Whether or not Atlanta United lift MLS Cup on Saturday, the following day will see the offseason begin in earnest. Just over 12 hours after the Five Stripes compete in the league’s championship match they’ll be forced to make some important decisions for next season.
Teams competing in MLS Cup have until Noon on December 9 to submit their impending roster decisions for 2019, including who they’ll offer a new contract to and who they won’t. All of the other clubs have already done this and it will be Atlanta and Portland’s turn in that short window of time. So, yes, one team will be popping champagne at 11:00 p.m. and informing some of their players they won’t be coming back next season at 11:00 a.m. the next morning. Welcome to the harsh reality, fellas.
Sunday won’t only feature roster decisions from Atlanta and Portland but will also see the MLS trade window open for the first time since August for a short period from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
After that day of wildness, the MLS Expansion Draft will follow on Tuesday with Free Agency opening immediately following that.
Needless to say, the offseason is coming whether we’re ready for it or not. Here’s all the important date you need to know about:
2018 MLS Offseason Calendar
9:00 AM - 1:00 PM ET - Half-Day Trade Window
Following a three-month roster freeze, MLS clubs may begin making adjustments to their rosters. This is a four-hour window in which clubs may sign and trade players (both non-Re-Entry Draft eligible players and Re-Entry Draft eligible).
Noon ET - Option Exercise Deadline for MLS Cup Participants
Clubs that compete in MLS Cup must notify the League Office in writing of 1) players whose options they are exercising and/or 2) players who are receiving bona fide offers.
1:00 PM ET - Blackout Period begins
Blackout Period begins whereby clubs may no longer sign and/or trade their own draft-eligible players until conclusion of Expansion Draft.
2:00 PM ET - Expansion Draft
FC Cincinnati may select up to five players from the eligible MLS player pool. Only a single player can be drafted from any one club.
3:00 PM ET - Free Agency Begins
Clubs may engage with players, other than their own, that are eligible for Free Agency. Eligible players include Out of Contract and Option Decline players that meet the age and years-of-service parameters.
4:00 PM ET - 2018 MLS Waiver Draft
Consisting of players who have been waived by clubs and do not meet minimum years of service requirement for Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency; the Waiver Draft is conducted in reverse order of 2018 season finish, taking into account postseason performance, with expansion FC Cincinnati selecting last.
3:00 PM ET - 2018 MLS Re-Entry Draft – Stage 1
The Re-Entry Draft (both stages) is conducted in reverse order of 2018 season finish, taking into account postseason performance, with expansion club FC Cincinnati selecting last.
2:00 PM ET - 2018 MLS Re-Entry Draft – Stage 2
The Re-Entry Draft Stage 2 is conducted in the same format as Stage 1 and consists of MLS players who were not selected in the Stage 1. Not necessarily all unselected Stage 1 players will be available as players may re-sign with their previous club between stages or may opt out of the process. Teams selecting players in Stage 2 may negotiate new contracts with the player.
2019 MLS Combine
The Combine will be held at Orlando City Stadium from Jan. 3-9 as coaches and technical directors from across the league will watch some of the top young talent eligible for selection.
2019 MLS SuperDraft
Newcomers FC Cincinnati will join the other 23 MLS teams in Chicago for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.