TFC Republic Weekly: December 11-17

The MLS trade window opens on Monday and Toronto FC could be an active participant as it needs to trim its roster this off-season.

TFC Republic Weekly: December 11-17

Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, an email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday.

This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC, and also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.

So, without further ado...

MLS trade window opened on Monday

Following a three-month roster freeze period, the MLS's trade window opened today at 9:00 a.m. ET. 

What that means is MLS clubs can begin tweaking and making changes to their rosters by conducting trades with other teams from across the league.

Last year's trade window was only 48 hours in length because team rosters had to be locked in before the expansion draft for St. Louis City SC. Because there isn't an expansion draft this year there is not a 48-hour constraint on the trade window. That means teams will be able to make trades with each other until the MLS primary transfer window closes in April.

As far as Toronto FC goes, you can expect it to be an active participant in the MLS trade market. 

There are currently 22 TFC players who are contractually guaranteed for the 2024 season. Keep in mind that the MLS roster limit is 30 players, so if Kosi Thompson returns on loan from Norwegian club Lillestrøm SK this month (there's a possibility of a permanent transfer), that'll make it 23 players signed for next season, with only seven roster slots left open.     

GM Jason Hernandez is going to have to move some players out this off-season if he wants to rebuild the roster and make TFC a competitive side in 2024. One of the ways he is expected to dump players off the current squad is via trades with other teams for assets, such as draft picks, General Allocation Money and international roster slots. 

“Over the summer we were able to make a couple of moves that increased our flexibility going into the off-season. The reality is we do still have quite a few guaranteed contracts [going] into 2024. The expectation is that not everybody will return. …. You can’t finish [at the] bottom of the table and expect there not to be changes,” Hernandez said last month.   

Also this week the, the MLS year-end waivers process begins, as does MLS free agency. The first stage of the MLS re-entry process also takes place this week.

Reader mailbag: Sebastian Giovinco saga at TFC thankfully comes to an end
This romantic notion that the Italian can come back and revitalize Toronto FC is fairy tale stuff and not grounded in reality.

Sebastian Giovinco won't be back with TFC in 2024

In case you missed it, Sebastian Giovinco posted a message on his personal Instagram account on Saturday confirming that Toronto FC won't be signing him to a contract for the 2024 MLS season.

“I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have so many loyal fans and supporters who have continuously inspired me,” Giovinco wrote

“Your faith in me was my motivation during my relentless and successful training in recent months to compete at the highest level for TFC. Despite the club’s current decision not to consider me for the 2024 season, I remain committed to TFC and Toronto, the city I call home. 

“Mille grazie [a thousand thank yous] to all my supporters.” 

Giovinco started working out on his own at Toronto FC’s training facilities in August and shortly after joined the team during its training sessions. It looked as though the MLS outfit was going to sign Giovinco a short-term deal but in mid-September interim coach Terry Dunfield revealed the club wasn't going to add the Italian to its squad before the MLS roster freeze deadline. 

When TFC Republic asked GM Jason Hernandez about Giovinco's potential future at the club, he hinted that it didn't look very good for the Italian. 

"We're due to have a discussion with Seba about what lies ahead. Myself, John [Herdman] and Bill [Manning] are going to come together to have a discussion and talk that through and make sure it's done in all the right ways that take his thoughts and his interests in mind but also us at the club," Hernandez said at last month's year-end media availability. 

Giovinco is Toronto's all-time leading scorer with 83 goals in all competitions, four ahead of Jozy Altidore. The Italian still has a home in Toronto and clearly has a close connection to both the city and the club. But this romantic notion that Giovinco, even at a reduced contract and at his age (he turns 37 next month), could come back to TFC and revitalize the club is fairy tale stuff and not grounded in reality.  

Lest we forget, he has only scored one goal over the previous three years. He played in two competitive matches in 2022 with Sampdoria and his last taste of game action was 21 months ago. His previous appearance before that came in May 2021. This idea that Giovinco is still a better option than TFC's crop of underperforming forwards is pure fallacy given his lack of competitive minutes over the past two years.

