As the playoffs progress, more and more teams are ending their seasons and turning their full focus to 2024. The first step for all of those teams is to announce their contract decisions: Which options to pick up or decline, who to open negotiations with, and more.
Here’s where every offseason team stands. We’ll keep updating this post as teams announce their roster decisions and what it all means.
- Contract options declined (6): Harrison Afful, McKinze Gaines, Chris Hegardt, Pablo Sisniega, Jan Sobocinski and Adrian Zendejas
- Out of contract (1): Derrick Jones
Charlotte FC kicked off their offseason by moving on from several squad players, including defender Harrison Afful, winger McKinze Gaines and midfielder Derrick Jones. Jones is likely to have options in free agency.
The club also moved on from center back Jan Sobocinski, who was signed as a rising Poland youth international ahead of the club’s debut season in 2022. He didn’t quite make the cut in MLS.
Winger Justin Meram, who arrived in a midseason trade from Real Salt Lake, is out of contract but in talks about a new deal for 2024.
Charlotte, after making the playoffs this year despite dealing with the Anton Walkes tragedy in preseason, are looking to take another step forward in 2024, so the club will be busy this winter. It seems likely that designated player striker Karol Swiderski will return to Europe, provided an acceptable offer arrives. Charlotte also could look to move on from fellow DP Kamil Jozwiak, meaning they could have two DP spots open this winter.
Charlotte FC’s path forward after their first postseason appearance
Missing the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural season in 2015, NYCFC embarks on another offseason of change; The club’s 2023 season saw it transition even further from their 2021 MLS Cup-winning squad, with only a few key pieces remaining.
After announcing a statement of support for head coach Nick Cushing, NYCFC declined options on seven players, most notably left back Braian Cufré, winger Matias Pellegrini and midfielder Alfredo Morales.
The decision to move on from Morales, in particular, was clearly a difficult one.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Alfredo for playing a key role in helping us win our first piece of silverware in 2021, and to all the departing players for their professionalism and contributions to the club,” sporting director David Lee said in a statement. “I hope that we will one day see many of them back in our organization in some capacity.”
Morales, 33, made 86 appearances with NYCFC. Pellegrini, 23, was Inter Miami’s first signing once upon a time, for a whopping $7 million fee. Cufré, 26, was a key starter at left back but was on loan from Mallorca. NYCFC declined his purchase option.
Both goalkeepers, Luis Barraza and Matt Freese, had their options picked up. Barraza started 24 games, Freese 10. That battle will be one to watch again in preseason.
NYCFC doesn’t have any DP spots open, as they’re currently filled by Thiago Martins, Santi Rodriguez and Talles Magno. However, the club should have flexibility under the cap to make a couple of decent swings. Pending what happens with Thiago Andrade (on loan at Athletico Paranaense through December), they’ll have another U-22 Initiative slot as well.
What comes next for NYCFC
No surprises here for Inter Miami, which was the first team to announce end-of-season roster decisions. The big-name departure is Josef Martinez, but it was a foregone conclusion they’d be moving on from the Venezuela international after one year.
It wasn’t even a bad season for Martinez, per se, but his contract hit ($4.39 million in guaranteed compensation, according to the MLSPA) was untenable for his production and Miami’s needs. This certainly accelerates the probability that Miami brings in Luis Suarez this winter. It would make no sense to keep Leo Campana, Martinez and Suarez on the roster, assuming that last name gets over the line.
Miami exercised contract options on Ian Fray, Cole Jensen, Robbie Robinson, Ryan Sailor, Lawson Sunderland and Robert Taylor. All of those decisions were straightforward, with all players on cheap deals and taking up lower roster spots (and, in Taylor’s case, playing legitimate key minutes).
Expect Miami to use cap space to push for Suarez and add another attacking piece, one that can play wide or centrally, as well as more veteran MLS experience to add to the core.
The only surprising point of Miami’s offseason thus far is that Chief Soccer Officer Chris Henderson still has no new contract, with his current deal expiring this winter. The longer that goes, the more worrying it’ll be for fans (and the more other MLS teams with CSO openings will be calling).
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(Photo: Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)