So you got in on the action for the MLS Cup Final that Sporting Kansas City
won over the weekend? Now the season is over and your new passion has no outlet and you don’t know what to do next. Don’t you worry new Sporting KC fans, there is plenty to do during the offseason as well. Here’s the schedule for the offseason and some stories to follow, as well as some other places to get your soccer fix.
Major League Offseason:
December 12, 2013: Re-Entry Draft (Stage 1)
This is where MLS teams select players that are out-of-contract or their options were declines by their current teams. Players must be at least 23 and have a minimum of 3 years MLS experience; 25 with 4 years MLS experience; or 30 with a minimum of 8 years of MLS experience.
The order of the Re-Entry Draft is a reverse combination of the playoff and regular season positions. Clubs can either select a player or pass, and cannot choose their own players in Stage 1. Afterward, clubs may sign their own players to new contracts or sign and trade players before a blackout period begins.
Sporting Kansas City are not releasing any players according to MLS’ list of available players. There are several big names available in the draft, so it should be very interesting to watch.
December 19, 2013: Re-Entry Draft (Stage 2)
In Stage 2, clubs can select players that are either under or not under contract. They must offer a contract to non-contracted players selected within a week. If a contract is not agreed to, the drafting club holds the right of first refusal on that player in MLS.
Clubs may sign their own players in this stage, and if a player is not selected in either stage they are available to any club that wishes to sign them.
January 16, 2014: MLS SuperDraft
The MLS SuperDraft will take place in Philadelphia The draft contains players that have graduated from college or signed by the league in some other capacity. The draft has three rounds with each club having a selection in each, with the order of teams being determined by a combination of playoff and regular season positions.
Sporting KC, being the MLS Cup Champions, will have the last pick of the draft. They traded their 1st round pick to the New England Revolution for Benny Feilhaber last season. Sporting KC has Toronto F.C.’s 2nd round pick through a trade for Bobby Convey.
Late January 2014: Training Camp
Players that are not on loan to clubs abroad (more on this later) will return to begin training for the next season.
February 1st, 2014: United States vs South Korea (StubHub Center – California).
March 8, 2014: 2014 MLS Season Opener
Seattle v Sporting KC – Sporting KC opens the season at Seattle on a Saturday afternoon, making for a tough beginning to their title defense.
March 11-13, 2014: CONCACAF Champions League Quarter Finals
Sporting Kansas City v Cruz Azul (Mexico) over a home-away series, with the second leg taking place March 18-20.
March 15, 2014: Home Opener
Sporting KC v FC Dallas – 7:30 CT
Stories to Watch
Players Going Abroad: U.S. National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear that in preparation for the World Cup next summer that he wants potential call-ups to go on loan to European teams during the MLS offseason. For Sporting Kansas City, that means Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.
Zusi went for a trial at West Ham United in the English Premier League last season and could return to a mid-table team such as the East London club again this offseason. Besler, on the other hand, will be more likely to find regular playing time on the continent in Germany, Netherlands, or a similar league; possibly the second tier in England, the Championship.
It will also be interesting to see which, if any, players will make a full transfer to Europe during the January European transfer period. There are reports in French newspapers that Aurelien Collin may make a return to his home continent, though he quickly said that was not true and it was a bad translation. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are also likely to be targets of incoming offers. Despite Zusi recently signing an extension with Sporting KC, he may be tempted to move clubs to further his career if he believes that he has done all he can in the MLS.
The European transfer period is honestly one of the most exciting sports events there is. The amount of money thrown around is absurd and big name players can switch clubs and countries with massive impact. The January transfer window isn’t quite as active as July-August, but teams are in the middle of their season and will be looking to shore up their weaknesses to make pushes in their domestic leagues and cups.
How Will We Replace Jimmy Nielsen?: The White Puma announced that he plans to end his 19-year career at the top after winning the MLS Cup. He will be remembered as a club legend in my eyes. He holds many goalkeeping records at Sporting Kansas City and made numerous memorable and vital saves throughout his time in Kansas City. The Danish goalkeeper will need to be replaced, and it will be difficult to find someone with his quality.
Eric Kronberg may finally get his chance to become Sporting Kansas City’s #1 goalkeeper after being patient for several years and showing that he could probably be an MLS starter somewhere with his fine performances in the CONCACAF Champions League. If Kansas City look elsewhere for a goalkeeper, it would not be terribly surprising if they brought in another older foreign player, but what would excite me even more would be an American goalkeeper that’s been abroad but is looking to come home, much like Clint Dempsey did last season.
Europe: Even if you’ve just become a fan of soccer you’re still likely to know that Europe is home to most of the top leagues in the sport. MLS is vastly improved and still climbing, but if you need to watch more soccer during the offseason NBCSports shows all the English Premier League matches on TV or online every Saturday and Sunday mornings, and they’re often over before the American football begins for the day.
Many giants in the Premier League are in transitions currently with new managers. Manchester United has David Moyes replacing arguably the best manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson; Chelsea has brought back “the special one”, Jose Mourinho; and the endless pockets called Manchester City brought in Manuel Pellegrini to challenge for a second title in 3 years.
Also, it is the first time since the inception of the Premier League that two Welsh clubs, Cardiff City FC (the club I follow, should you need to know) and Swansea City, are both in the league. The first South Wales Derby was incredibly intense, as are many of the derbies (dar-bees) or rivalries in the league.
Of course, basically every country has their own leagues and Germany, Spain, Italy, and French leagues are all home to some top-class players and clubs. There are also the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa Leagues which take the top clubs in each league and domestic cup winners and pit them against each other for the most prestigious cups in club soccer.
So, new soccer fans, you’ll have plenty of stories and soccer to watch during a short offseason before you can get back out to Sporting Park and cheer on Sporting Kansas City in their title defense! I believe that we will win!
For more in depth off season coverage, check out FanSided’s new Major League Soccer site MLS Multiplex!