It's little surprise to see out-of-contract Maurice Edu on trial with LAFC – not only does the veteran midfielder call Southern California home, he boasts plenty of history with LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, formerly his coach with the US national team.
Should Edu and the club wish to formalize his standing with the club and sign a permanent deal, the path is clear for both to do so – and likely clearer than if Edu were an MLS free agent.
Edu, who played the first half of LAFC’s inaugural preseason match on Friday, had his option declined by Philadelphia following the 2017 season after missing the last two years due to a variety of serious injuries.
Though he’s out of contract, the 31-year-old isn’t an MLS free agent since he’s only spent six years in the league, two shy of the eight-year requirement to qualify for official league free agency.
However, Edu is now available for teams to sign on a first-come, first-serve basis after going unselected in both stages of the 2017 MLS Re-Entry Draft, and that's not exactly a bad thing for him. MLS free agency has benefits for eligible players, but it is somewhat limiting, as well.
Most relevantly, teams are only allowed to sign two free agents each offseason. LAFC have already hit that ceiling after signing former Vancouver defender Jordan Harvey in December and adding ex-Toronto FC fullback Steven Beitashour last month. If Edu qualified for MLS free agency, LAFC wouldn’t be able to sign him. Because he’s not an official league free agent, however, the Southern California native is permitted to sign for his hometown club or any other team interested in him.
Official free agency also comes with all sorts of regulations regarding salary increases and length of contract. The stipulations limit how much free agents can be paid if they switch teams, and put a cap on how many years their new deals can run. Here’s what it looks like in practice, as detailed by Tutul Rahman:
2016 MLS Free Agency: 10 players move teams, avg wage decrease of 23% and only 1 (Mapp) raised their salary— Tutul Rahman (@tutulismyname) February 5, 2018
2017: 9 players move teams, avg wage decrease of 8%, but 5 players saw wage increases (Barrett, Gordon, Horst, Johnson, Peterson)
2018 so far: 5 players moved teams.
The regulations likely won’t apply much to Edu, who, thanks to his injuries, won’t be in line for a multi-year deal or a raise from his 2017 base salary of $818,750. Still, the stipulations – which, for any of you interested, are outlined in the MLS CBA – are illustrative of a free agency process that isn’t entirely free. In many ways, it’s better for a player to be in a situation like Edu’s: not a free agent, but slightly freer to make their own choice.