Major League Soccer may not know when its teams will kick a competitive ball in 2021, but the offseason leading into next year is well under way.
With MLS Cup in the rearview mirror, the last teams are (slowly) rolling out their roster decisions ahead of the expansion draft, set for Tuesday. Austin FC will choose a total of five players to help fill out their roster for the upcoming season. The rules are essentially the same as previous years; only one player per team may be chosen, and teams that have a player selected will receive $50,000 in allocation money, and are exempt from next year’s expansion draft.
The Seattle Sounders are exempt from having a player selected, as they had a player (Bryan Meredith) selected by Inter Miami in the 2019 Expansion Draft. He was later traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
After the expansion draft, the various other player movement processes get under way, with the “End-of-Year waivers” and Free Agency periods commencing on Wednesday. Any player who is aged 24 or over with five service years in MLS is eligible for free agency. This is a marked contrast from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, which limited free agency to players 28 and older with 8 years of service time in the league.
Lastly, stages one and two of the re-entry process commence on Dec. 17 and 22 respectively. This process is reserved for players who are at least 22 years old, have a minimum of one service year, and their contract options were not exercised by their clubs or they did not receive a bona fide offer.
Once all of these mechanisms have been completed, MLS will go into its customary “dark” period until after the New Year. The next major date will presumably be the MLS College SuperDraft, which is believed to be scheduled for late January. As MLS Cup runners-up, the Sounders will pick 26th in the first round.
Remaining 2020 MLS Offseason Calendar
2020 MLS Expansion Draft
Austin FC may select up to five players from the eligible player list. Expansion Draft Rules
The End-of-Year Waivers process is conducted in reverse order of 2020 season finish, taking into account postseason performance. Expansion club Austin FC will have the 27th pick in each round.
Eligible for selection are players who do not meet the minimum requirements for Re-Entry Process or Free Agency. End-of-Year Waivers Rules & Procedures
Dec. 16 (10:00 AM PT)
Free Agency Opens
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. Free Agency Rules & Procedures
Re-Entry Process, Stage 1
The Re-Entry Process (Stage 1 and Stage 2) is conducted in reverse order of 2020 season finish, taking into account postseason performance. Expansion club Austin FC will have the 27th pick in each round.
Eligible Players include those who are at least 22 years old, have a minimum of one service year, and their contract options were not exercised by their clubs or they did not receive a bona fide offer. MLS Re-Entry Process Rules
Re-Entry Process, Stage 2
The Re-Entry Process, Stage 2 is conducted in the same order as Stage 1 and consists of MLS players who were not selected in the Stage 1.
Not all unselected Stage 1 players will be available for selection as players may re-sign with their previous club between stages or may opt out of the process. The list of players eligible for selection in the Re-Entry Process – Stage 2 will be released by MLS Communications on Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. ET. MLS Re-Entry Process Rules
Jan. 19 or 21 (2021)