Now into its fourth year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry Process is still a slightly confusing exercise for more novice fans of the league.
What is it?
The Re-Entry Process is confusing because it’s 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
Monday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2013 Re-Entry Process set for Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.
The club's Re-Entry eligible players are as follows: defenders Shaun Francis, Wells Thompson and Michael Videira, midfielders Corben Bone, Joel Lindpere, Daniel Paladini and Logan Pause and forwards Chris Rolfe and Maicon Santos.
At nine, the Fire’s 2013 list of players eligible for the Re-Entry Draft is by far the most the club has ever had in the past four years but just because a player is listed, doesn’t mean he’s necessarily gone from the club.
From a Fire perspective, Frank Yallop indicated as much in Monday's release by saying, “We are actively speaking with several declined and out of contract players about new deals. We hope to reach agreement with some of them over the next two weeks and will announce as those deals are reached."
Two ways a Re-Entry listed player could still return to his club:
Players have until 4pm CT Wednesday to opt out of the Re-Entry Draft, which is usually the case when a deal is imminent with their current club. This was the case with defender Gonzalo Segares this time last year, who was originally Re-Entry listed before deciding to re-sign with the Fire the night before Phase 1 in 2012.
The other reason is that teams that pick players in Phase 1 on Thursday must exercise the option (and pick up the player’s salary) or in the case of out of contract players, extend a “bona fide” offer. If that player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS.
If a player passes through Phase 1 of Re-Entry, he and his club can then go back and try to re-negotiate a new deal prior to Phase 2 (which this year will be held next Wednesday, December 18 at 2pm CT).
Held via conference call, generally Phase 1 of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only six players having been selected in the previous three stages combined. This is generally because most teams aren’t willing to pick up the next year salaries of players that have already been deemed too high by their own clubs.
An example of this came in the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010 when 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 Phase 2, 10 were taken in 2011 and 14 were taken in 2012.
Set for next Wednesday, December 18, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. Whether or not the player accepts the salary offer, 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. In some cases, teams may have already begun negotiating with certain players prior to Phase 2 in the event that they’re able to select the player in the Re-Entry Draft.
A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select its own player once all other clubs have passed on that player.
If you’re trying to look for clues as to how Yallop has previously used the Re-Entry Draft, he and the San Jose Earthquakes didn’t utilize it all in 2010 or 2011 before becoming the only club to pick three players in it last year.
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 one player each year in the MLS Re-Entry process
In 2010, the team selected defender Cory Gibbs from New England and immediately announced his signing. This was able to happen as the team and player had already agreed to terms in the case that Gibbs was selected to come to Chicago (see above).
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. Dube never made a competitive appearance for the Men in Red.
In 2012, the Fire were the only club to make a selection during Stage 1 of Re-Entry, picking forward Maicon Santos from D.C. United. Santos, who finds himself Re-Entry listed once again this year made 17 competitive appearances, scoring two goals and three assists for the Fire in 2013.