MLS Re-Entry Draft 101: Your guide to how Re-Entry works

The MLS Re-Entry process will begin on Dec. 16, giving teams a chance to select experienced MLS players who haven’t agreed to a new contract with their current club but may want to stay in the league.

Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft will take place on Friday, Dec. 16 at 3 pm ET, with Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft set for the following Thursday, Dec. 22.

What exactly is the Re-Entry Draft? Let’s dig in:

Who’s eligible for the Re-Entry Draft?

There are two sets of players who are eligible to be selected in the Re-Entry Draft:

  • First, players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years of MLS experience whose contract options were not exercised by their clubs are available at their option salary for 2017.
  • Second, players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary are available for at least their 2016 salary.

The full list of players eligible for the Re-Entry Draft will be released on Thursday, Dec. 15. Eligible players are not required to participate in the Re-Entry Draft, and may choose to remove themselves from the Re-Entry Draft prior to either stage.

A running list of players who have had their options declined or have not re-signed with their current clubs can be found here.

How does the Re-Entry Draft work?

The draft works like most drafts, with teams being put in the reverse order of their finish during the 2016 season, taking into account playoff performance. This year, the Chicago Fire will hold the first selection, followed by the Houston Dynamo. Incoming expansion clubs Atlanta United and Minnesota United will pick 21st and 22nd, respectively.

The draft takes place over two stages:

  • In Stage 1, clubs must exercise the option for or extend a "Bona Fide Offer" to any player selected. Clubs may not select their own draft-eligible players. Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club’s roster.
  • In Stage 2, all players who were not selected in the first stage will be available again. Teams who select a player in Stage 2 will have the right to negotiate with the player for a new contract.

How many players are usually drafted?

This number changes every season, but saw a slight downturn with the introduction of MLS free agency last year. Two players were picked in Stage 1 of the 2015 Re-Entry Draft, with two more selected in Stage 2.

Are there Re-Entry Draft success stories?

Certainly. Though only four players were chosen in last year’s Re-Entry Draft, one made a huge impact, as Maxi Urruti -- the No. 1 pick in Stage 1 -- tied for the FC Dallas lead in goals, scoring nine times in 30 regular season matches for the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup winners.

Previous Re-Entry Drafts have yielded solid results for other teams, with D.C. selecting defensive cornerstones Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell and nabbing forward Fabian Espindola in the 2013 Re-Entry process. The three players became the cornerstones of a team that collected the most points in the Eastern Conference in the 2014 season. 

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