The Union, the expansion draft, and a depth chart

Architect’s rendering of LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium

Cover photo by Earl Gardner. Image below courtesy of LAFC.

An expansion draft for LAFC will occur Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 2 PM.

This time around

The expansion draft rules are as they were for 2017:

  • each existing club can protect 11 players.
  • homegrown “off-budget,” i. e., not included in the salary cap’s senior roster, and Generation Adidas players are protected in addition those 11.
  • each existing team can lose only one player.
  • LAFC can acquire only five players.

We don’t know whether LAFC will keep the players it selects or sell them for more Targeted Allocated Money and General Allocation Money. What seems eminently clear is that LAFC will want to make an eye-opening impression. They might use either TAM or GAM to sign a big name.

Impacts on the Union

There is an assumption around the edges in Philly that LAFC might sign SoCal natives Maurice Edu and Chris Pontius. Should that be the case, the Union will have made it easy for them by declining their contract options, thus placing them out of contract and making them available.

The Union’s protected list does not have to include its Generation Adidas players, Josh Yaro and Andre Blake, who is in the option year of his GA contract. Nor must the club protect its four Homegrown Players: Derrick Jones, Auston Trusty, Adam Najem, and Anthony Fontana.

That leaves 13 players from whom to choose a protected list of 11. Exposing Jay Simpson seems obvious, given his high salary and low production.

So, will the Union protect Warren Creavalle or Jake McGuire? The answer depends in part on how the organization evaluates 16-year-old Academy number 8 Michael Pellegrino. The organization likes him, so, given that midfielder Creavalle’s limits are well-known, it seems likely they could expose Creavalle and protect McGuire.

The list
Protect – 11 Expose – 2
C. J. Sapong Jay Simpson
Fafa Picault
Marcus Epps
Haris Medunjanin
Alejandro Bedoya Warren Creavalle
Richie Marquez
Jack Elliott
Ray Gaddis
Keegan Rosenberry
John McCarthy
Jake McGuire
The bottom of the tea cup 

If you read the leaves the way we do, they say Earnie Stewart assumes LAFC will draft unprotected team assets that can be sold for MLS funny money to spend on a big name. He has maneuvered his roster accordingly.

Current Union-Steel depth chart

Please find below our current Union-Steel combined depth chart to place the expansion draft protected list in context.

A key lies below it explaining colors, question marks, and combinations. As is no surprise, our matrix is arranged (1)-4-2-3-1 starting from the bottom of the page.

Our understanding is that the signed players may be practicing together this month, together with additions from the Academy as available and needed.

The current physical locations of the unsigned players are unknown to us.

Striker aka #9




Left Flank Mid




Attacking Center Mid  #10




Right Flank Mid




Defensive Center Mid #6




Center Mid #8



Left Back




Left Center Back





Right Center Back



Right Back








Key and notes

Black means returning to the Union.

“?????” means assumed offseason Union recruit. Currently, it is an empty chasm.

Red? means unsigned, but might return to the Union if a mutually acceptable contract can be negotiated.

Blue means returning to the Steel.

* an asterisk means international slot required.

Please note: Herbers would count as an international in 2018 unless he has green card status, because the GA contract that exempted him from the restriction is over. Yaro now has a green card in addition to his GA status, and Fabinho has a green card.

Sun Rocket devotees also note:  If Fabino does not return, Matt Real would be the only left back in the entire organization. Without Fabinho, left back becomes a top priority Union offseason need, well ahead of attacking center mid.



  1. Is McGuire valued that much? Seems like 3rd GK is somewhat of an afterthought most years here. Creavalle actually sees the field on occasion and is currently the only traditional #6 they have.

    • Richard Saunders says:

      Agreed McGuire is kind of Meh, Warren would make a solid 10 (combo him with the yung guns) and move Bedoya to the Wing. Offense is ALL we need right now. That means adjusting shape and staff. Sure we probably need a fresh left back, but right now they need creative, agile players who can play the ball forward and not backward!

    • But wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup keeper when Blake is away on international duty? Creavalle is just cutting into Jones’ playing time.

