MLS Free Agency: Rules & Procedure

Three days after 2017 MLS Cup, teams can begin engaging with players via the league’s Free Agency process in preparation for 2018. Eligible players are 28 years of age and older with eight MLS service years and are out of contract – or have had their option declined. This allows players the freedom to negotiate a new contract with any MLS club, including their previous team, subject to certain restrictions.

A player has fulfilled one year of service if he was on a club’s roster prior to Aug. 15 or played in at least one regular season or postseason game in the relevant year, subject to USL loan exceptions.

Key dates:

On Dec. 10 at 5 pm ET, the list of all Option Decline and Out of Contract players who are eligible for Free Agency is distributed to all clubs.

On Dec. 12 at 3 pm ET, clubs may engage players – other than their own – who are eligible for Free Agency.

MLS Communications will make the complete list of Free Agents available on Dec. 10.

  • Option Exercise Deadline on Nov. 27, 1 pm ET: Clubs no longer competing in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs must notify the League Office in writing of (1) players whose options they are exercising and/or (2) players who are receiving bona fide offers, announced by the teams.
  • Option Exercise Deadline for non-MLS Cup participants on Dec. 1, 1 pm ET: Non-MLS Cup participants must notify the League Office in writing of (1) players whose options they are exercising and/or (2) players who are receiving bona fide offers, announced by the clubs.

Key parameters:

Teams can acquire no more than two Out of Contract players via Free Agency in a given year.

Out of Contract Players who receive a bona fide offer from his current team can still participate in Free Agency.

Option Decline Players may re-sign with their current team at any compensation subject to league approval in its discretion at any time prior to the beginning of Stage Two of the Re-Entry Draft (Dec. 21 at 2 pm ET).

Background:

MLS Free Agency was first implemented following the 2015 season, with 28 players eligible to negotiate new contracts with any of the 20 clubs that competed that year.

The first Free Agency class was highlighted by Toronto FC’s acquisition of defender Drew Moor (formerly of the Colorado Rapids), who has been an important component to TFC’s run to the 2016 MLS Cup and an MLS points record and Supporters’ Shield in 2017.

Following the 2016 season, for the league’s second Free Agency group, expansion Atlanta United prepped for their 2017 debut with the acquisitions of veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz and forward Jacob Peterson as pieces who helped Atlanta advance to the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Series: