It is shaping up to be a busy offseason for MLS clubs, with an unprecedented five player drafts taking place between the end of the MLS season and January.
The league on Tuesday unveiled dates and details of the new Re-Entry Draft, which will make its debut in 2010 as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Union.
The CBA provided players new rights depending on the age and years of service in the league. A player who is at least 23 years of age with three or more years of MLS service and an option that was not renewed by his club (23/3 player) or a 25/4 player with an expiring contract, are eligible to be part of the 2010 Re-Entry Draft. All players, including Designated Players and players who have graduated from the Generation adidas program, will be included in this draft if they meet the age and service requirements.
The first stage of the Re-Entry Draft allows these 23/3 (options) and 25/4 (expiring contract) players to be made available to all other MLS clubs at the current option price or previous contractual salary. The order of selection by teams is based on reverse order of finish in the 2010 regular season, including the postseason.
“If you ask a player to take a reduction in pay, he can negotiate that reduction, or make himself available to all the teams at his previous salary in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft,” said Todd Durbin, MLS Executive Vice President of Player Relations and Competition.
Players who are not selected in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft at their current option prices and contractual salary numbers will have a second crack at joining an MLS club. The second stage of the Re-Entry Draft takes place a week later with no specific salary or option requirements that are part of the first stage.
MLS teams that select unsigned players in Stage 2 are then required to make concrete offers within seven business days. Players may agree to a new contract with MLS prior to Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft. Should no agreement be reached, the team that made the selection in the second stage will hold the right of first refusal on a contract with that player in the future.
Players who are not selected in either stage of the Re-Entry Draft can negotiate with any team on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“This is one of the major changes compared to previous years,” Todd Durbin said. “In previous years, if the player’s existing team offered him a lower salary, the player didn’t have many options. Now the players have more leverage in that negotiating process.”
In past years the contractual situation of several players often went unresolved even up until the roster and salary compliance deadlines in March, just weeks before the start of a season.
The new timeline (see below) will expedite decisions and players will have a clear idea of where they stand before the end of the calendar year.
“It ensures that teams enter contract discussions with players promptly after each season,” Durbin said. “Because if they don’t, they risk losing the player to another MLS team.”
Players who do not meet the age and service requirements necessary to be included in the Re-Entry Draft and also have expiring contracts or options that are not renewed by their clubs, may be part of the Waiver Draft on Nov. 24 if they are released by their current clubs.
MLS DRAFT TIMELINE
Nov. 24, 2010 – MLS Expansion Draft
Nov. 24, 2010 – MLS Waiver Draft (players not eligible for Re-Entry Draft)
Dec. 8, 2010 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 1
Dec. 15, 2010 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2
Jan. 13, 2011 – MLS SuperDraft