The Major League Soccer Expansion Priority Draft took place on Wednesday afternoon at the KickTV office in New York City. Nice to see New York City FC continue to get preferential treatment from MLS.
I’m not trying to be the fun police here, but this event seemed like a bush-league atmosphere. First, Jimmy Conrad appears at a desk between NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis and Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am a huge Jimmy Conrad fan. I also thoroughly enjoy Jimmy’s Twitter and videos on KickTV. It just seemed like MLS wasn’t making a big deal about the occasion.
Whatever though – I enjoyed it as a fan of the league. It showed transparency by not holding this draft behind closed doors. Imagine the conspiracies if NYCFC somehow landed top priority in the Expansion Draft, SuperDraft, Allocation Ranking, and Designated Player Ranking.
Next, it showed two supporters – one from each participating club – putting envelopes in a bin that would be drawn from to determine who received the first pick in the Expansion Priority Draft. Okay then.
To top things off, the eight selections were on flash cards. #OnlyInMLS.
Just to recap, the eight selections (with descriptions via mlssoccer.com) were:
- MLS Expansion Draft – The expansion draft occurs whenever a new team enters the league. Each team gets to pick a total of 10 players from the existing clubs in the league. Since two teams are entering the league, Orlando and New York will take alternating picks. Existing teams can protect up to 11 players. Homegrown and Gen adidas players are automatically protected unless they are on the Senior roster.
- MLS SuperDraft – The SuperDraft is the process whereby all of the leagues teams get to pick players coming in from the college system. As expansion teams Orlando City and NYCFC will have the first two positions in the draft.
- USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking – NYCFC and OCSC are given priority ranking when signing players from USL PRO or NASL, subject to another MLS club’s right of first refusal.
- Designated Player Ranking – The Designated player ranking comes into play when two MLS clubs wish to negotiate the same player, not including returning U.S. Men’s National team players of a certain threshold.
- Discovery Ranking, Picks 20 & 21 – The Discovery Ranking is determined by average points per game during the current League season with the team with the lower points per game average earning priority over the team with higher points per game average.
- Allocation Ranking – The allocation ranking is used to determine which club has first priority to acquire a USMNT player who has signed with the league, or a player who returns to the MLS after playing abroad. Once a club uses it’s ranking to acquire a player, they drop to the bottom of the list. As new franchises, Orlando City and NYFC will take the top two spots in the allocation order. This does not include returning USMNT players above a certain threshold.
- Waiver/Re-Entry Draft Ranking – This ranking determines the priority order for picking up players whose club have not exercised their option, or players who have been placed on waiver by their club. Orlando City and NYCFC will take the bottom two positions in the order.
- Lottery Ranking – The lottery system is a weighted lottery which assigns Generation Adidas players and draft eligible players who were signed to the league after the MLS SuperDraft. The higher the ranking, the more chance the team will have of winning. Orlando City and NYCFC will take the bottom two positions in the order.
So Orlando City got the first pick and they selected the Expansion Draft, which will take place on December 10th – just three days after the MLS Cup Final. When asked why he chose the Expansion Draft first, Heath said “Well we think we’ve got some really good young players. What we don’t have is any MLS experience and we think with the Expansion Draft we will get one or two players that will help us straight away. It’s important for us to get some experience. Jason has been doing this for 17 years, so he knows all of the ins and outs.” Pretty good pick by Heath. Kaka is going to need some shiny new toys to play with that have MLS experience.
With the second pick, Kreis selected the Allocation Ranking. This is going to be extremely helpful for NYCFC. New York City is a lot more desirable (a.k.a. marketable) to play in than Orlando, though I would not complain about living in either city.
With Orlando City SC’s next pick, Heath picked the MLS SuperDraft. Orlando City fans on Twitter were starting to lift the MLS Cup after this selection. Is there going to be THAT big of a difference between the number one and number two selections in this year’s SuperDraft? If Orlando City SC and NYCFC have different needs at the time of the draft, then I really don’t think that it matters.
What happened next stunned everyone, including Conrad and Kreis. Kreis selected the Discovery Ranking with the fourth pick. Hold up, the what? Before Conrad can even finish describing what the Discovery Ranking is, Kreis interrupts with “I’ve made a mistake.” Kreis’ next mistake was showing his cards by revealing what he really wanted to pick: the USL PRO/NASL Player Priority. Todd Durbin, Executive Vice President of Competition and Player Relations, ruled that NYCFC could not change their pick. Never change, NYCFC.
Heath used the fifth pick to steal Kreis’ desired fourth pick. I haven’t recovered from laughing at the fourth pick to even break down this pick.
Kreis used the sixth pick to select the Waiver/Re-Entry Draft Ranking. This is essentially the ability to have the number one pick in free agency. Except it’s not like that at all because the two expansion teams get sent to the bottom of the order. So NYCFC has the 20th pick in free agency.
With Orlando City’s last pick, they selected the Lottery Ranking. Think Benji Joya.
NYCFC, with the final pick, was only left with the Designated Player Ranking. Think Jermaine Jones.
Was there really a loser in any of this?
If anything, this showed how each of the expansion teams wants to build their respective team.
NYCFC will be a more desirable place to play under head coach Jason Kreis, so having a higher priority in the Allocation Order and Designated Player Ranking will be important. The Discovery pick blunder is whatever. It’s not a secret that NYCFC will be getting youth players from their parent club – Manchester City.
Orlando City SC wants to build with young players, which is apparent with their number one priority in the Expansion Draft and SuperDraft. Orlando City SC is moving up from USL Pro, so they’re already familiar with the talent pool in USL Pro.
In the end, there was no winner and loser. Regardless of basically the entire World Wide Web declaring Orlando City SC the champions of the Expansion Priority Draft – both teams won because they selected what they value and what will help their respective team. Orlando City SC “winning” is all perception, hugely in part because of Kreis’ blunder.
Before the event ended, Conradinho asked each coach about their chances of replicating the 1998 Chicago Fire, who were the only team in MLS expansion history to win two trophies in their first season. Kreis mentioned that making the playoffs is the first goal because anything can happen. Heath countered with some top banter by saying “We think the fact that we’ve had a team for the last few years, and we’ve got a few pieces already, will help us [make the playoffs].” Rekt.