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The 2012 MLS Expansion Draft, and How It May Affect Sporting KC

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Julio Cesar celebrates the fact that, even if he is left unprotected by Sporting KC for the upcoming expansion draft, he may be too old for Montreal to want to select him. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Julio Cesar celebrates the fact that, even if he is left unprotected by Sporting KC for the upcoming expansion draft, he may be too old for Montreal to want to select him. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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This is a post I wrote on September 10. Just thought it would be fun to repost it since the expansion draft rules were released. It's been revised to meet the rules of the November 23rd draft.

 

I was scouring the internet earlier today looking for some MLS content, and I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the arrival of the Montreal Impact as a new expansion team starting in 2012. I had actually forgotten all about the addition of a new team to MLS until I came across the article, and it got me wondering about the upcoming Expansion Draft that will be held for Montreal, and how it may affect our very own, Sporting Kansas City.  

After the jump we'll review the rules of the last MLS Expansion draft, and I'll select the eleven players I feel like Sporting Kansas City would be best served to protect.

• MLS Clubs may protect 11 players between their On-budget and their Off-budget Roster.  If the Player’s contract expires at the end of 2011, he will still be considered part of the club’s roster.

• If a club protects a player, it is not obligated to exercise the player’s option. It may renegotiate subject to terms of the new CBA.

• If a player retires, he will not be a part of the club’s roster, but his club will lose its right of first refusal to him should he ultimately decide to play.

• Players on a club’s Off-budget Roster, other than Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season or Homegrown Players on a Club’s Off-budget Roster, will be part of the expansion draft.

• Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season and Homegrown Players on a club’s Off-budget Roster at the end of the 2011 MLS Season are automatically protected (Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them).

• Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) that they may make available.  Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three, provided that if a club has three or fewer international players it may make available not more than one. (See table below).

• For purposes of this expansion process, for US-based clubs, any non-domestic US player would count as an International and, for Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, any non-domestic US player or non-domestic Canadian players would count as an International.

• Designated players are NOT automatically protected (i.e., clubs must choose whether to protect such players and if such player is not protected, he will be available for selection in the Expansion Draft). However, if the Designated Player has a no-trade clause in his contract, then his MLS club must protect him and he will count as one of the 11 players who may be protected.

• Once a player has been claimed from a team’s non-protected roster, that team is eliminated from the expansion draft and may not lose any further players.

• Rounds: The expansion draft will be 10 rounds.

 

So let’s review some of the more interesting bits of the expansion draft rules as they pertain to Sporting Kansas City.

All 18 teams currently in MLS are allowed to protect 11 of their players. Montreal will be unable to draft any of the 11 protected players during the 10 round Expansion draft. Montreal can select a maximum of two players from any MLS team, excluding the eleven protected players.

Designated players are fair game, so in the case of Sporting, they would have to protect their two designated players (Omar Bravo, and Jeferson), or risk losing them to Montreal. Let’s assume neither player has a no trade clause. Protecting both players would mean that Kansas City would only have nine remaining players they could protect. 

For the sake of simplicity I’m throwing out the developmental player rules, as I don’t think they’ll really apply. The kind of players Montreal will in all likelihood want will be players that are already established in MLS, and ready to contribute right away. Taking that in to consideration, Sporting Kansas City will still have some tough decisions to make on which 11 players they are willing to protect. The harsh reality is that Sporting will have to leave a few players unprotected that are currently playing vital roles for the team. 

 

So, I’m putting on my general manager cap as we speak. What am I looking for in regards to the 11 players I’ll be protecting? There are numerous factors to take into account, but here are a couple of the big ones for me;

 

1. Age- Ideally, I’d like to keep any player on our squad that is young and currently contributing to the success the team’s had this year. Older players are going to take a hit here, because even if they are contributing this year, they won’t be down the road, and thus their impact on the team is probably short term.

2. Impact on the team as of today- I want to protect as many of the players that are the core players on the squad. Core players are the players that Sporting absolutely has to have. If they are a vital key to the team’s success I want to do everything I can to keep that player in Kansas City. Unfortunately, age does factor into this equation though. 

3. Impact on the team down the road- I’m also looking for players that perhaps aren’t quite there yet, but players that are still young, and that have a good amount of potential. Players that I think can be very, very good down the road. This ensures that not only are we competitive now, but in the future as well. 

 

With all of that said, who are the eleven players I’d protect if I was Sporting Kansas City? In no particular order;


1. Omar Bravo- I understand I’m already breaking one of my rules. Rule #1. Bravo is already 31 years old, which means his physical abilities will be heading south at any time now. In fact, they’ve probably already started to decline to a degree. But I can’t deny the impact that Omar has made on this team, and I would guess that he still has a couple of years left in the tank. In a way, Bravo is the true face of the Sporting Kansas City franchise. 

