Analysis / Offseason Issues

Offseason Issues: The various drafts

Photo: Earl Gardner

In an ordinary offseason, MLS fans could be forgiven for losing track of the various drafts that the league holds. There’s the waiver draft, the re-entry draft, the SuperDraft — it’s enough to make you reach for a Yuengling draft to build a drinking game.

This year, there’s even more.

You get your bonus expansion draft, which pops up before new teams enter the league, in this case New York City FC and Orlando City Lions.

Then there’s that rarest of drafts: The contraction draft. Chivas USA is blessedly no more, and their players have to go somewhere. This is MLS, so of course the mechanism will be a dispersal draft.

So let’s take a look at those drafts, in the order they will take place, and break down what opportunities and challenges Philadelphia Union will face with each.

The Chivas USA dispersal draft
  • Date: Nov. 19
  • Description: A draft in which other MLS teams claim players under contract with Chivas USA.
  • Rules: MLS will hold a random weighted draw on Nov. 14 using an envelope method. The system will be weighted by giving the 2014 playoff clubs a single envelope and giving the non-playoff clubs two envelopes. The random selections will be conducted by an MLS league office representative until each club has been appointed a draft position. Striker Cubo Torres will be excluded from the draft.

Philadelphia will join other MLS clubs in picking over Chivas USA’s carcass to scavenge the few quality morsels available. Actually, that may be downplaying what’s available. If the Union draw a good spot in the draft order, they could acquire someone useful.

Here are the top options.

  1. Dan Kennedy, goalkeeper: You know this guy is No. 1 on any Union draft list. After all, you can never have too many good goalkeepers.
  2. Nigel Reo-Coker, midfielder: You can also never have too many holding midfielders. Jokes aside, Reo-Coker’s salary may scare off suitors, who may prefer to see if he’s willing to sign at a lower salary come Re-Entry Draft time.
  3. Marvin Chavez, winger: Chavez was unstoppable for San Jose a couple of years ago, but then he went all prima donna on everyone and got traded to Colorado and then purgatory, aka Chivas. At 31 years old, he may be a head case worth avoiding.
  4. Martin Rivero, attacking midfielder: Rivero turns 25 this week, but he’s still one of those players people talk about in terms of potential. He looked really good for Colorado after leaving his native Argentina, but he tore his ACL this year and has generally been unable to stay healthy in MLS. Philadelphia could be a good comfort zone for him, however, where he could play his way back to fitness as a backup to fellow Argentine Chaco Maidana.
  5. Nathan Sturgis, center midfielder: Sturgis seemed to finally break out in 2013 with Colorado as a box-to-box midfielder. Then Pablo Mastroeni replaced Oscar Pareja and sent his club on a nosedive that included a trade of Sturgis. The journeyman has played for seven teams in nine MLS seasons, but he is a quality player who could be a valuable depth option. (No, he’s not a pure defensive midfielder!)
  6. Thomas McNamara, midfielder: Another young player with some spark who tore his ACL last year. Someone will pick him.
  7. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, center back/right back: He’s young (22), athletic, and an occasional head case. Sounds like a winner. Chivas played him at right back at times, but center back is where this big guy belongs.
  8. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, center back: Seattle discarded him last year to Chicago, who in turn tossed him to Chivas. Philadelphia inquired about him early last season, but Hurtado isn’t worth what he’s paid.
  9. Bobby Burling, center back: Decent but slow center back. He can be starting quality if he has good players around him.

Best options for Philadelphia: Sturgis, McNamara, Rivero, Jean-Baptiste. Aside from Sturgis, these are all younger players with obstacles to overcome. But if the Union can get them at good salaries, it’s worth a roster spot. As for Sturgis, he showed that a good coach could put him in position to be one of the league’s better center midfielders, but he has a starter’s salary that will probably drive off Philadelphia. Don’t be surprised if Pareja tries to grab him for Dallas.

Or the Union could pick Dan Kennedy. That would be awesome.

The Expansion Draft
  • Date: Dec. 10
  • Description: Two expansion teams will choose players left unprotected by existing MLS clubs.
  • Rules: Each team protects 11 players. Generation adidas and homegrown players don’t have to be protected. Once a team loses a player, they can protect another one. The Union also likely have to protect at least three internationals, based on past draft rules. The draft lasts 10 rounds.

The Union may not have the most depth in the league, but they have quite a few players who would be of interest if left unprotected. And frankly, some of those players may want to get chosen, because a fresh start could do them wonders.

Here’s a look at the 11 players the Union will probably protect.

  1. Vincent Nogueira
  2. Chaco Maidana
  3. Sebastien Le Toux
  4. Amobi Okugo
  5. Carlos Valdes
  6. Ray Gaddis
  7. Andrew Wenger
  8. Maurice Edu
  9. Pedro Ribeiro
  10. Rais Mbolhi
  11. Sheanon Williams
  12. (Next player to pull back: Richie Marquez)

The big question is whether the Union will protect both right backs. If they don’t, one will get picked. Based on his recent contract extension and Jim Curtin’s open appreciation for him, Gaddis is likely to be on the protected list.

