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MLS Offseason Schedule: Drafts, free agents, and more

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Now that D.C. United are officially in their offseason, it is time to see what exactly that entails

After an appropriate mourning period, it is now time to turn our eyes to the next phase of D.C. United’s march to 2017: the offseason. We will have later posts breaking down each and every one of these, but there are a myriad of different drafts, processes, and rules for free agency that will be coming up soon. Here is the schedule of how that will roll out, plus a brief explanation of what each one is.

Saturday, December 10: MLS Cup 2016

Sunday, December 11: Half-day trade window, from 9AM-12PM ET. No trades have been allowed since the closing of the secondary transfer window in early August, so the day after MLS Cup, teams can scratch that itch. This happens before expansion drafts, waiver drafts, and re-entry drafts, so teams can trade picks and players as they position themselves for the rest of the offseason.

Monday, December 12: Expansion draft protected player list and free agent eligibility list made public. We’ve delved into, and will delve into more, who United is required to protect and who United should protect. HOWEVER, there is a big piece to the expansion draft that has flown under the radar: Each of Atlanta United and Minnesota United will have only 5 picks in this draft, unlike the typical 10 picks each team has had in previous years. United is, I believe, the team with the second most players picked in expansion drafts in MLS history, and has a decent shot to have that happen again, but it isn’t as likely as previous years (with more teams in the league and less picks per new team).

Tuesday, December 13: Expansion draft held at 2PM. MLS wastes no time, with the Expansion Draft happening only 3 days after MLS Cup. Also, at 5PM free agents may begin negotiations with any MLS team and teams may start trading again.

Wednesday, December 14: List of players eligible for the waiver draft made public. The categories which players fall into to meet waiver draft eligibility are esoteric and small, and historical no one gets taken in this draft.

Thursday, December 15: Waiver draft held at 2PM. Also, teams may no longer attempt to re-sign or trade their own Re-entry eligible players and the list of eligible players is made public.

Friday, December 16: Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft held at 3PM. The Re-entry draft may be the most MLS of all MLS player transfer mechanisms. Typically it is held on a conference call which only certain media members can access, and it is up to the teams to announce their picks. What actually happens is a hilarious mess on Twitter, with teams passing and picking before others have made their picks. Players selected in stage one have to have their option picked up for 2017 or offered a contract typically at or above 105% of their 2016 salary.

Wednesday, December 21: After a bit of a break, we get the list of players eligible for Stage 2 of the Re-entry draft, as well has another re-signing and trade blackout.

Thursday, December 22: Stage 2 of the Re-entry Draft held at 3PM. Players selected in this stage need only a “bona fide offer” extended, so you can get players at a cheaper rate than the past season.

January 7-12: MLS Combine. The combine usually brings eligible college players as well as a smattering of players from the Caribbean who are draft eligible together. However, United seems to not put too much stock in the Combine, instead preferring to look at a players body of college work. Nick DeLeon, for example, had a bad combine but his full college career told Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper that he would be a good MLS player, and so he has been.

Friday, January 13: MLS SuperDraft. The most super of all the drafts! United will be picking 12th, and they have gotten go value from double digit picks, getting both Taylor Kemp and Miguel Aguilar from the 17th spot, for example.

Monday, January 23: MLS preseason begins.

I know we all wish we were still in the 2016 season, but this is the framework in which the planning for 2017 will happen. I’m sure some ridiculous things will happen outside of this framework, because they always do, but will be here to walk you through it.