We’ll get deeper into the Expansion Draft Rules as those dates approach.
December 15th - Waivers and Free Agency
At 12:00 PM CST, both free agency and the waiver process will kick off. First, waivers will be conducted in reverse order of the 2021 finishing positions. Charlotte picks first and this will include players who aren’t eligible for either re-entry or free agency. This is usually players who’s options weren’t exercised but don’t meet the minimum age or years of services requirements (outlined below). Players who had 2022 options not picked up will be auto-picked up when selected. If they are out of contract a “genuine” offer must be made (read: they can get a pay cut). If players aren’t selected, they can sign on a first-come, first-served basis.
Free agency starts at the same time but will include players who are at least 24-years-old and have a minimum of five years of service in MLS. The four years of service in the new CBA doesn’t kick in until 2026.
December 17th - Re-Entry Process (Stage 1)
They’ve changed the names of waivers and re-entry from drafts to ‘process’ but it’s still a draft in reverse order of finishing position. However, Charlotte pick last in this draft. Teams will choose from players who are at least 22-years-old and have a minimum of one year of service. If players are selected in Stage 1, the main difference is players either automatically have their option picked up (if they had an option declined by their original club) or clubs are required to make them a bonafide offer, which includes at least a minimal raise.
December 23rd - Re-Entry Process (Stage 2)
All remaining undrafted players from Stage 1 will be eligible (unless they opted out) to be selected. In this situation, teams can make a genuine offer, which can include a pay cut. You may remember SKC selected their own player, Felipe Gutierrez, last year during this draft to retain his rights, even though he ultimately didn’t sign the reduced offer they made him. Teams cannot select their own players until all other teams have passed on them. So theoretically some of the players who previously released could come back, but don’t hold your breath.
Beyond these dates, nothing has been announced. Sporting KC didn’t qualify for CONCACAF Champions League, so they shouldn’t need to start preseason early, but no dates have been announced for that yet. All we know is that the season starts on the road on February 27th against Atlanta United.