Sitting in the visitors locker room at Red Bull Arena on Thursday night, Graham Zusi reflected on Sporting Kansas City's 2014 season moments after it ended with a 2-1 loss in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round.
"It's been a long year, a very long year...but I wish it could go longer."
For the first time since the club was known as the Kansas City Wizards, the offseason has started in October and the clock now counts down toward 2015. The team's 20th season will offer no shortage of storylines -- a move to the Western Conference, two expansion clubs, new national TV agreements and a re-vamped MLS identity -- but first let's focus on the precursor to the preseason.
What To Watch For: Offseason
- MLS Cup Playoffs (Nov. 1 - Dec. 7). Sporting KC is out, but the verdict is in: this postseason is off to a tremendous start. Controversy (and a star playmaker suspended) in Dallas. Late-game heroics by an MVP candidate in New York. The Conference Semifinals kick off tomorrow and four of the eight teams remaining are seeking their first ever MLS Cup. Or will it be Landon Donovan going out on top? Follow it all on MLSsoccer.com.
- Expansion Draft (Dec. 10). Newcomers Orlando City SC and New York City FC will stock their rosters as each gets to pick a total of 10 players from the existing 18 clubs in MLS. Sporting KC can protect up to 11 players, while Homegrown (Jon Kempin, Kevin Ellis and Erik Palmer-Brown) and Generation adidas (Mikey Lopez) players are automatically protected. In 2011, Montreal selected Seth Sinovic with their final pick before trading him back to KC in exchange for Davy Arnaud and allocation money.
- Waiver Draft and Re-Entry Process. Sporting KC will have the ninth overall pick in each of these drafts, used to pick up players who's club have not exercised their option or players who have been placed on waiver. Sporting KC passed in both stages of the re-entry process in 2013, however D.C. United snagged Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell and Fabian Espindola as key pieces in their worst-to-first turnaround.
- Dispersal Draft. Major League Soccer announced on Monday that Chivas USA has ceased operations, effectively immediately, and that MLS will conduct a Dispersal Draft of the Chivas USA roster in the near future. It's been more than a decade, but Sporting Legend Preki spent his final four seasons in Kansas City thanks to the 2002 Dispersal Draft when the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny folded.
- MLS Player Combine. This January event is annually held in Florida and features the top prospects from the college ranks along with select youth internationals. Every MLS club's technical staff will be in attendance to scout, test and meet potential picks for the...
- MLS SuperDraft (Jan. 15). Sporting KC currently hold two first round picks -- the team's natural selection (No. 11 overall) and New England's natural first round pick (TBD, c'mon Columbus!) as part of the Teal Bunbury trade earlier this year -- plus the No. 29 overall pick in the second round (due to the Michael Thomas trade in 2013). Seven players on the team's active roster were acquired through the SuperDraft, including Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer.
- 2015 Schedule Release. MLS will play more games than ever before in 2015 -- all 20 teams playing a 34-game regular season -- and supporters can start circling dates on the calendar once the fixture list is made public (last year it was Nov. 25). Will a trip to Yankees Stadium be in the works against David Villa and Frank Lampard? Will Orlando City SC and Kaka come to the Soccer Capital of America?
- International Dates. Martin Steuble started in the Phillipines 3-0 win over Nepal today in Doha, Qatar in what could be the first of several international matches for Sporting KC players in the next 30 days. The Phillippines will next face Cambodia (Nov. 14), Laos (Nov. 22), Indonesia (Nov. 25), and Vietnam (Nov. 28). The U.S. Men's National Team will face Colombia (Nov. 14) and Ireland (Nov. 18) next month, while Honduras takes on Japan (Nov. 14) and China (Nov. 18).
- Roster Revamping. Bookmark the transaction trackers on SportingKC.com and MLSsoccer.com as player personnel decisions will be made entering 2015. Six players have already announced their retirements and the incoming class has several names of interest for Sporting KC supporters, highlighted by Kei Kamara's return to Columbus.
- SKC Academy. The youngest goalkeeper to play in MLS this year? Sporting KC homegrown Jon Kempin. The youngest field player to play in MLS this year? Sporting KC homegrown Erik Palmer-Brown. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter and Instagram to track the club's youth development teams (ranging from under-12 thru under-18) with an eye for the next homegrown signing.
- CBA Negotiations. The five-year collective bargaining agreement (the contract which sets basic terms and conditions of employment for all MLS players) between the MLS Players Union and Major League Soccer is set to expire. Similar to negotiations between the Professional Referee Organization and the Professional Soccer Referees Association earlier this year, the prospect of a strike or lockout exists.
- Sporting Style. Keep an eye on shop.sportingkc.com and @SportingStyle on Twitter for holiday specials on Sporting Kansas City and Sporting Club merchandise. Cyber Monday is exactly a month away!
- What'Cha Got? (Nov. 23). Graham Zusi is one of six MLS participants -- three from the East, three from the West -- in this driving competition that features TUDOR United SportsCar Championship driver Townsend Bell. The series, sponsored by Continental Tires, sees the MLS players race a Lamborghini against the clock and airs as a two-and-a-half minute weekly segment during MLS coverage on ESPN2 and ESPN FC.
- The Truce (Dec. 26). The 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce during World War I will be commemorated with a 3v3 soccer tournament on Memorial Hill and an EPL watch party inside the National World War I Museum. For the second straight year, the KC soccer community is invited to come together for this one-of-a-kind Boxing Day event. Click here for more details.
- Collegiate Championships. Sporting Kansas City's state-of-the-art facilities will be put to good use when they welcome many of the best amateur athletes in the country to Kansas City. The 2014 Big 12 Soccer Championship will take place Nov. 5, 7 and 9 at Swope Soccer Village, which is also the site of the NCAA Division III Men's and Women's Soccer Championships from Dec. 5-6. Plus, Sporting Park will host the NCAA Division II National Football Championship on Dec. 20.