2. Matt Besler- He’s simply too young, and too good for me not to protect. Besler meets all three requirements I have. Throw in the fact that he’s a local hero, and Besler makes the final 11. 

3. C.J. Sapong- Not only has C.J. met the expectations that were placed on him when he was drafted in the first round of the MLS Superdraft, he has exceeded them. C.J. will very likely be a force up top for Sporting Kansas City in the years to come. 

4. Graham Zusi- Anyone who has read my Sporting Kansas City/ LA Galaxy match review knows just how highly I value Graham. He’s only 25, and should be a vital cog in the Sporting midfield for years to come. 

5. Aurelien Collin- I love everything about Collin’s game. He’s been very good for the team at the centerback position, and he provides an aerial threat on set pieces. He meets all three requirements. 

6. Chance Myers- Chance has finally had a break out campaign this year. The early stages of his career were mired with injuries, but he’s finally living up to his status as a #1 overall draft pick. I bank on Myers age, and the idea that he will continually progress as a player as my reasoning for protecting him. I also cross my fingers that he doesn’t spend the next few years  on the medical table. 

7. Teal Bunbury- He may not be the true face of the franchise yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually become that. Simply put, this is a pick based on age and potential. I can’t take the chance of letting Teal go. I know he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations most Sporting fans have placed on him, but the kid is only 21. He still has tons to grow, not only mentally, but physically as well. 

8. Kei Kamara- Kei has been Sporting Kansas City’s most consistent offensive threat this season. He’s also only 27, which means he still has a good number of years to be at the peak of abilities. There’s no way I leave Kei unprotected.

9. Seth Sinovic- I realize that I just named off most of the Sporting Kansas City defense, but Sinovic has been a gem this season. I’m guessing both New England, and Real Salt Lake wish they wouldn’t have let Sinovic walk.  He’s 24, and a local kid. Seth makes the cut. 

10. Roger Espinoza- I love Roger’s aggressiveness, and his non stop motor. True, Roger has to become a smarter player. He has to learn to pick and choose his spots instead of going 100 miles an hour at all times, but he’s still young, and I’m a firm believer that he’ll mature over time.

11. Soony Saad- This is strictly a rule #3 pick on my part. We haven’t seen much of Soony thus far with the log jam at the forward position, but the few times he has played he’s shown potential. He’s only 19 years old. He holds the record for most goals scored in high school history in the state of Michigan (172 goals) , as well as most goals scored ever by a Michigan University freshmen (19 goals). Realistically this is the decision most up for debate. I could definitely see placing Jimmy Nielsen here. At the end of the day youth and potential weighed heavily in my decision making. 

 

So there you have the eleven players I’d protect for the MLS expansion draft. Obviously there are a few players that didn’t make the cut that are important players on our team. Here’s a few of those players, and my reasoning for why I chose not to include them in the eleven;

 

1. Jeferson- It was hard not protecting one of my designated players, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel like Jeferson’s value was up there with the other 11 players I chose, for one reason or the other. One reason being that Jeferson is only here on loan. There’s a chance that even if he does turn out to be the play maker Sporting Kansas City envisions, his Brazilian club Vasco de Gama could decide to keep him after his loan deal with Sporting is over. 

2. Davy Arnaud- Man, this was tough. Davy has meant so much to the organization through the years. Honestly, it was between him and Omar Bravo for me. Obviously, both of their ages (they’re 31) played a big part. I suppose I just feel like Bravo is more important to the club right now. To any Sporting Kansas City fans reading this; please don’t burn down my house. I honestly did struggle with the pick. 

3. Julio Cesar- Two factors here. A) Age; Julio is 32, and B) the log jam at the CB position. Cesar’s been a very, very good player for us once he grew accustomed to the style of play in MLS, but having already protected Collin and Besler (who are both a lot younger, and play the same position), I just couldn’t justify locking up another spot on Julio. 

4. Jimmy Nielsen- Well, if you didn’t hate me after leaving Arnaud unprotected, then you surely hate me now. This was one of the toughest decisions to make. Jimmy has been so good for us, and he’s clearly a fan favorite. How could he not be? Honestly, age is the only thing that kept Jimmy off the list. He’s 34. I kept trying to find a way to justify protecting him, but at the end of the day I went with youth. Sporting Kansas City would no doubt take a hit with Jimmy gone, but I’d leave it up to my back four (Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic- all part of the eleven) to protect whichever goalkeeper might try to fill Jimmy’s large shoes. 


So now that you’ve seen the eleven players I would protect for the Expansion Draft if I were Sporting Kansas City, who makes your list? Feel free to leave a comment below with your eleven, and whether you agree with mine or not.