Despite going into its third-year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry process still leaves plenty of folks scratching their heads every December. I'll try to explain the ins and outs ahead of today's Stage One Draft...
What is it?
The Re-Entry Process is confusing because its also unique in terms of North American sport. The idea came as a compromise to help settle the latest Collect Bargaining Agreement in early 2010.
In essence, the Re-Entry Process is Major League Soccer's form of free agency, allowing players that meet certain requirements the opportunity to test the waters of moving to another team. Prior to the signing of the current CBA, teams still held league rights to players that were out of contract, meaning that in order for a player to move, a team would need to waive his rights or a trade would have to occur.
Under the new terms, players that have played a minimum of three years in MLS and are at least 23 years of age are eligible for the annual Re-Entry process should their current team decline their option or if they're out of contract. Full eligibility requirements for players can be found in Section II.G here.
There are two stages to the Re-Entry Process, each with different caveats...
Explaining Stage One
Thursday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2012 Re-Entry Process set for Friday at 2 p.m. CT. Prior to the release, players had up until 4 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out of the draft.
This was the case for Gonzalo Segares, who re-signed with the club on Thursday. With that transaction, two Fire players, midfielder Corben Bone and goalkeeper Jay Nolly, remained on the list of 52 players eligible for selection.
UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT, Fire defender Dan Gargan was added to the Stage One Re-Entry list by the league.
Teams that pick players at Stage One on Friday must exercise the option (pick up the player's salary), or in the case of out of contract players, extend a Bona Fide Offer to, the player. If the player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS (the player's league rights). Teams may not select their own players in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft.
Held via conference call, generally Stage One of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only five players having been selected in the previous two stages combined. This is generally because of the first caveat above, by which a team must pick up the salary of a player's whose option hae been declined (the majority of players available fall under this category).
Players that are not selected in Stage One are then able to come back to the table with their club and negotiate up until a second blackout period begins on Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. CT.
After passing through the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010, Jovan Kirovski re-negotiated his contract to stay with the LA Galaxy another season, prior to Stage Two.
Expaining Stage Two
This is where the magic happens as Stage Two of the Re-Entry Process is one of the biggest days of player movement within the league every year.
In 2010, 11 players were chosen in Stage Two while 10 were take in 2011.
Set for next Friday, December 14 at 2 p.m. CT, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. As long as that salary is deemed as a genuine offer by MLS, the team retains the player's league rights.
A genuine offer must be placed within seven days of selection, though a signing doesn't necessarily need to happen in that time as negotiations can continue.
A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select it's own player once all other clubs have passed on that player.
Players that pass through both stages of the Re-Entry process are deemed free agents and available on a first-come, first-served basis to all MLS teams.
Fire History in the Re-Entry Process
The Fire have selected two players through the Re-Entry Process and both had different cases.
In 2011, the Fire picked forward Kheli Dube, also from New England but the Zimbabwean forward didn't sign a contract with the club until late January as the two parties negotiated terms of the deal.
The team has also had two players selected from it in the Re-Entry Process.
In 2011, the Fire saw midfielder Baggio Husidic and goalkeeper Jon Conway chosen in Stage Two by the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy respectively. Neither player signed with those clubs as Husidic elected to sign for Swedish side Hammarby while Conway announced his retirement.