July 1 came and went yesterday and what was supposed to be a good date for all MLS players wasn’t so special for some.
July 1 is the date MLS contracts become guaranteed, meaning a player can rest assured knowing they will earn their salary and not be waived. In other words, if you make it to that date, then you are safe.
Only that isn’t the case for everybody.
One understandable exception is the case of injured players. MLS teams cannot waive a player who is recovering from an injury so injured players also do not have their contracts guaranteed on July 1. A player must recover and be able to pass a physical after the July 1 deadline, at which time a team can choose to waive a player.
The second exception is less known about and more harsh for MLS players. According to MLS rules, teams are allowed to re-work contracts with up to two players to end the date of when their deals become guaranteed. Players are generally approached with a "take the new guarantee date or we will cut you" ultimatum and have to make the tough choice between staying in MLS without job security or moving on. Most players choose to stay.
So why does this go on? It is done to give teams more wiggle room ahead of the summer transfer window. By extending the date of a few players, it allows them to keep players around a few extra weeks until the reinforcements arrive without remaining on the hook for the remaining salaries of those players.
It sounds like something the MLS player’s union should fight against and the union did in fact work to get the two-player limit per team rule implemented. Before that, teams could extend even more players, rendering the deadline meaningless.
In other words, just because your favorite fringe player or young player wasn’t waived yet doesn’t mean he won’t be in the coming weeks. It’s the harsh reality of professional sports and life in MLS.