Major League Soccer has some terms that can be a bit intimidating to new fans as it relates to player aquisition. GAM (General Allocation Money), TAM (Targeted Allocation Money), DP (Designated Player). But one of the first terms every fan of a new team needs to learn is “Expansion Draft.” The 2019 MLS Expansion Draft will take place this evening. What is it? How does it work? And what does this mean for Inter Miami CF?
Prior Miami history
This will be the 13th Major League Soccer expansion draft, with the first one taking place back in 1997. It also involved Miami (Miami Fusion would kick off in 1998). The most notable players taken in that draft for Miami were Jeff Cassar (goalkeeper for 51 appearances before being dethroned by Nick Rimando), John Maessner (40 appearances), Wade Webber (35 appearances before a career-ending injury).
In a funny twist of historic fate, Nelson Vargas, who was the sixth pick of Miami Fusion and made 54 appearances for the side, was named first-team coach of The Miami FC on Monday.
— Gabriel Gabor (@MLSGabor) March 20, 2014
Why is Inter Miami CF picking first?
What’s the most you’ve ever won on a coin toss? For Inter Miami CF, that’s the first pick in the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft and the first pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.
Nashville SC elected to receive the first spot in the MLS Allocation Ranking Order. The Allocation Ranking List determines how select U.S. Men’s National Team players, elite youth U.S. National Team players, and some former MLS players returning to MLS join sides.
Expansion Draft process for newbies
If you’ve ever participated in a fantasy draft, you likely will very quickly pick up the Expansion Draft. It is a linear draft, meaning that Inter Miami will pick first in all of the five rounds. Three minutes are given for each selection, there are no timeouts or trades permitted during the draft. Once a player is selected from a team, that team is protected for the remainder of the draft.
The list of eligible players for selection was released by MLS over the weekend. It includes all teams, except for teams that FC Cincinnati selected players from during the expansion draft last year (FC Dallas, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps FC). Certain young players and designated players with no-trade clauses among the exempt from selection or were automatically withheld from the eligible lists.
Some names on the list to be aware of: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (yes, he’s on the list, but he’s not going to be picked as he’s heading back to Europe. Tim Howard (he is happily heading to retirement). Robinho (no, it may not be the one you think). Fabinho (no, it may not be the one you think). Juninho (no, it may not be the one you think).
One famous name that does jump off the list is that of Florentin Pogba. Florentin, Paul’s older sibling, came to Atlanta United from Turkish side Gençlerbirliği. The 29-year-old Guinean national made 13 appearances for Atlanta United in 2019, including a start in Atlanta’s U.S. Open Cup victory over Minnesota United.
According to Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald, other possible names include Brandon Vazquez, Ben Sweat, Tyler Miller, Mohamed El-Munir, Steven Beitashour and Lee Nguyen.
Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough’s experience with Atlanta United during their expansion period in 2016 has drawn a lot of focus in the build-up to the 2019 draft. However, if that is illustrative of anything, it might indicate Inter Miami fans shouldn’t become too close to the picks made on Tuesday. Mcdonough traded two of the five picks made in October 2016 by the end of December 2016. Only one, Mikey Ambrose, made at least 20 appearances.
Ultimately, there’s just too much uncertainty. But for fans of a team that have waited for more than half a decade for their opportunity to finally bloom, the one certainty — that players will be moving to a Miami-based MLS side tomorrow night, at least for a time — will be more than enough to celebrate.