For a lot of working folks, mid-November brings a gradual slowdown in the pace of their business, as the weather gets cooler and things settle down before the Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. The pace of activity in the offices around Major League Soccer, however, is anything but slow at this time of year.
MLS teams have a number of important deadlines coming up that require important decisions and deft roster maneuvering for their GMs, President, Managers and Sporting Directors.
The first deadline is Monday, November 27, at 11 AM MST. That’s when non-playoff MLS teams must inform the league which players are or are not receiving contracts for the 2018 season. That can take the form of either a team excercising a player’s option, or the team making a bonafide offer to a player extending an interest in negotiating their services for the coming year. Standard MLS contracts for non-TAM, DP, and free agent players include a club option to retain a player for the next season, typically at a salary at-or-near the prior season’s salary, or for a modest salary bump.
Some MLS teams announce cuts and extensions well before the deadline; the Philadelphia Union announced returning and departing players on November 1st, for instance. However, if history is any indication, Rapids fans should probably expect total radio silence until deadline day. The Colorado front office over the past few seasons has dropped its contract information exactly at the deadline, and not a second before. Teams that participated in the MLS playoffs get until December 1st to announce contract extensions, and the combatants in the MLS Cup Final have until December 10th to make their moves.
On Sunday, December 10th, the day after the MLS Cup Final, from 7 AM to 11 AM MST, there is a half-day trade window open for MLS teams. This window serves primarily as a chance for a team that has a player exposed to the expansion draft to make an attempt to swap that hypothetical 12th man to another team for a small amount of GAM or TAM. It is also a good time for a club to acquire an international slot or to make a move improving their standing in the allocation order. Most teams do not make use of this window, but you never know.
The next deadline is just a few hours later for the Rapids, on December 10th at 4pm MST. At that time, MLS teams must announce their protected list for the upcoming expansion draft. MLS teams can protect only 11 players. Generation adidas and off-budget Homegrown Players are automatically exempt. Burgundy Wave Managing Editor Abbie Mood will have a breakdown of Rapids players she expects to see and not see on this list, coming later this week.
Finally, the Expansion Draft itself comes on Tuesday, December 12th at 12 noon MST. Newly reborn franchise LAFC, formerly known as Chivas USA, come into the league with a chance to build a roster from the extraneous bits of the other 22 franchises in MLS. Each MLS team can protect 11 players plus its Homegrown and Generation Adidas guys. Once a team loses a player to expansion, the rest of its roster is safe from selection.
Add to all of this suspense the current wait that Colorado fans are enduring regarding the selection of a new manager for the club, and you have a massive chunk of important decisions that will be coming down from Commerce city in the next 28 days.
We await your choices with baited breath, oh noble lord of the Rapids, Padraig Smith.