As roughly half the league gets stuck into playoff preparations and the other half gets stuck into exit meetings and offseason decisions, the MLS Players' Association dropped a list for just some of the players who would be eligible to hit free agency this winter.
The league and MLSPA agreed to a new CBA last year and one key change was loosening the free agency requirements. Now, players at least 24 years old and with 5 years of service in the league are eligible for free agency.
A quick note before diving in: This is not a comprehensive list of all players in the league who could be out of contract or have a contract option, just those eligible for free agency. And this isn't to suggest 100% that players will be leaving, just that nothing has been agreed for the out-of-contract players yet or a contract option not yet picked up for those with an option.
The full list is well worth checking out for yourself, either to be team-specific or just general curiosity.
Anyway. Here are some interesting names both out of contract or with contract options.
Out of contract
Sebastian Blanco was the MVP frontrunner last year when he went down with a torn ACL. He was a truly dominant force for the Portland Timbers. Entering his age-33 season this year coming off an injury, there were some fears that maybe he wouldn’t get back to 100%.
Well, guess what? He’s back to 100%. After being delayed by a setback or two, Blanco is now up to 7g/7a in just 1,182 minutes (!) while starting most of Portland’s games down the stretch run.
Though he is out of contract, Portland and Blanco are engaged in talks over a contract extension, per a source. The expectation is that it’s just a matter of time before a deal is agreed and signed.
TL;DR: Expect Blanco back in Portland next year.
Contract talks have begun between Moralez and NYCFC, though with full focus on their Round One playoff match against Atlanta United on Nov. 21 (3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes). Talks will resume whenever the season ends.
Both sides hope for a positive resolution when the time comes. One to check back in on after NYCFC’s season ends, be it in a few weeks or a month.
Moralez, who will turn 35 as next season kicks off, has 24 goals and 60 assists in 133 career appearances at NYCFC, after joining from Club Leon in 2017. He had 3g/11a in 30 appearances this year.
One of the LA Galaxy’s DPs is out of contract. Dos Santos, more than anyone else on this list, seems likely to leave. The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter reported that the Galaxy have “already planned for an open DP spot in their offseason plans."
Dos Santos, 31, has been linked with a move to Liga MX during his time with the Galaxy, though the strongest reports linked him with Club America where his brother, Gio, played. However, Gio has been a free agent since the summer after leaving the club.
The 27-year-old is out of contract at the end of the year, though. RSL GM Elliot Fall has been on the record saying he and Rusnak’s reps are talking over a new deal.
Will it get done?
The Red Bulls homegrown midfielder and club captain is out of contract this winter. The sides have been in discussions over a new deal, per a source.
Davis has been with RBNY his entire career, signing his homegrown deal ahead of the 2015 season. He’s made 172 appearances with his boyhood club and has been a key starter for the last five seasons, playing every single regular-season minute this year.
If something can’t be worked out, Davis is someone that would fit the mold for an expansion club to target, like past big expansion acquisitions of Walker Zimmerman (Nashville and LAFC), Dax McCarty (Nashville), Alex Ring (Austin) and more. A captain, someone who can set the culture off the field and lead on it from day one. The same could apply to several non-expansion teams too, of course.
All of these players are under team control and, for good players on what they consider reasonable contract numbers, these can be easy decisions. There are always surprises, though.
What's noteworthy here (and more rooted in reality than trying to guess which surprises will come) is more about a couple of players in their prime who have interest from clubs abroad. An option year comes last in the contract, though there can be multiple contract options. Regardless, there's the real possibility some of these players are under team control for just one more year.
Just going to lump these two guys together because it’s the same discussion: Two in-prime national team players who have had European overtures and are now nearing the end of their deals.
First, Long: He only has one option year, per a source, so Long is under team control for just one more season. The Red Bulls have rejected a number of offers for the USMNT defender in the past, including a $5 million offer from a French club, as previously reported by MLSsoccer.com, as well as loan with purchase options from English clubs and more. But now he has just one year left under team control, the club's calculations could change.
Long is currently still rehabbing a season-ending Achilles injury, however. There's no firm timetable on when he should be back to full fitness but, given the injury happened in May, it’s unlikely to be for the winter transfer window. In the summer he could sign pre-contracts with clubs abroad for 2023.
Gonzalez, a former USMNT regular and longtime decorated MLSer, has a club option for 2022.
His case is interesting because the decision taken over Gonzalez's future could tell us plenty about Toronto's plans going into next year. Will TFC have a nuclear offseason and make big, sweeping changes? Or will they run it back with largely the same core and bank on better luck/talent winning the day?
Toronto FC will be among the most interesting teams to watch this winter. There is real potential for a house cleaning and when TFC have money/roster space to spend, it’s always must-watch.