While the MLS season is not yet over, the league is already preparing for the 2015 season. Some teams will have to make some decisions even before the end of the season, and will have to prepare for plenty of player movement in the week after MLS Cup. Here is the schedule, plus the lowdown on what kinds of players will be available through each mechanism.
And don't worry, each of these mechanisms will get their own detailed posts (or series of posts) as they approach.
TBD - MLS Dispersal Draft for Chivas USA: Obviously, this will be where the teams have their pick of the players on Chivas USA. No idea what the order will be, but United will probably be ranked so low that they won't take anyone. The Goat Parade has info on the players available, and how likely they are to be taken, but know this: Cubo Torres is highly unlikely to be available through this. The date is still officially TBD, but rumors are pointing towards December 1.
December 7, 2014 - MLS Cup Final: D.C. United's final game of the 2014 season.
December 8, 2014 - Half-day Trade Window: Open 9 am ET - 1 pm ET. Teams may trade during that window or may re-sign their own players. Blackout period starts at 1 pm ET, runs through the MLS Expansion Draft. This is basically to allow teams to trade draft picks, draft spots, and players to set themselves up for the expansion draft a few days later. This gives the teams their only chance to change their rosters since the roster freeze in September.
December 10, 2014 - MLS Expansion Draft: The first doozy of the offseason. The rules are likely to be the same as when Vancouver and Montreal joined the league, meaning that each team will protect 11 players and have have a maximum of two players taken; when one player is taken you can protect an additional player. We still don't know whether or not Bill Hamid will be automatically protected or not, but signs point to no. There will be plenty of posts about this starting next week.
December 10, 2014 - Trade Window opens at the end of Expansion Draft; closes on December 11, 2014, at 5 pm ET: Another trade window opens to allow teams to look at their rosters in advance of the Re-entry Draft, and allow teams to trade rights to players outside of that mechanism.
December 10, 2014 - MLS Waiver Draft: This will basically be for any players released during the season or who fall into other categories that activate a waiver draft, such as college players not in the SuperDraft, returning players whose teams do not use their right of first refusal, and drafted players who were not offered a contract.
December 12, 2014 - MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase One: Players selected in this phase of the Re-entry draft must either have the option picked up or play at 100%-105% of their previous salary, all depending on age and years of service. At any time before or after this phase, unselected players can be re-signed by their previous team.
December 12, 2014 - Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase One; closes on December 17, 2014, at 11 am ET: The longest winter trade window so far.
December 18, 2014 - MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase Two: Teams must negotiate a new salary with players taken in this phase of the Re-entry draft. Anyone not selected here basically becomes a free agent.
December 18, 2014 - Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase Two
January 2-5, 2015 - MLS Caribbean Combine: Select players identified here will be made available in the MLS SuperDraft to help keep it stocked with quality talent. Two players from last year's edition were selected to go to the MLS Combine, and one player was drafted.
January 9-13, 2015 - MLS Combine: The main combine, which brings together college players and international player to allow teams to get a look at them before the SuperDraft.
January 15, 2015 - MLS SuperDraft: After the SuperDraft, preseason camps are just around the corner, usually just a week away.
So that's a summary of how things are likely to go this offseason. Just like always it will be a busy one, and we will be there to help break it down every which way.