    • I’d count him as a #2 assuming Blake gets the Europe offer that’s long over due. But i’ve been Assuming he’s leaving for the last 3 transfer windows. He’s just too dam good for MLS

  2. Isn’t it time to do away with the expansion draft? Is there any real defense for it anymore?

    • Pretty much every league has had an expansion draft for new teams. I guess it insures a base level of competence.
      its no big deal as there are few players on the Union they can’t afford to use.

  3. Richard Saunders says:

    Thursday Morning Manifesto-

    Hot take: Bring Back F18, aka the NANDO, for cheaper!

    He’s a quality player, adjust to a 4-4-2 with him or go out and get an actual holding mid and move Bedoya to the wing (UNLEASH) and roll with at least a 4-3-3. It worked for the short stint that Curtin tried it (Sample size of 2 games?). The 4-2-3-1 is stale, dead and honestly unexciting. It simply doesn’t work with our roster, we, and the entire league, know that.

    This organization isn’t worth watching unless they shake it up and purchase a big name(s) (not Nando of course). I honestly don’t really care if that player(s) turns out to be a bust at this point, just something to maintain interest and show me that they give any kind of $#its about the fans AT ALL would be enough to keep at least the early season palatable.

    I still encourage folks to NOT “ReDOOP” because its just making things worse, we need to incentive ownership to sell. Sugarman can’t do it, we have 7+ years of experience to know this now, why expect, based on our sample size, things to change? The Union are dead in the water. I mean the team can’t even get kits that don’t express exactly how everyone feels about the ownership- Bimbo. This coming season is already over, and even if it isn’t… who cares right now.

    I haven’t even had my coffee yet. Whats new with the Earthquakes or Timbers? Is Columbus Houston yet? Remember the Philadelphia Atoms? Any chance we could get a new team in Philadelphia? They did it once, cant it be done again?

  4. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    What a day. Four cities for two spots in the next round of MLS expansion and the city with three billionaires is the least favored. Who would of thought? So unfair to San Francisco Deltas and Louisville City FC. Of course if they did get promoted neither team plays in a stadium that meets D1 requirements as each stadiums capacity is only 10,000. Very sad indeed that the league is vetting ownership groups and we’ll never have the joy of a team rolling up it’s field turf in the middle of the night in the middle of the season. Nothing would screams major league more. So here we are stuck with major investors with capital to support a team for more than one year even when they win a championship. Go figure.

    • Though I disagree with your point of view, John, I always appreciate your posts. Always good to have your views challenged a bit.

      I continue to think it’s better for fans in general if tier 2 clubs could compete their way into the first division rather than the closed club for those who purchase their way in. No need to vet ownership groups because they need to run a pretty good organization to win their way to promotion. Also makes it more about the sport than the business end. It’s a whole hell of a lot more fun than a day of board meetings in NYC with Garber and Co.

      As for stadium size, Bournemouth’s Dean Court holds 11,360 and they manage in the Premier League. Maybe those D1 guidelines aren’t really necessary.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        “No need to vet ownership groups because they need to run a pretty good organization to win their way to promotion”.
        San Francisco Deltas FC Champions/folded
        Four of the five teams to win NASL championship only the Cosmos are still in the league after seven years. If San Francisco can’t last one season in D2 after winning a championship………
        “As for stadium size, Bournemouth’s Dean Court holds 11,360 and they manage in the Premier League. Maybe those D1 guidelines aren’t really necessary”.
        For finishing 9th in the league Bournemouth cut of tv revenue is: £123.8 million or $165,650,000.00
        Which is more than MLS get for the entire league for the year at $90,0000,000.00
        Apple meet Orange.

      • John – If winning the NASL meant something more like promotion to MLS, the winners wouldn’t have folded.