So will the Union leave Sheanon Williams unprotected so they can protect Brian Brown?

If they do, Williams will be picked. He is still just 24 years old and, when in form, one of the best in the league at his position.

How high are the Union on Brown? And can another team even select a player on loan?

If the Union are smart, they will protect Williams and figure out some roster mechanism for not needing to protect Brown. Even if they plan to move one of the right backs, they would be better off trading one for something in return instead of losing one for nothing. Brown is young and flashed some signs that he can net some goals, but Williams is a proven starter and a core part of this club.

Big names unprotected: Conor Casey and Brian Carroll are both out of contract. Each will probably be asked to return at lower salaries, but the Union are unlikely to protect either. Casey would be the bigger loss — the Union have defensive midfielders to spare — but the club wants to upgrade the position anyway and could let him go in the Re-Entry Draft. And there’s Zac MacMath, who will not be back with the Union next year unless Rais Mbolhi gets hit by a meteor.

Ineligible for draft: Andre Blake is Generation adidas. Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer and Cristhian Hernandez are homegrown players.

Likely selections: Austin Berry and Zac MacMath, unless they get traded before the draft, which the Union are almost certainly trying to do. Berry, a former rookie of the year, was a regular starter his first three years in the league before enduring a dramatic fall from grace. A return to form would give his new club a very good starting center back. As for MacMath, his ordeal has been well-documented. Each expansion club would be wise to take a 23-year-old former first round pick with more than 90 starts to his name who played much better this season than his stats indicate.

The Union have two others who could go too, particularly if MacMath and/or Berry get traded. Center back Richie Marquez had a very good season for Harrisburg, and Orlando will be very familiar with him. Finally, Mike Lahoud is a great depth option who is one of those solid people every smart coach likes to build a locker room around.

Probably hoping to get picked: Berry, Antoine Hoppenot, Aaron Wheeler. Hoppenot and Wheeler were John Hackworth guys. Jim Curtin had no use for either. Wheeler has the ability to be a quality starter, whether it’s at target forward or with a full offseason (and maybe a USL loan) spent at center back.

The Waiver Draft
  • Date: Dec. 10
  • Description: The end-of-season scrap heap for players who got waived.
  • Rules: Teams pick up out-of-contract players or players whose options were not exercised and are otherwise not eligible for the Re-Entry Draft. This draft goes in reverse order of teams’ finish in the standings.

This is the draft that nobody cares about. It is basically just a system for waivers that most other American sports leagues have, except it initiates anew at this particular point.

The Re-Entry Draft
  • Date: Dec. 12 (phase 1); Dec. 18 (phase 2)
  • Description: The MLS version of free agency.
  • Rules: Players who are out of contract with their current clubs are made available to other clubs through a draft if their current teams do not offer them a new contract with a comparable salary. The draft proceeds in two stages. If a team selects a player in the first stage, they are obligated to offer him a salary comparable to his prior year’s salary. Teams may freely negotiate with players selected in the second stage. For detailed rules, click here.

The Union could certainly lose someone in this draft, but they could also get someone. After all, this is how Conor Casey joined the Union from Colorado. D.C. United remade their back line last season by adding Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin through this draft, and it was a huge part of them winning the Eastern Conference championship.

We have no idea who will be available in this draft yet, so it’s too early to speculate. But we can certainly gauge who the Union could lose.

  1. Amobi Okugo: Okugo will not be made available in this draft, regardless of what he plans to do next season. The Union will make a qualifying offer that retains Okugo’s rights.
  2. Brian Carroll: Carroll will likely be available unless he agrees to renew with the Union at a significantly lower salary. He projects as a backup if he returns, so don’t be surprised if Carroll tests the waters. He could be a good back line shield for an expansion club with young center backs.
  3. Conor Casey: Look for the Union to try to retain Casey at a lesser salary. Look for him to be smart enough to agree to it.
The amateur draft (aka “SuperDraft)
  • Date: Jan. 15
  • Description: Typical amateur draft, like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB conduct. The draft will be held in Philadelphia.
  • Rules: Same old same old.

There is nothing super about this draft, OK? It’s just an amateur draft. That’s it! Stop calling it a SuperDraft.

Your preview consists of this:

The Union have the 10th pick in each round.

They should pick the best player available, maybe even make a trade or two.

This draft will be in Philadelphia.

Do not draft a goalkeeper in a house full of Philadelphia fans. It would be bad.


  1. Dan,
    Why would you protect Mo? His loan expires, his salary is $660k (to MLS, $1.2M total-ish). I’d dare OCFC to take him after dropping $7M on Kaka. NYCFC have already announced Villa/Lampard and would have to buck up another $250K for the third DP slot and then pay him that questionable salary and negotiating the transfer (or 6 month loan).

