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Blueprint for new age of MLS
by Ridge Mahoney, November 9th, 2010 12:55AM

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[MLS] Documents obtained by Soccer America reveal what some of the league's new player mechanisms will look like. Starting Nov. 22 -- the day after MLS Cup, when teams must submit their lists of players for the Expansion Draft -- and ending Dec. 15 with Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, the league will undertake its most complex, if not necessarily volatile, offseason.

(This material was provided to Soccer America under condition of anonymity and has yet to be officially acknowledged or released by the MLS Players Union, so there may be revisions and changing in wording. The excerpts are from a working document and should be regarded as such.)

The Re-Entry Draft, instituted by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated between the league and the MLSPU last spring, addresses a lack of leverage for players out of contract or whose options have been declined. Such players will have the opportunity to test their value in a limited market.

Under past agreements, teams held rights to such players if a reasonable offer had been tendered to retain their rights, but no definition of “reasonable” had been stipulated. Teams were not obligated to offer salaries competitive with those of comparable players within the league, which is one reason Jeff Larentowicz ended negotiations with New England last January and asked for a trade. He’d earned $34,650 in his final year with the Revs; his base salary in Colorado this year is $150,000.

Such jumps in salary won’t be common yet the new CBA does include “sign-and-trade” provisions as utilized by other American pro sports (at much higher numbers). The league and the players union have adopted a method by which players gain some leverage without open bidding for their services.

There exist in the Re-Entry Draft restrictions and conditions that still bond players to the single-entity structure. Players won’t have freedom of movement within MLS, and under some conditions they will have to sign a contract with the league before being eligible to change clubs via the Re-Entry Draft.

TERMINOLOGY. The new CBA replaces reasonable with “bona fide offer” and other terms that are specified.

Example (excerpt):

A. “Bona Fide Offer” is an offer from MLS to an Out of Contract Player that meets the following minimum conditions: (1) for “25/4 players,” contains a first-year salary at least equal to the player’s 2010 annual base salary and for “30/8 players,” contains a first-year salary at least 5% greater than the player’s 2010 annual base salary; (2) a term of 1+1+1; (3) option year salaries that increase by at least 5% each year; (4) performance bonuses that are at least the same as the performance bonuses in the previous year of the player’s contract; (5) for purposes of Stage 1, this offer must remain open from November 30 until at least December 3 at noon EST; and (6) for purposes of Stage 2, this offer must remain open from December 8 until at least December 13 at noon EST. (end excerpt)

“Stage 1” and “Stage 2” refer to separate drafts, to be held Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, respectively. Stage 1 consists of clubs picking players at their Option Decline Price – the salary they would have earned in the next option year of their contract – and Out of Contract players at their Bona Fide Offer price. Teams will have periods of time during which they can re-sign their own players; they may risk losing them to the Re-Entry Draft if they fail to do so.

Players older than 30 and with at least eight years of MLS experience [30/8 players] whose contracts are expiring, such as Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad, will have an opportunity to test the new system, and so can any younger player under the “25/4” category whose option has been declined. Players who fall short of the “25/4” requirements will not go into the Re-Entry Draft if their option is declined; their current team retains a right of first refusal.

TIMELINE. Here are the proposed dates on which the various stages of player distribution are scheduled to take place (all times Eastern):

Nov. 22: 1 p.m. – Trade window closes; 2 p.m. -- clubs submit Expansion Draft lists of protected players; 5 p.m. – league office issues list of players available for selection by Vancouver and Portland.

Nov. 24: 2 p.m. – Expansion Draft; 2:30 p.m. – Official Waiver Draft list released; 3 p.m. Waiver Draft; 3:30 p.m. – Waiver Draft for players not eligible for Re-Entry Draft.

(In the Expansion Draft, teams can protect no more than 11 players and pull one player back if one is selected. Vancouver and Portland will each select 10 players.)

Nov. 30: 2 p.m. – Teams notify office of players whose options they are exercising and which are being tendered Bona Fide Offers; 5 p.m. – League office sends out: 1) option exercise letters; 2) Bona Fide Offer letters; 3) e-mails to clubs and MLSPU of players whose options have not been exercised and who are not receiving Bona Fide Offers.

Players in categories 1) and 2) will not be placed in the Re-Entry Draft; players in 3) will be included in the Re-Entry Draft unless they opt-out.

Nov. 30–Dec. 3: Teams may sign their own Re-Entry Draft eligible players to new contracts, and conduct sign-and-trade deals.

Dec. 3: Noon – Clubs may withdraw Bona Fide Offers tendered on Nov. 30. 2 p.m. – Blackout period (until Dec. 9) of sign-and-trade deals with their own draft-eligible players. 5 p.m. – Re-Entry Draft Stage 1 list of players issued to clubs and MLSPU.

Dec. 8: 2 p.m. -- Stage 1 of Re-Entry Draft. Clubs pick in same order as Waiver Draft (reverse order of 2010 finish), Vancouver 17th , Portland 18th. Draft continues until no more teams wish to make selections. Teams cannot pick their own draft-eligible players. 5 p.m. – Players picked in Stage 1 are notified by the league office.

Dec. 9-13: League attempts to sign players not selected in Stage 1. Blackout period is lifted and teams may again attempt to re-sign their Re-Entry Draft eligible players, and conduct sign-and-trade deals.

Dec. 13: Noon – Teams may withdraw their Bona Fide Offers; 2 p.m. – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2 list issued. Blackout period imposed during which players may not re-sign their own draft-eligible players.

Dec. 15: 2 p.m. – Stage 2 Re-Entry Draft continues until all teams decline to make further selections. A player not under contract selected in Stage 2 must be made an offer by the club (and approved by the league) within seven days.



4 comments
  1. Keith Wendel
    commented on: November 9, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.
    Can they make this any more complicated?

  1. Albert Harris
    commented on: November 9, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.
    No!

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: November 9, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.
    So specifying 30/8 and 25/4 basically says how old you are and how many years you have "served" in the league determine your rights - and not talent. I fail to see how that is good for the sport or the fans, what a crock. If they want to create different "classes" of citizens, how about wins/losses, plus/minus ratio (like hockey), minutes played - SOMETHING, ANYTHING that has to do with how well someone plays!

  1. Brad Brant
    commented on: November 9, 2010 at 10:58 p.m.
    Seems like this just protects out of contract players from being low-balled, right? Talent still dictates what is offered to a player. Maybe the league will retain more players from moving abroad to leagues not significantly better than MLS, and I'd like to see players like Conrad stick around for a final year or two and contribute rather than leave early because the league has them over a barrel.


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