For a lot of New York City FC fans, Wednesday, December 10 is a date they've circled on their calendars. That's when the MLS Expansion Draft takes place. New York City has the second pick, and there's been a lot of debate about what direction the team should take.
Do they prioritize youth? Do they aim to draft veteran players, full of MLS savvy? We participated in a mock draft, along with our fellow expansion brethren at The Mane Land. Obviously, that mock draft took place before the all-but-confirmed trade of defenseman Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake to the Portland Timbers.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. This week could see a lot of players moving from team to team, and that's before the expansion draft even begins. Let's break it down.
Today, there's a "half-day" trading window in Major League Soccer, running from 9 AM to 1 PM. While the trades aren't official yet, we're likely to see the Nat Borchers move we mentioned above, along with Orlando City's acquisition of GK Tally Hall (that's right, that trade actually hasn't happened yet) and defender/midfielder Michael Harrington going from Portland to Colorado.
Late last night, word came down that Orlando City would be picking up versatile Philadelphia Union midfielder/defender Amobi Okugo in exchange for $100,000 in allocation money. What's that, you ask? In Major League Soccer, allocation money represents an amount of money teams can use to sign players and/or allocate to their salaries to get under the salary cap.
At 1 PM, MLS rosters get frozen. Presumably, we'll start finding out soon after which players will be available for New York City and Orlando City to select in the expansion draft.
Wednesday is the hectic day. There's the expansion draft, obviously. After the draft, though, the trade window opens up again, which means we could more player movement. But wait, there's more: Wednesday is also the date of the Waiver Draft. Usually, not much happens there; this year, though, because of the Chivas USA dispersal draft (where New York City picked up MF Matt Dunn), teams will have another shot at selecting those players. New York City has the 20th pick here. I wouldn't expect them to use it, but you never know.
The trade window stays open all through Thursday, then slams shut at 5 PM. MLS rosters are then frozen through the first phase of the Re-Entry Draft.
Wait...there's another draft?! Yes, there is. The Re-Entry Draft is for those players whose contract options weren't picked up by their clubs. It's held in two phases.
Phase One takes place on Friday. Usually, there aren't a lot players picked here. That's because teams must sign players at their existing contract level or automatically trigger the built-in option in their contracts that their former club passed on. As with the waiver draft, New York City has the 20th pick. It's unclear if they'll draft anyone during Phase One; that's wholly dependent on who's available, and if the club believes they're worth paying at their current level. Last season, only six players were selected in Phase One.
Once that's over, the trade window opens once more, and stays open through December 17th. On Thursday, December 18th, Phase Two of the Re-Entry Draft takes place. That's normally the more active of the two phases, because clubs have more flexibility in negotiating contracts with the players they select. Last season, 22 players got picked. As with Phase One, New York City has the 20th pick.
So, to summarize: Wednesday is the big draft day, then Friday. Trading is allowed on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Orlando City has been active; New York City might be as well, since they have allocation money, as well as (some) players and draft picks.