With the creatively-named Atlanta United and Minnesota United both set to enter Major League Soccer’s ranks in 2017, it’s time to do another Expansion Draft— mark your calendars for December 13th, three days after the MLS Cup Final between Toronto and Seattle.
Each of MLS’s 20 teams may name eleven players that are exempt from selection by Atlanta or Minnesota, who will each have the opportunity to pick up to five players. This year, any club that has a player selected will be removed from consideration for the rest of the draft.
For reference, NYCFC and Orlando City were both permitted to select ten players each in the 2014 Expansion Draft, and the Bronx Blues took two players each from New England (Patrick Mullins, Tony Taylor) and Real Salt Lake (Ned Grabavoy, Chris Wingert).
For a complete rundown of this year’s Expansion Draft rules, CLICK HERE.
(One detail in this somewhat confusing process is particularly relevant to New York City FC fans: all players set to remain in the Generation Adidas program in 2017 are automatically exempt from selection. That means Jack Harrison is strictly off-limits to these pedestrian Johnnies-come-lately.)
With so many roster departures in the Five Boroughs since NYCFC’s bleak, rather pathetic exeunt from their first MLS Cup Playoff, eleven players feels like quite a lot to protect: if Frank Lampard and Andoni Iraola were still around, they’d be on the protected list. That’s not he world we live in, of course. Instead, if we really had to set a full eleven aside, this is who we’d choose:
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this article went live, NYCFC announced the signing of Sean Okoli. We’ll gladly sub him in for Ethan White on our protected list.
THE DESIGNATED PLAYERS
1) David Villa
2) Andrea Pirlo
GUYS WHOSE OPTIONS WERE PICKED UP
3) RJ Allen
4) Frederic Brillant
5) Eirik Johansen
6) Ronald Matarrita
7) Tommy McNamara
8) Khiry Shelton
THE TWO DUDES THAT GOT NEW CONTRACTS
9) Mikey Lopez
10) Maxime Chanot
THE NEW HOTNESS
*11) Sean Okoli
I know, I know. Ethan White isn’t all that good. But he’s just entering what should be his athletic prime, doesn’t make nutty wages, and — most importantly — NYCFC chose to give him a totally new contract. We’re gonna go ahead and trust Vieira and Cladio Reyna on this. Even if our hearts are begging us not to.
Consequently, here’s who’d be unprotected, keeping in mind that MLS franchises still technically own the transfer rights of players whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the year, and even still own them after they expire if those players aren’t free agents! I mean... who the fuck is Jean-Marc Bosman, anyway?
Indeed, Rawls had his contract option exercised and 2016 loanee Gomez was officially purchased from Trinidadian side W Connection. We’re banking on the likelihood that neither will be targeted in the Expansion Draft.
We know that Hernandez, Martinez, and Taylor will not be back with NYCFC in 2017 in any event, given that their options weren’t picked up. But the most interesting name on our unprotected list is Mikkel Morgenstar Pålssønn Diskerud. Would one of these two n00b franchises take a flier on the Mix Master, assuming he was willing to accept wages noticeably lower than the $761,250 he made each of these last two years in the Five Boroughs?
Without that concession, the odds are long that Mix remains in MLS.
Perhaps the biggest wild card of this bunch is Diego Martinez, the former River Plate fullback who got scarcely a look this year— when Ronald Matarrita wasn’t available due to injury, Patrick Vieira usually opted for RJ Allen at left back and a series of over-matched center-halves on the right.
But Martinez has some game, some youth (he’s 24,) and a contract that isn’t odious if you’re willing to hand him a few starts (he made $125,000 this year). Given who we tend to think of when we think of “expansion players” — guys like Hernandez, Grabavoy, Wingert, Andrew “The 4 Train” Jacobson — Martinez might turn out to be smart money for Atlanta or Minnesota. Hey, Patrick Mullins was left unprotected by New England in 2014— he didn’t end up sticking around in New York City, but the kid is killing it now.
This is all of a piece: like the lottery, you might just strike it rich. Why not give it a go?
Have you caught Expansion Draft fever yet? For all the latest from Expansionland, check out two of our cousins on the SB Nation Soccer network: E Pluribus Loonum for Minnesota, and Dirty South Soccer for Atlanta.