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When does MLS transfer market open and close? Free agency, dates

As action in Major League Soccer ends for one season, thoughts immediately turn to the next campaign, with franchises keen for reinforcements.

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The MLS Cup final between Columbus Crew and LAFC, with a historic victory for the ‘Crew,’ brought the curtain down on the 2023 season in the United States. However, football will not rest in the boardrooms of the league’s franchises, as they kick off the start of the 2024 season this very Monday. While the preseason action officially commences in early January, a roadmap is already being drafted to bolster the rosters with good news for the fans - with the transfer market reopening its doors.

MLS transfer window open Monday 11 December

Despite this kick-off date, several teams have already disclosed player renewals or contract extensions for those whose terms were expiring. But Monday 11 December from 8:00 am ET, the MLS will once again officially open the transfer window for the 2024 season.

From the moment the clock strikes, clubs are free to negotiate transfers and player exchanges, and then on Wednesday 13 December, the free agency signing period will commence. Tuesday 19 December is another date in the diary as it is for the MLS Superdraft of college players.

Next month, as January arrives, the transfer window for international players will open, where MLS teams automatically receive eight international slots.

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LAFC in the transfer spotlight

The team that finished runner-up in the 2023 MLS Cup, Los Angeles FC, finds itself in a predicament. Key players such as Carlos Vela and Giorgio Chiellini are out of contract at the end of the year, with no defined future as of yet. Chiellini is even contemplating between retirement or continuing for another year in LA. Additionally, Denis Bouanga stated after the final that he is exploring a possible exit to return to Europe in the upcoming transfer market. The MLS’s top scorer arrived just over a year and a half ago, but he is already considering a return to France.

As per the LA Times, Vela’s renewal will likely involve a reduced contract, earning much less than this season’s guaranteed $4.4 million. In the event of a departure, the Black & Golds will have two designated player slots, three counting Bouanga. Financial Fair Play will provide relief to the franchise ahead of the January market, allowing them to significantly exceed the $21 million budget for 2023, which is the fourth largest in the entire MLS.

When does the 2024 MLS season begin?

Major League Soccer has not yet disclosed specifics regarding the commencement of the 2024 regular season or the playoff schedule. In the previous year, exact dates were finalized shortly before Christmas, and it is probable that a similar timeline will be followed this year.

To give an idea of dates for your calendar, the 2023 regular season commenced on February 25, and it’s plausible that the 2024 edition (the 29th in MLS history and the 46th overall) may begin around the same period – potentially on the last weekend of February, with Saturday, the 24th, being a potential date for the inaugural match.

However, there is also a chance that the upcoming season might kick off a bit earlier, perhaps in early to mid-February. We will provide more details as soon as the complete schedule and start/finish dates are officially confirmed.