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Assessing and panicking over possible MLS Expansion Draft scenarios

Remember expansion drafts?

MLS: Atlanta United FC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

And in short, I was afraid.

Alright, we’ve got some time before the opening of the Benz. Rob wrote a piece about how we shouldn’t panic. But what this post presupposes is, (Owen Wilson voice), what if he didn’t?

Would anyone like to join me in a panic? It’s a good way to get the juices flowing. I recommend panic as a good icebreaker if you’re ever at an offsite work retreat or an industry conference. Anyhow, you know how we were an expansion team and we got to pick 5 players from other MLS teams in an expansion draft to round out our roster and also remember how LAFC are an expansion team next year and O H M Y GOD who are they going to take from us?

Please note that I have no clue if there will be an expansion draft for LAFC ahead of 2018. They have no expansion partner to beat up on like we did, and Atlanta and Minnesota used most of the expansion picks to convert players into GAM and TAM anyhow, so they may just give them more GAM and TAM. GAM and TAM. TAM and GAM. But if they don’t just give them GAM and TAM, and instead they let them pick 5 players in an expansion draft using the same rules as last year, here is a list of players, from which Atlanta United would have to choose 11 to protect. I’m removing Homegrowns such as Carleton and Goslin, and Generation Adidas’ like Miles Robinson, per the 2017 expansion draft rules:

Remember: you only get to protect 11 of them, and LAFC can probably take only 1 of the players left unprotected. If an unprotected player is drafted by LAFC, you get $50K of GAM from the league. Not a bad ransom for Chris McCann coming off the books... (I like being anonymous).

So if it’s me picking players, I’m conscious of a couple things. First and foremost, if a player has a big salary and he’s not starting for Atlanta United, I consider not protecting him. LAFC is going to want to sign big names their way, and by that i mean in a hilarious and embarrassingly dramatic manner involving serious apparel. I doubt they’re gonna take McCann and take a max budget charge plus spend TAM to buy his excess wages down to the max. What they might like instead are some good players that they can slot into their 4 reserve slots ($53K salaries and around there) or 4 Supplemental Slots (think $65K-$75K) and therefore not count them against their salary cap. As Darren Eales has pointed out before, these are the spots where clubs that have established academy systems stash their homegrown prospects — homegrown prospects that expansion teams often do not have flowing through the pipeline yet. So without further ado, here’s who I would protect:

So yea you know? Asad and Garza. They’re on loan in Atlanta from Velez Sarsfield and Tijuana respectively, and I’ve got them hanging in the wind above. But how would this work exactly? If LAFC selected Garza, wouldn’t we just say, “Greg? Greg who? We don’t have an employee by that name. You’ll have to talk to Tijuana,” and then we’d ring up Tijuana (who has his contract) and be like “look, you guys. C’mon. I’ve got a deal for you and it involves a) not talking to LAFC and b) this thing called GAM... No? You haven’t heard about it, well it’s basically each team has a budget of...” [the sound of Tijuana snoring].

My point is not that GAM has any value to teams outside of MLS. It doesn’t. It’s more that I’m not really sure if LAFC can even sign these guys given the rights to their contracts are...complex. So in order to make room for Gressel and Larentowicz (yep sorry Sam), I left them off and trust that Will Farrell won’t figure it out.

And so of course, that brings us to the vulnerable ones, from which LAFC would potentially select one, and ATLUTD would receive $50K in GAM:

And if I were LAFC, hmm... I think sliding Alec Kann into a backup goalkeeper spot on $65K, the same thing we did before, is probably the best move. I should mention that I don’t know how many years anyone has left on their contracts, and it seems like that’s definitely a factor in these things. I would hate to lose Kann — I thought he performed very well as the starter, and he’s an absolute treasure to have as a backup. But expansion drafts are tricky. Perhaps LAFC would ransom him back to us for the GAM we automatically receive from the league + Ambrose? Who knows.

Those are my half-considered thoughts. If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and also angrily tweet @dirtysouthsoc, unless you are a fan of another MLS team and you stumbled your way over here, in which case you should yell at this guy.

Expect more forward-looking 2018 roster-related panicky takes in the future. I have them. In the mean time, I’m on twitter @tiotalfootball.