These dudes getting so much front-and-center photo action lately. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
The Expansion Draft has come and gone. Nashville SC has 16 players signed. You can see the current makeup of the roster here. That’s not enough, though! What are the next stages of building a roster navigating the somewhat-insane MLS rules?
Date: Nov. 25, 2019 2:00 p.m. CST (waiver list is here).
What it is: There are three main mechanisms for MLS players who won’t play for the same club in 2020 as they did in 2019 to end up with a different squad: this is the most-restrictive of them.
The Waiver Draft is for players who:
- Are under 23 or with less than three years of MLS service and had a team option declined
- Are under 25 or with less than four year of MLS service, and are out of contract
Other players fall into less-restrictive categories and are eligible for the Re-Entry Draft or (if they’re at least 28 with eight years of MLS service) Free Agency.
Nashville SC will get the penultimate pick in the Waiver Draft (having selected that in the Priority Draft). This is held over conference call and is not much of a spectator event – teams selecting players will likely just tweet out those choices.
Date: Begins Nov. 25, 2019 2:00 p.m. CST (Free agent list in the same spot)
What it is: Teams can negotiate with players eligible for free agency. That means guys who are 28 or older, and who have played at least eight years in MLS – it’s a pretty restrictive definition of Free Agency. You can bet the upcoming CBA negotiations will see the Players’ Association try to loosen it up.
Nashville can negotiate with anyone in the Free Agency pool, but any given team can only sign two free agents during the offseason. You’d better pick two guys you really want, because they’re the only two you can grab.
There’s no listed end date for Free Agency; I’d imagine those players are available (even outside of the US Soccer Transfer Windows) whenever, even after the season begins.
Date: Nov. 26, 2019 2:00 p.m. CST (Re-Entry pool is also here)
What it is: Basically the same situation as the Waiver Draft, with the exception that it includes the players who exceed the bullet-pointed requirements listed above (over 23 and more than three years in MLS and team option declined, or over 25 and more than four years in MLS and out-of-contract). Free Agents can also opt-in to the Re-Entry Draft, though I have no idea why one would.
Nashville SC gets penultimate pick in the Re-Entry Draft as well (it was bundled with the Waiver Draft penultimate pick in the Priority Draft). Like the Waiver Draft, this is a conference-call deal, and the teams will likely just tweet out selections – if any – when they make them.
Date: Dec. 3, 2019, 2:00 p.m. CST
What it is: Players not selected in the first round of the Re-Entry Draft have another chance. The pool is re-released – likely including Free Agents who haven’t picked up any bites for opportunities in free agency – with those players available.
The primary difference between Round One and Round Two is that teams may select the players they didn’t exercise options on (i.e. Forrest Lasso would be available to FC Cincinnati in Round Two, not in Round One), and teams selecting a player who had his option declined by his previous team are not required to offer him a contract at the option price: they can renegotiate a new salary.
US Soccer FIFA International Transfer Window Opens
Date: Feb. 12-May 5
What it is: This is when teams can register new players from other Federations. Gaining new players from abroad has to (officially) happen during a transfer window. Teams can announce moves, etc. outside of the windows, but those moves don’t become official until a transfer window is open.
Nashville SC’s got a few players they’ll likely announce before the transfer window officially opens (before the New Year, is my assumption). However, it doesn’t become officially-official until a transfer window.
Typically if players are leaving a European (or South American, etc. etc.) club, they’ll do it during the transfer window in that country – so that can be replaced by the club they’re departing – but in terms of joining Nashville SC, or any MLS club, the only relevant window is the one for the incoming federation (US Soccer).
Will Nashville SC add talent through these mechanisms?
You typically see only five or six players taken in the Waiver Draft, and five or six more taken in the Re-Entry Draft each offseason, so don’t expect a ton of explosive action here. If NSC adds one or two players, great. Don’t be disappointed or upset if they forgo those mechanisms.
It would not surprise me one bit to see at least one free agent signed (I’ll admit I’m writing this piece before taking a close look at the list, but surely there are some intriguing names on there. The technical staff has emphasized getting MLS experience and maturity from the domestic pool, and Free Agents by definition have both of those things.
Players who aren’t eligible for Free Agency and pass through the Waiver Order and Re-Entry Draft unselected can be signed by any MLS side (which… sounds like Free Agency? I would bet Discovery Rights have to be filed). NSC could add some depth through that mechanism.
The transfer window is where you’re likely to see more of the roster built out a bit, even if the announcements of those signings come earlier than the opening of the window.
NSC could also continue to trade for talent within the league: Mike Jacobs mentioned Tuesday that he’s excited about the Allocation Money that NSC acquired Tuesday, and that can be used as a tradable asset within the league.