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A Road Map to the Off-Season for Timbers Fan

Portland local Danny Mwanga was
the 1st pick in the 2010 SuperDraft.
As we head into the Christmas and New Years stretch I've begun to notice a few people here and there asking what's going to happen next for the Timbers. Who can blame them, really? After an exciting November (MLS Finals/Expansion Draft) and a good start to December (Re-Entry Draft stage 1/Kit unveiling) it's becoming all but expected for the off season to be quite an exciting time as we head into our first MLS season.

Still, since most Portlanders aren't all that familiar with the happenings of MLS, I figure it might be nice to outline just what exactly is coming up between now and the start of the MLS season in mid-March.

December

As we're already about half way through December, sadly, most of our festivities have come to an end. Our downtown team store opened, we've completed the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft and we now know what our 2011 Adidas kits look like. That's most of what we can expect as much of the team and staff at Timbers HQ will probably be taking the holidays off. Still, there is one more thing we have to cover before calling it quits for December: the Re-Entry Draft stage 2.

Okay, admittedly, stage 1 of the Re-Entry draft was boring. Only two of the 18 MLS teams chose players from the 35 players available. However, if I was a gambling man, I'd wager that stage 2 will be far more exciting. Here's why:

Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft is all about following the current contractual obligations of the players, but transferring to a new team. So, for example, an MLS team who picked up "player A" will still have to pay him his contractually obligated amount along with any pay raises due. Not a very promising notion if you are club with a strict salary cap. Stage 2, however, allows for teams to renegotiate players contracts to offer less, something particularly valuable given the league strict salary cap and the fact that veterans can often be more expensive, yet slower.

Stage 2 of the Re-Entry draft occurs this upcoming Wednesday, December 15th. After that's done there won't be much, if any, movement until January...

January

January will be the biggest month for building our team, ever. Not only do we have the SuperDraft, but it's also when the international transfer markets open up to allow for players to move in and out of most leagues around the world, particularly leagues in Germany, Spain, England, Italy and France.

Up first in January we'll have the SuperDraft. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the SuperDraft, I'd suggest checking out the Wikipedia page on it. To sum it up succinctly, it's basically a draft for new players coming into the league, including graduating seniors from some of the nation's top soccer colleges (Akron, for example) and Generation Adidas players. Make no mistake, some of our league's best players have come from the SuperDraft.

The SuperDraft lasts 4 rounds in which case teams take turns picking players based on how the teams did the season prior. A team who did worse the prior season is allowed first picks over a team that did better. Portland (and Vancouver) get the first two picks of each round given that they are brand new teams to the league. So, at first, each team gets four picks for the entirety of the SuperDraft. You can see where each of our picks are via the link above.

Once the SuperDraft is over we'll head into the January 15th pre-season transfer window which lasts until April 15th. However, most of the international movement will occur between January 15th and February 1st due to other leagues restricting access after February 1st. Through this we'll gain a large amount of our international players. Each team gets 8 international slots, however, Portland traded LA for an additional spot which means we can count on having at least 9 internationals prior to heading into the March season kick-off.

Of course, the notable thing here is who our "big" player is going to be. Our FO recently hinted at bringing over a CM playing over seas from South America who we would build the team around. Of course, the team is still in negotiations so it may not pan out at all, but look for this 2-ish week window time period to have some big news concerning a major player announcement.

Finally, on January 20th, our team will officially begin training for the upcoming season. Not too interesting, but it's an important step in building towards the upcoming season. Teams needs to practice with each other, after all.

February

I'm not going to lie, February is going to be a slow month for our FO. Our primary team will be practicing and preparing for the upcoming season while our FO is actively gearing for the seasons start, mostly in marketing and schedule planning.

That's not to say there won't be any movement, however, expect a few transfers and possible additions to the team to be made, just don't expect much.

Luckily, February is a short month and soon we'll be heading into...

March

This is it. Sometime between March 7th and March 21st the season will officially kick off. Of course, this comes with its own niceties, like the opening of our new "as-yet-named" stadium (remember PGE won't be the stadium's name next season).

March also plays host the the leagues Waiver Draft, a minor draft that I liken to a garage sale. Basically teams will gather up all the players they no longer wish to pay and will put them on a table for sale to other MLS teams. It's really one the the leagues minor drafts, compared to the SuperDraft and Expansion Draft but some good players have been acquired prior so it'll be something to look forward to as we near March.

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And that's basically it. I'm sure I've forgotten something here or there, but those are the major points. Keep in mind that at any time between one of these premiere events something could happen. Many sports fans, no matter what sport, will often claim the off-season is fairly boring, however, given the state of our team right now and the transition it's going through, this particular off-season should prove to be very exciting, especially as we head into 2011.