      • I think in the long run, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
        MLS will be going to 28 teams. After that, there will be 8 cities that applied but were turned down. That implies, at least, 36 mostly viable markets. Frankly, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to push from 36 to 40, but even if you stay at 36…
        Once you hit that point, split in half – MLS-A and MLS-B or whatever names you want. 18 or 20 teams in each league makes for a wonderful balanced schedule of either 34 matches or 38 matches. The top 8 in MLS-A go into a tournament for MLS Cup; do two groups, and play the group games in a week. Winner of Group 1 plays the runner-up in Group 2 and vice versa. Winners of those games play for the cup.
        The bottom two teams in MLS-A drop to MLS-B. The top team in MLS-B moves up, and you have a playoff 2nd and 3rd place for the other promotion slot.
        The beauty here is that all your teams, whether in the A or B league, have met your entry requirements: strong ownership groups, stadium size, etc. So when a team promotes from B to A, that team has the built-in stadium capacity. You could even keep the all-star game, and play the MLS-A all-stars vs the MLS-B all-stars. There’s no need for east and west conferences, since everybody plays a balanced schedule and MLS cup is decided by an 8-team tournament.
        Work the kinks out in this system, and then you can open the pyramid up even more and include USL or NASL or whoever and do pro-rel into/out of MLS-B.
        Yeah, I know. A pipe dream. Especially if we have any hope of something like this in the next 5-10 years…

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Zizou, unfortunately, Mr. O’Donnell, despite his many leveled points of view which are well reasoned, is unable to recognize this substantial point and acquiesce to its possibility.
        Carry on.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Please tell me how winning the NASL would mean something? Would they get more investors for a team that would have little stability? Because the Union are looking for investors with the stability of single entity and aren’t finding them. There are no parachute payments and D1 here doesn’t offer any reward yet. So tell me how an under funded team would survive better in MLS?

      • The MLS business model is predicated on protection. Protection from the NASL collapse of a generation ago and the near insolvency the league experienced 16 years ago. There’s plenty of evidence this was a pragmatic approach, but today, I think rather than protect the sport, MLS is really in the business of protecting its ownership group from outside investment.

        That Sugarman can’t find other investors (and assuming he’s even tried) doesn’t mean much in the face of ample evidence that there are plenty of other people willing to invest in the sport here. City Football Group didn’t invest because it wanted to waste money in NY. There are other groups willing to spend millions to gain entry into MLS and others willing to invest in projects like Phoenix rising with an outside hope they can make it to the top tier. If the pyramid were opened, investment in a team like the Phoenix or even the Deltas would make a lot more sense.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        “The MLS business model is predicated on protection. Protection from the NASL collapse of a generation ago and the near insolvency the league experienced 16 years ago”.
        Yes,I totally agree with this and by the way after about 15 years it stated to finally show promise of working for the first time. Since the Union joined it has taken off. Now you want to change from this?
        “I think rather than protect the sport, MLS is really in the business of protecting its ownership group from outside investment”.
        Well this is the easiest one to debunk and I’ll do it with just one word.EXPANSION!
        “There are other groups willing to spend millions to gain entry into MLS”
        Once again I will agree there are and this is a very good point.
        Of course they are investing in a system with history, corporate sponsors and tv partners. Take this away and it’s there that same investment? Or is it more like what we saw in the past with underfunded investors trying to hit it big on a penny stock?
        “If the pyramid were opened, investment in a team like the Phoenix or even the Deltas would make a lot more sense”.
        I agree with it could make more sense but i don’t agree it would be more successful. Has anybody asked television partners and corporate sponsors how they would deal with this? I think it’s a question that should be asked.
        As a pro/rel skeptic I look for an argument based on here and not just “it’s how they do it in the rest of the world”.
        If it was as easy as you think, NASL would stick to that model and be a competing league with MLS. Since there is no real advantage of being D1 in America there is no reason they couldn’t surpass MLS by just out investing them.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Strong rebuttle and precise, John, therefore however, since sanctions do not seem to matter in the late portion of your argument, MLS should offer up its DI sanction gladly.
        MLS can operate independently. This would pave the way for exactly as you argue.
        I am 100% in favor of this. Yet it isn’t happening. Why is that? There is a reason.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Has anybody asked them too? I’m pretty sure you have to play in a sanctioned league to be eligible for international play. Is there an advantage for a player to start in an MLS academy as opposed to the Cosmos academy? If you started there and they were willing to pay you more than you could make in MLS, why wouldn’t you stay there? After all players from Europe and South America are coming here for that reason.
        You still didn’t answer the question though.

      • John:

        I won’t argue that NASL did things the right way. But I think MLS is just in a position that’s too difficult to compete with. Again, where are you going to go with your investment dollars? The upstart or the establishment? It’s just smart.

