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MLS announces key offseason dates

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The playoffs may not be over yet but MLS is already gearing up for the offseason by confirming the key dates leading up to the 2016 season.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

MLS has announced the key dates for the upcoming offseason confirming the timing of each of the different drafts and the official start of the 2016 preseason.  Fans of teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs now know just how long they have to wait for the offseason fun to get started.

The first key date on the calendar is December 7th when teams will have to make public just which players they are not picking up options on.  That is the date when the league will announce the list of players eligible for free agency and the Re-Entry Draft.  That list will be followed on the 8th with the list of players eligible for the waiver draft.

What those two lists coming out will mean is that fans will know just which players their favourite club has locked up for the 2016 season.  Every player who does not have another year left on their contract and does not sign a new deal prior to December 7th is going to appear on one of those lists when it comes out.  Of course, a player on those lists could still agree to a new deal with their current club but in most cases it means that player is going to be moving on.  This offseason there are certainly a few Toronto FC players that could be featured on one of these lists as the club is once again expected to make a number of changes to their roster this winter to try and improve.

With those lists released the focus will shift to the limited pool of free agents.   Players over the age of 28 with at least eight years of MLS service that are out of contract will be the only ones eligible to take part in free agency.  The list will likely be short but any player who is on it will be free to negotiate with other MLS teams starting at 1pm on December 8th.

The waiver draft will take place the following day on the 9th with the list of players included in the draft being made up of those players out of contract or who did not have their option picked up that are not eligible for the Re-Entry Draft or free agency due to either age or years of service in the league.  The draft order will again be the reverse of the league finishing order with the last place team picking first and any player selected will either have their option picked up by their new club or that club will have to make them a genuine offer.  The waiver draft is normally a very quiet affair with just three players being selected last year despite more than 50 players being made available.  It is normally filled with later round draft picks who failed to impress early in their careers but the odd time a team will find someone worth taking a chance on.

After that the offseason moves on to focus on the Re-Entry Draft which is normally a bit more lively.  The first stage will take place on December 11th but with teams having to pick up options or make genuine offers to any player they select this stage is normally not all that active.  Most teams would rather wait for the second stage when they are free to try and negotiate a lower deal with any player they select.

That second stage will take place on December 17th and will likely be the first event of the offseason where TFC could be more active.  Depending on who is available this stage is a good chance to add some veteran talent to the roster without having to pay a premium for it.

After the Re-Entry draft things finally take a bit of a break for the Christmas season with the next event not taking place until January when the MLS combine kicks off on the 7th.  The combine runs for 5 days and leads up to the MLS SuperDraft on the 14th which will take place in Baltimore.  TFC currently have the 9th, 50th, and 70th selections in the draft so it is unlikely that they will be adding all that much on draft day.

Once the draft is all wrapped up it will not be long until teams are reporting for preseason.  The official first day of training camp will be January 22nd which is now only 71 days away.

There will certainly be lots for fans to look out for this offseason with the only real break coming during the weeks around Christmas.  The rest of the offseason will barely feel like a break but at least this time around we won't have to deal with an expansion draft on top of all the other drafts the league already has.