Commerce City, Colo. - With the offseason officially underway, out-of-contract players and club's now await the next steps - which could come as early as Monday.
The Rapids held a final practice last Friday before the players cleaned out their lockers and took their exit physicals. As the players began their rest period - many leaving Colorado for their hometowns and vacations - the club announced the first offseason transactions of what could be a busy period from now until the team gathers for preseason in mid-January.
Per MLS rules, clubs have until Monday, November 19 to notify their players if the team would be exercising their contract options for 2013. On Friday, the Rapids announced that eight players will not be returning.
On Monday afternoon, MLS will hold the first Waiver Draft, where teams will have the ability to select players that have been released by other clubs - with the exception of players from MLS Cup finalists LA and Houston. All 19 clubs will be able to select players from the 17 teams, with an additional Waiver Draft held after MLS Cup for the released players from LA and Houston.
Players that are eligible for the waiver draft are those whom club's have cut ties with that are not eligible for the *Re-Entry Draft. The waiver draft order is reverse order of finish, including playoffs, with Colorado selecting sixth overall. The same order will be used for the Cup finalist's waiver draft.
From the Rapids, the two non-returning players that are eligible for Monday's Waiver Draft are defender Luis Zapata and forward Edu, since both have only one year of MLS experience despite being over 30 years old.
Conor Casey, Scott Palguta, Tyrone Marshall, Ian Joyce, Joseph Nane, and Tyson Wahl have all played in MLS for at least three seasons and could all opt to enter either stage of the MLS Re-Entry Draft.
Any player claimed in the Waiver Drafts will automatically have their option exercised by the club that drafts them. If a player is not selected in the draft, he would be available to all teams on a first-come, first-served basis.
Teams will have a short trade window after MLS Cup and before the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft on December 6, meaning it's possible that players who will not have options exercised may be traded before the player needs to decide if they want to enter the Re-Entry Draft. If a player elects not to enter, his former team would retain the players' MLS rights.
In short, out-of-contract players are in a wait-and-see and wait-and-decide mode. Teams are in a similar position, awaiting to evaluate if any released players could fit into the club's future plans. Monday could be the first 'next' steps for one, or both.
*The Re-Entry process was introduced in 2010 as part of the collective bargaining agreement between the MLS Players Union and Major League Soccer to allow eligible players the opportunity to either stay at their current contract numbers by joining another team (Stage 1) or negotiate a new contract with a new club (though Stage 2).Colorado selected Tyrone Marshall and Hunter Freeman in the previous two year's Re-Entry Drafts.