Deadline day for the 2020 Secondary Transfer Window, like everything else to happen in this, erm, unique year, will be much different than seasons prior.
It's usually closed by mid-August. But this year the transfer window seals shut this Thursday (Oct. 29), much later than normal given the suspension of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The date also happens to fall a lot closer to the end of the regular season with many teams in the league having just two matches left by Thursday's deadline.
Teams will have all day Thursday, with the window officially shutting at midnight Central Time.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that teams likely sought to do all their business well before the close of the window in order to impact the current season, but a few moves still could materialize. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the final days:
Cincinnati and the No. 1 Allocation Slot
Expansion clubs Nashville SC and Inter Miami started the season at the top of the Allocation Order: While Inter Miami used their position to acquire defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Nashville opted to trade the No. 1 spot to LAFC in February for $350,000 in General Allocation Money and a second-round draft pick. FC Cincinnati could opt to do the same with previous trades for the top spot in 2019 fetching $300,000 GAM and $400,000 Targeted Allocation Money.
The Allocation Order will reset after the season, meaning Cincy could lose out on that asset if they sign a player or trade the spot.
It's not a foregone conclusion just yet, though. A source tells MLSsoccer.com that talks remain ongoing with two clubs over the No. 1 slot. Any deal would be predicated on one of those teams signing a player from the Allocation List. A few players have been speculated to come to MLS from the list, from current free agent Fabian Johnson to recent reports linking Cyle Larin to the league.
FC Cincinnati GM Gerard Nijkamp has a decision to make when it comes to the Allocation ranking | USA Today Sports Images
Cincy did look into potentially signing a player from the Allocation Order. Sources told MLSsoccer.com that FCC had pursued acquiring former NY Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence from Belgian club Anderlecht, but the clubs couldn't find a deal. Lawrence joined Anderlecht this winter for $1.25 million.
Based on the current standings, Cincy will likely be near the top of this list again in 2021 (based on reverse order of finish based on previous season). Expansion side Austin FC will get the top spot in their inaugural MLS season. If the season ended today, Cincy would be at No. 2 in the 2021 order. Their 16 points are the lowest of the current season with D.C. United (18 points) and the LA Galaxy (18 points) not far behind.
Update Tuesday, 2:18 pm ET: As per a January 2019 trade between FC Cincinnati and LAFC, the clubs will swap initial 2021 Allocation Order slots. If the season ended today, LAFC would take the No. 2 ranking and Cincy would be No. 18.
If there's to be a key addition to impact this season, it's more than likely to happen via trade, like Nashville SC acquiring Handwalla Bwana from the Seattle Sounders for $225,000 General Allocation Money and Jimmy Medranda last week.
Acquiring a player from abroad at this stage of the season would likely mean that player wouldn't receive his visa and then complete mandatory quarantine to debut before the playoffs. For instance, FC Cincinnati signed forward Franko Kovacevic from TSG Hoffenheim on October 12, but the player still has yet to travel to the United States. Nashville signed Jhonder Cadiz on September 9, but he didn't debut until October 14. Atlanta United signed Marcelino Moreno on September 22 and he didn't debut for another three weeks.
The last player acquired from abroad by an MLS club was LAFC center back Jesus David Murillo, officially announced on October 14. He had already been in the country by that point, so he was able to debut on October 18.
Could midweek results impact moves?
Any trades could be predicated on specific team prospects to qualify for the postseason, though the increase in playoff spots available means that most, if not all, teams will be mathematically alive in the playoff race with two matches remaining.
Still, the midweek results could play a factor.
The LA Galaxy, FC Cincinnati, D.C. United, Atlanta United and Houston Dynamo could all see their playoff hopes take significant hits with a bad result on Tuesday or Wednesday.