Here's an item that potentially puts a wrinkle in the traditional rite of passage in stocking an MLS expansion team's roster: The expansion draft may no longer be used.
That's the word from Yahoo's Kristian Dyer, who reports a "highly placed league source" claims the league is seriously discussing the alteration.
In lieu of the expansion draft, where existing teams can protect a certain number of players from selection and have the ability to trade with the expansion team(s) to prevent selection of an unprotected player, used since 1998, the source says the change may be to give expansion teams more international slots and allocation money.
It's an interesting report, and nobody said the league has to do things the same way all the time (nobody ever says that about MLS, really).
But if the expansion draft was eliminated, the upcoming expansion clubs that currently don't have existing teams, including Atlanta United FC and LAFC, would face a tricky proposition in stocking their rosters.
The issue for recent MLS teams is not in signing a big name or three, it's in finding enough MLS veterans to be successful right away. While busting up existing teams can be a risk, it's going to be much harder to find good MLS players without a draft format. That's not to say that the current system can't be better, but having (relative) carte blanche to pick off players is much easier than wheeling and dealing allocation money and international slots.
If the expansion draft is no longer going to be used, then expansion teams will need, more than ever, to hire people who understand MLS and MLS value running the show. If not, then savvy MLS front offices will savage the expansion teams and they will be in worse position than Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake in 2005.
And for a team like LAFC, having an expansion season with three or four wins would be a disaster. So we'll see if the system changes moving forward, and if it does, how expansion teams cope with it. Stay tuned!
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