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MLS Re-Entry Draft, A History

Juan Pablo Angel, the face of the Re-Entry draft for Galaxy fans.
Juan Pablo Angel, the face of the Re-Entry draft for Galaxy fans.

It's no secret that this MLS scribe loves baseball. I also love Harry Potter, which is why I have so many "A History" posts. However, recently baseball made me rethink the MLS re-entry draft, which is something that is often misunderstood. It doesn't look like European free agency, nor does it look like American free agency. I found a little nugget the other day which might clue us in to where MLS got its idea. 

Uni Watch pointed me toward this article about Pete Rose testing the free agency market. Within that article was this tidbit: 

that Cincy's most popular player will thus enter Friday's free-agent draft

Wait, what? Everybody knows MLB has had an open free agency policy since 1975 and Peter Seitz. Well apparently in the early days of MLB free agency, it looked a lot more like MLS. MLS has a unique situation, with the single entity structure giving free agents less leverage. It's similar to where MLB was back in the days of the reserve clause.


Initially, and for some years thereafter, there was a so-called free agent "re-entry draft." The first one was held on Nov. 4 in the Plaza Hotel in New York and limited to the 24 existing clubs (the new Seattle and Toronto expansion franchises were not allowed to participate). The clubs drafted in inverse order of the 1976 standings, at no cost, and selected negotiation rights to as many players as eligible. When a player was chosen by 12 clubs other than his own team, his name was removed from the list.

Sure sounds a lot like MLS. MLS uses the Waiver Draft order to determine the Re-entry draft order, which is based on points per game after three MLS games have been played, in inverse order. MLB also has a waiver system during the regular season. 

What separates the system MLS currently uses from MLB's old re-entry draft, is that in MLS only one team is allowed to make a claim on a player in the re-entry draft. This keeps MLS in line somewhat with European clubs. Once a team has secured rights to negotiate with a player, it's a one on one negotiation. In MLB, it appears that a player could have up to thirteen teams bidding for his services. 

The other major difference between MLB's re-entry draft and MLS' is that in the case of MLS some players still have years on their contract. It can get really complicated. Just read this years re-entry draft primer: 

Clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer to, players selected in Stage 1. Players that were out of contract may either accept or reject the Bona Fide Offer. 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.

Leave it MLS to use 40 confusing words where, "selecting a player in stage one of the re-entry draft make him bonded to you, and you can dress up your new toy in all sort of pretty hats". That may not actually be what they meant. 

So what about y'all. Having seen how another league did the re-entry process, would you like to see the re-entry draft be more of an open bid? Remember, the re-entry draft is where the Galaxy got Juan Pablo Angel this year. Perhaps MLS should do away with the re-entry process, and go to a European style transfer list. Clubs could use allocation money to buy the right to negotiate with player. What do you think?