    If they haven’t dealt Zac, I’d protect him as he’s a chip. Of course whoever they get back for him would need to be protected unless they’re Ethan White types, HG’s buried on a roster.

    Brian Brown didn’t show enough to be protected. I get the young guys need minutes and it’s potential, but this team collects assets. He ain’t one.

    Also, is the SupahDraft really in Philly again? Is the Convention Center that good a deal? Cool.

    • Remember, expansion teams can agree to select certain players with the idea of trading them to another MLS team for other assets. So the decision point on Edu is just not purely on whether the Orlando and NYC will keep them as they could parlay him into something that they could use.

      Plus, Edu’s transfer fee probably isn’t super high as Stoke would like to clear the remainder of his salary off of their books. He would be an attractive asset to most MLS teams, especially as a center back.

    • If you dared Orlando to take him, they might call your bluff. I would if I was Orlando. I’d rather have the option of choosing what to do with Edu than having that option taken out of my hands. Orlando is already talking about another DP. As for NYC — they will absolutely pay a third DP. Money is not a problem for them. They may even get a fourth if the new CBA allows it.

      • I’m not really bluffing though. Again we are all working under the illusion this team would use Jose resources throughout the team, not play a marginal forward in the position. I’d walk from Edus salary everyday to buy a couple of quality strikers.

      • That’s fair. I might too if I had already identified them.

      • Wow, I got autocorrected all over

        “those” not Jose

        out of position, not in the


  2. I’m actuallykind of intrequed by the dispersal draft. At the end Chivas were stocking up on young players. Many of them are worth taking a flyer on. Worst case they can’t be worse than Hoppenot and Wheeler.

  3. Really curious to see where Torres goes. Wouldn’t mind having him on the Union.

    And, one guy I missed mention of above is Ethan White. Curtin liked him. Do we think he gets protected? I would guess the Union would rather protect him in that 11th spot than Williams. Unless they thin Williams is the best bench option at back… If, I suppose, they have a legit left back in mind.

    • He might be auto-protected, as he’s still playing under his original home grown player contract.

    • Seems like there are a lot of moving parts on the backline that could influence how they handle the expansion draft. First is the Edu situation. Is he definitely back, and is he committed to being a CB? Then do they have realistic upgrade options at LB? Is Marquez ready to handle being 3rd on the depth chart for the big club next year? Is Williams and/or Gaddis okay with rotating through and not being full time starters? I think Williams should be protected before White (assuming he needs to be at all due to homegrown), but how those other questions play out will influence the decision greatly.

    • I don’t rate White that high. If they protect White over Williams, the Union will regret it.

  4. Great read. It will really be interesting to see what happens with Casey. I still believe he was one of the largest contributors to goals that we had this season. Age/fitness questions aside, he would leave some big shoes to fill if he goes.

    • I think he stays… He Probably knows his career is wraping up and he isn’t going to be getting much larger offer anywhere else. Plus all of his stuff is here.

      • Love Connor, but he was not fit this year, and that is a problem with guys his age. We cannot afford to rest our lead striker in important matches… NYRB match before the Open Cup, which we should have won going away.
        I would also NOT keep Boli the Goalie. His heart is in France, his new baby is in France… he should be in France. Loan him to his hometown team. Sign Zac long term like Gaddis… there should be no question about that. The whole Rais thing was a HUGE ego trip for management. They needed to distract us from the poor field performance this year.

      • If he takes a paycut to come off the bench late in the game, why not.

  5. John O'Donnell says:

    The only player on Chivas I would really want is Caleb Calvert 6’2″, 160lbs. 18YO. He plays forward and was signed as a Homegrown player at 16 but broke his foot the first year. Form the Chivas player profile page. “In the 2012/2013 U.S Soccer Development Academy regular season, “Rooney,” as he is known among his teammates, became the leading goal scorer in the nation with 22 tallies, which earned the academy product U-15/16 National Player of the Year honors”. Saves you from having to protect Brian Brown and I would imagine he is cap friendly as a Homegrown player.

  6. OneManWolfpack says:

    I have ZERO good feelings that any of these drafts will go well for the Union. I know, that’s Nega-Delphian… But something good needs to happen to snap me out of it.

  7. I am most looking forward to the Stella Artois draft.

  8. What about Donny Toia from Chivas? We still need a LB and he has some experience there.

  9. Unless MBohli has a no-trade clause, I’d consider protecting MacMath and leaving MBohli available. It has nothing to do with who I want or don’t want as my keeper next year, and has everything to do with who I think is more likely to get grabbed in the expansion draft. I would expect the market for MBohli is much lower than the market for MacMath, given age, salary, league experience, etc.

  10. Thanks for explaining all of the stuff that I wanted to know but didn’t know where to go to find it!

  11. Bob the Used Car Salesman. says:

    Protect Zac, expose Rais. Neither of those teams are going to take M’Bolhi. A international spot and a big salary? They will both pass.

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