The Major League Soccer expansion draft might become a thing of the past.
Discussion of eliminating the expansion draft has taken place at the committee level within MLS, according to a highly placed league source. The league has used the draft for every expansion team since 1998 with the inaugural seasons of the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion.
New York City FC and Orlando City SC, which just completed their first seasons in MLS, used the expansion draft to build their respective rosters. But with North America's top flight adding new teams every couple of seasons, the talent pool from existing clubs is becoming diluted. The time may have come to find a new way to build expansion team rosters.
"[The] league would probably expand [the] number of foreign slots and increase allocation money for expansion teams," the source said.
Allocation money and international slots are perhaps the most useful mechanisms for team building. Both Orlando City and NYCFC traded for extra international slots to fill out rosters that featured high-priced Designated Player signings like Kaka and David Villa. These marquee names could be augmented with allocation money to provide more room under the league's salary cap, or the allocation money could be traded.
This new proposal would give more versatility to an expansion team instead of having to select players from the proverbial scrap heap. Also, existing clubs would no longer have to make sacrifices. While top talent hasn't always been lost, the expansion draft has affected teams' depth and ability to develop talent. And with successful clubs qualifying for tournaments such as the CONCACAF Champions League, the loss of players can impact an MLS team's ability to compete outside the league's regular season.
MLS's next expansion franchise, Atlanta United FC, is set to begin play in 2017 as the league's 21st team, and Los Angeles FC is scheduled to debut in 2018. Minnesota United FC will either enter the league in 2017 or 2018, while Miami – backed by David Beckham and his ownership group – is still working on a stadium deal with the city and county.