How Orlando City Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Expansion Priority Draft

Player acquisition in Major League Soccer is a pretty unfamiliar and alien process to the average American sports fan. With the Expansion Priority Draft taking place on Wednesday, we thought this would be a great moment to go over each of the methods available to The Best Soccer Club On Earth for obtaining personnel over the next few months.

By opening day, Orlando City will have up to 30 players on the roster. From this roster, they will choose 18 active players on game days.

The first thing to understand about MLS and how it handles players is that the player contracts are not signed with individual clubs, but rather with the league itself. This is designed to keep expenses down and help the league survive financially. If a player is of a high enough caliber and wants to play for a specific team, then MLS does not interfere with where they want to play. Examples of this are Beckham, Henry and Kaka.

Tomorrow, Phil Rawlins and Adrian Heath will be on hand in New York to participate in a draw with representatives of NYCFC to choose the order in which each team will select from the following player acquisition options:

1. MLS Expansion Draft (Picks 1 or 2)
This is a draft to select players left unprotected by current MLS teams. This is the best chance to find players that fit Heath’s system that are proven MLS commodities on the field. With no strikers or keepers on the current roster, look to see a premium placed on those positions by the Lions. Orlando City will obtain 10 players via this method.

2. MLS SuperDraft (Picks 1 or 2)
This is the draft as American sports fans typically understand a draft, wherein players out of college are selected by teams. Orlando City and NYCFC will have the top two picks in this draft followed by the rest of the teams in MLS.

3. USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking (Picks 1 or 2)
Former MLS players who have experience in either USL Pro or NASL and sign a contract to return to MLS will go to the team who is number 1 or 2 if number 1 says they don’t want him and so on. Orlando and New York will be at the top of this order followed by the rest of the league.

4. Designated Player Ranking (Picks 1 or 2)
Kaká is a designated player but as stated earlier, this category does not apply to him because A. He has never played in MLS and B. He is obviously not a US Men’s National Team member. Players like Jermaine Jones who recently signed with MLS and wound up in New England would fall under this classification. Orlando and New York will determine who gets the first right of refusal should the league sign a US Mens’ National Team member or former MLS player returning to the league.

Additionally, each team in MLS may have up to 3 designated players whose salaries only count for a minimum figure towards the salary cap. The clubs are responsible for the salary portion that is not counted toward the cap. The league will pay up to $387,500 for the player (over 23 years of age) but the team that signed the player will be on the hook for the rest of that salary.

5. Allocation Ranking (Picks 1 or 2)
See Section 4 with respect to how this allocation ranking works.

6. Discovery Ranking (Picks 20 or 21)
If MLS as a league finds a new young player that signs a contract with the league, that player will go to the team who is number 1, or 2 if number 1 refuses him.

7. Waiver/Re-Entry Draft Ranking (Picks 20 or 21)
Just like any waiver, re-entry that you would imagine.

8. Lottery Ranking (Picks 20 or 21)
If a player is below any of the thresholds mentioned above and signs a contract with MLS they will go to the team who is number 1, or 2 if number 1 refuses him.

So there you have it. ENJOY YOURSELF.