This is pro sports. There's no room for sentimentality and nostalgia. Giovinco is not the same player he once was, and Toronto FC has rightly moved on. 

Alonso Coello gives Toronto FC hope in aftermath of Michael Bradley’s retirement
The young Spaniard impressed in his rookie MLS campaign and could be TFC’s long-term replacement for their former captain.

Important off-season dates to remember

With TFC coming off their worst ever campaign, this off-season is going to be one of the most important in club history. Club management will have to make a series of moves in order to overhaul the roster and set things right for the 2024 season. 

With this in mind, here are some important dates to circle on your calendar.

Dec. 11 is when the MLS trade window opens up again after a three-month freeze. MLS clubs can start tweaking their rosters by making trades with other teams across the league. 

The MLS year-end waivers process opens on Dec. 12 and runs until Dec. 14. The waiver process pertains to players whose options were not exercised and who are not eligible for free agency or the re-entry process. The waiver selection process is determined by the reverse order of the final standings in the 2023 MLS season, taking into account the playoffs. Once the end-of-year waivers process is over, players who have not been selected can be signed by any MLS team on a first-come, first-served basis.

MLS free agency opens on Dec. 13. There are a number of high-profile players across the league who are out of contract and free to sign with the other clubs. Players who are at least 24 years old and have at least five years of MLS service are eligible for free agency. Last year, TFC delved into the free agent pool by signing veteran centre back Matt Hedges and goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Will they go after more free agents this year? "The plan 100 per cent is to continue to utilize [the free agency] lever," GM Jason Hernandez said. To read the full list of potential free agents this off-season, CLICK HERE.

The MLS re-entry process kicks off on Dec. 14 with stage 1, while stage 2 is scheduled for Dec. 21. The re-entry process is one of those convoluted MLS player mechanisms that every other league in the world doesn't use. Essentially, it applies to players who are out of contract (or had their option declined) and are not eligible for free agency. Instead, such players go into the re-entry process, where they are eligible to be selected by another MLS team. Last year, TFC selected Tomás Romero and Víctor Vázquez. There's a lot more nuance to the league's re-entry process, so if you want to read more about it, CLICK HERE

The MLS SuperDraft is on Dec. 19. TFC has the No. 1 overall pick, so it'll be interesting to see if they use the selection on a promising NCAA prospect or trade it away for a player or valuable assets. 

Stories to look out for at TFC Republic

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is only 19, but it feels like he's been at Toronto FC forever and that we have yet to see him fully break out. In 2023, the young Canadian posted career highs in a single season for MLS appearances (22), starts (11) and minutes (1,146) – that's more minutes he played combined in the last two campaigns. But he has yet to score his first MLS goal and hasn't yet come close to reaching his full potential. How does he feel about how his 2023 season went? Is he on the right career path at TFC? I recently chatted one-on-one with Marshall-Rutty about this and much more. Look for my feature story on the teenager in the coming days. 

Other stories that will be published later this week include:    

  • My random thoughts column on Toronto FC.  
  • My "MLS rules explained" feature on the league's free agency policy.
  • A feature story on TFC's potential MLS free agent targets.
  • My "MLS rules explained" feature on the league's year-end waivers process.
  • My "MLS rules explained" feature on the league's re-entry process.
  • We'll have an in-depth news report if Toronto selects a player during the first stage of the MLS re-entry process on Thursday.
  • My feature story on 17-year-old defender Lazar Stefanovic, a TFC 2 standout and one of Toronto FC's brightest prospects.
  • The latest instalment of our "TFC flashback" history series. 
  • The latest instalment of the reader mailbag. 
  • And much more!

TFC Republic mailbag

TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.

I'll answer the best questions submitted to me by TFC Republic readers, so feel free to drop me an email at You can also reach out to me via Twitter and Facebook.

(Top photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)

TFC Republic has a comments section! At the very bottom of every story, there is a feature where you can post your comments, so be sure to share your thoughts and views.