Market for MLS free agents opens

MLS's fifth class of free agents was officially free to begin bargaining on Monday after the Waivers Process was completed.

MLS free agency was bargained for in the collective bargaining agreement reached in 2015, but it is quite restrictive. Players must be 28 years old and have eight years of service in MLS to eligible to sign with other teams in MLS without restriction when they are out of contract or their option has been declined.

The years of service rule out many foreign stars who have been in MLS only three or four years. Most Americans in MLS until recently played some college soccer, so most are over 30 when they become free after hitting the eight-year mark.

Less than 30 percent of free agents -- 10 of 34 -- signed and played in MLS in 2019, the lowest percentage since the first class in 2016.

MLS free agents:
2016: 16/28
2017: 15/37
2018: 20/27
2019: 10/34
TOTAL: 61/126

The 2020 class consists of 39 players, including players like DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard and Nick Rimando, who have retired. Just 13 players, including Howard and Rimando, started more than half the time in 2019, indicating the lack of depth in MLS free agency.

Current free agents include Michael Bradley, who captained Toronto FC at MLS Cup 2019, and Kyle Beckerman, who started 24 games in his 13th season with Western Conference semifinalist Real Salt Lake.

Bill Hamid is a free agent but expected to re-sign with D.C. United after its loan agreement with Denmark's FC Midtjylland is converted into a transfer. Another former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Luis Robles, is a free agent after the New York Red Bulls did not pick up his option for 2020.

Defender Jalil Anibaba, who started 19 games for New England in 2019, was already selected by Nashville SC in Expansion Draft. Drew Moor, part of the first free-agent class, is expected to return to Colorado after four seasons with Toronto FC.

Most of the other free agents of note are defenders: Steven Beitashour, A.J. DeLaGarza, Jordan Harvey and Seth Sinovic. In Harvey's case, it's his third straight offseason in which he's been an MLS free agent.

Americans who are free agents for the first time include Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram and Kelyn Rowe. After eight seasons in Columbus, where he had 55 goals and 63 assists, 35-year-old Argentine Federico Higuain is a free agent.

4 comments about "Market for MLS free agents opens".
  1. George Gorecki, November 27, 2019 at 8:27 a.m.

    While only a few players qualify as free agents in the formal sense, there is a much larger group of players who are essentially free agents. These are the players who make it through the Waiver and Re-Entry drafts unselected. Only a small fraction of players on the Waiver and Re-Entry lists get chosen, so there is a fairly large group of players who can make any deal with any team.

  2. R2 Dad, November 27, 2019 at 9:33 a.m.

    This Free Agency in MLS, 8 years/28 YO, should be modified/eliminated in the next contract talks. This is bad UAW-type nonsense.

  3. Ben Myers replied, November 27, 2019 at 10:15 a.m.

    Yes, too restrictive.  Favors the MLS owners.  Significantly.

  4. Tony Marturano, November 27, 2019 at 6:41 p.m.

    MLS Free Agency seems to be modeled parallel to MLB free agency except for MLB players it's six years in MLB...

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