The MLS Expansion Draft is an unexpected treasure trove, so let's take a peek

Tyrone Mears
Tyrone Mears of the champion Sounders is available. (The Canadian Press via AP)

It had been two whole days since the 2016 Major League Soccer season ended. No, actually, it had been one whole day and scraps of two other days, not even making it 48 hours. Yet it was high time for the 2017 season to get underway on Monday.

Well, for the offseason maneuvering in the league’s many player distribution mechanisms to get started, anyway. The MLS’s 20 existing teams filed their lists protecting 11 players from Tuesday’s Expansion Draft, when the incoming Atlanta United and Minnesota United – or United², if you will – will get to select some free players.

This year, for the first time, the two newcomers will select just five players apiece, rather than 10. The other 20 teams can lose just one player apiece, meaning that once one of theirs is selected, the others are automatically safe. Half of the teams won’t lose anybody. As such, this is a diluted version of the Expansion Draft, but it will nevertheless give United² a chance to put some more pieces into place. Minnesota currently has three players under contract, while Atlanta has 14 – including highly touted Designated Player Johnny Almiron, U.S. youth national team mega-prospect Andrew Carleton and Premier League veteran Kenwyne Jones.

The list of names left unprotected on Monday made for captivating reading, but was a tad less impressive once you realize that an awful lot of the big names on there are either free agents within MLS or have already announced that they’re leaving the league. Which, of course, since this is MLS, leads to all sorts of other complicated scenarios.

Nobody will be selecting Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane or Frank Lampard. Because much as their names ring familiar, there’s no chance they’d be suiting up for either team.

There are several well-known national team names available, though, like the out-of-contract Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu. All would come at hefty price tags – Edu and Beasley earned in the $800k range in 2016, and Jones has made it clear he expects to get back into the seven-figure range – but would also add some name recognition to their new employers.

But the Expansion Draft isn’t usually where you bag the players you’ll be putting on your marketing materials. They’re where you pick up value-for-money starters and depth players. So it matters little that several DPs were left unprotected, since their salaries are such that nobody will touch them. A trio of forwards is the best example of this. The Portland Timbers’ Kennedy Igboananike, the San Jose Earthquakes’ Innocent Emeghara and the champion Seattle Sounders’ Nelson Valdez made $900,000, $1.3 million and $1.45 million guaranteed in 2016, respectively, yet produced one and one and zero goals.

So here are a few unprotected players we do like:


Clint Irwin, Toronto FC

Jeff Attinella, Real Salt Lake

Chris Seitz, FC Dallas


Chris Duvall, New York Red Bulls

Bobby Boswell, D.C. United

Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

Steven Beitashour, Toronto FC

Seth Sinovic, Sporting Kansas City

Kofi Opare, D.C. United

Tyrone Mears, Seattle Sounders FC

Jared Watts, Colorado Rapids


Baggio Husidic, LA Galaxy

Harry Shipp, Montreal Impact

Andreas Ivanschitz, Seattle Sounders


Alvaro Saborio, D.C. United

Alan Gordon, LA Galaxy

Dominic Oduro, Montreal Impact

Tosaint Ricketts, Toronto FC

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.