The MLS Playoffs are well underway and in a few weeks time a new MLS Champion will be crowned. More on that in the days ahead in this space. However coming soon on the heels of the MLS Cup there will come fast and furious a number of really important off season events that each of the nineteen clubs in MLS will try and take advantage of in order to try and get a leg up on each other heading into 2012.
With that in mind I wanted to walk you, dear reader, through some of what will be happening between the end of this season and March of 2012 when it all kicks off again in earnest. With the off season soon upon us most MLS fans might not be focused too much on what the clubs might be doing off the field considering that it will be roughly four months and a week before the Champions League starts up for Los Angeles, Seattle and Toronto, and the MLS season begins again in earnest.
Mark your calendars people!
Montreal Impact Expansion Draft – November 21st & 23rd
With Montreal making the jump into MLS this upcoming season from Tier II they will be partially stocking their new franchise the same way most recent MLS newcomers have done, namely through the MLS Expansion draft process. The draft will take place on Wednesday, November 23rd and MLS clubs must submit their protected list of players to the league offices no later than November 21st. As in past years, the expansion draft will last 10 rounds, meaning the Impact will select 10 players in total. Each current MLS club gets to protect 11 players from their 2011 roster, though there are several categories of players who have special status. Generation Adidas players (on special decelopment contracts exempt from the draft) and Homegrown Players on the team’s Off-budget Roster players are automatically protected, without counting as one of the team’s 11 protected spots. Designated Players do not have to be protected unless the player’s contract includes a no-trade clause. And each club can only lose at most only one player. As we do not expect many players on MLS clubs to get released before November 21st even if out of contract, according to a source within the the league who told me that releasing players now only makes it harder for teams to get through the expansion draft unscathed. The flurry of players getting the proverbial boot usually comes after an event like the expansion draft.
MLS Re-Entry Draft – December 5th and 12th
Two rounds of the second annual MLS Re-Entry Draft take place early next month. The idea of the Re-Entry Draft is to give MLS veterans released and out of contract a chance to come back into the league with a new team. If a player is selected in the first round then the club selecting him must offer a “bona fide” offer which equals what they would get in an option year of their previous contract. If they fall to the second round then they have a short window where a new contract can be renegotiated between the two parties for any amount. Former Aston Villa player Juan Pablo Angel and MLS all time goal leader Jeff Cummingham were selected through this process last year. Some clubs like DC United had some particular success in choosing veterans like Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff respectively via this process who gave them significant quality minutes in 2011. Bottom line is that although it was not an earth shattering event last year this process should not be discounted completely out of hand. Last season a number of clubs did not choose anyone. But who knows, perhaps a nice veteran who could fill a role as a depth player or as a veteran leader in a dressing room might show up and be worthy of a look.
MLS SuperDraft – January 12th
The annual SuperDraft takes place in Kansas City next year and is slightly different in 2012 than in previous seasons. The Draft is now only made up of two rather than three rounds. There will be 38 overall picks made from the US NCAA College ranks and each club gets two selections. Some of these slots get traded between clubs. Toronto FC for example has three choices in the draft, acquiring an extra pick in a trade last season. Recent high draft picks have included current Glasgow Ranger Maurice Edu and FC Dallas and current US International Brek Shea to name but two of many.
MLS Supplemental Draft – January 17th
Round Three of the old SuperDraft is now gone and is now part of the Supplemental Draft which takes place via a conference call one week after the regular SuoerDraft takes place. There are four rounds here Again it’s a hit or miss kind of proposition here but for us footy geeks its still an interesting day, and a lot of fun to speculate as to who tour respective clubs pick from the American college ranks. Generally these supplemental picks get an invite to camp where they then fight for a contract, with nothing guaranteed other than the club choosing them getting the right of first refusal on a signing.
MLS Transfer Window Opens – January 21st
Running well into the spring of 2012 the transfer window for players coming from other leagues into MLS opens in late January. With the MLS window running somewhat out of synch with say the UEFA window, this window is often taken up with signings of players out of contract in places such as Europe.
So there you have it. The off season is soon here. But the wheelings and dealings are really going to start in earnest in probably three weeks time and for about two months then on the roster news will probably be coming fast and furious from all over Major League Soccer.
Tim Drodge is a Toronto Canada based blogger who writes about all things Toronto FC on his site http://viewfromthesouthstands.com . You can also follow Tim on Twitter @bgnewf