        I don’t see at all how expansion demonstrates a lack of protectionism. Not when these guys are forking hundreds of millions into the community chest that gets distributed in all the TAM and GAM etc. And those new franchises come in on league terms, the committee of which is all owners. It’s a club. Nothing at all like King Power owners flying in from Thailand to pump a gazillion dollars into Leicester City. Expansion is all about control and protection.

        Finally, I think the perspective I have has a lot more to do with what I want to see from the sport and I don’t begrudge business interests from protecting their investments. I don’t think they’re some evil cabal. And I don’t think Pro/Rel should sweep in all at once. But the roadmap needs to be drawn. And Pro/Rel is just one aspect of big changes the league needs to undergo, and not the most important. I think it may be more vital to get rid of the single entity system with the league owning all player contracts and taking cuts from transfer fees. Etc., so forth and so on….

    • Section 114 (Former) says:

      Has anyone thought about the Cleveland Browns strategy? Let the “Crew” move to Texas, but add the Crew as an expansion team. Or even better — make the Cincy/Columbus team split the games.

      • Sounds good in theory, but The Don is the impetus for the move, Precourt is just the patsy. Garber won’t let the Crew back in once they’ve left.
        Which is why it’s so important to make sure they don’t leave.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Well they did it with the Earthquakes.

      • True, and that did only come about after San Jose locals rose up to demand it.
        Garber’s original plan did not include having a team in San Jose after AEG moved to Houston.

      • Yeah, it’s been floated, but it won’t happen. The league powers aren’t high enough on Columbus. If Precourt closes the deal on the Austin move, it will probably guarantee Cincinnati gets a team. Likewise, if Cincy gets a team this round before a move is finalized, it probably increases the likelihood of Columbus losing the crew.

        What I do think is likely is that a USL or NASL team will open shop in Columbus if Precourt pulls off his theft.

    • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

      “I think it may be more vital to get rid of the single entity system with the league owning all player contracts and taking cuts from transfer fees. Etc., so forth and so on….”
      This is where I think we’ve found common ground. Rumor is out there that teams will keep money from selling homegrown players. That’s a step in the right direction for me.
      Figuring out a system for solidarity and training fees. Right now the players union is the bad guy here as MLS now would benefit because they have academies. The Union opposes it. Somehow they would still have to get around child labor laws.

  5. We could expose Ray Gaddis instead of Creavalle, and then sign Eric Lichaj to play the right side. Both Gaddis and Lichaj have played left and right. That would provide flexibility in the event that Rosenberry returns to Rookie-season form.
    You could ideally have Lichaj on the left, Rosenberry (at his best) on the right, with Fabinho as backup. If LA doesn’t pick up Gaddis, he’s your backup RB.
    Just spitballing here, but Lichaj could solve a few issues on our back line. Just a question of cost right now.

    • I’d be happy with Lichaj on the left.
      It sounds like Nottingham is low-balling him on their latest offer, only going for a 1yr deal. Even if he doesn’t go this year, we might have another chance at him next year.

  6. Any chance that the Union might have to protect Simpson based on the fact that he is International? As I recall in the past, you had to protect a certain number of International slots.

    • Andy, I have not seen this year or last any such requirement that I remember I noticed.
      A quick run through of the headings in the so-called official roster rules and regulations on the MLS website in the black section at the very bottom has nothing pertaining to expansion drafts.
      Does your memory go back a ways?
      In any case, the version of the protected list above has 2 internationals protected.
      in my own mind, if LAFC took Simpson, they would do the Union a favor by removing a large contract that provided limited production.

      • Tim, I think I’m remember back to NYCFC/Orlando (and it could even be all the way back to Montreal). I don’t remember the specifics but it was something like if you had 8 international spots filled you could only leave 3 unprotected and then other numbers for less (and it might have been that if you only had 3 spots used you couldn’t leave any of them unprotected).
        Would need to go back through the PSP archives to know for sure.

      • Definitely back in our first expansion draft. Didn’t we end up having to protect Toni Stahl because there just weren’t enough international players on our team?

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Found it, finally on the MLS website, and Andy is correct.
        “Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) they may make available.”
        Clubs may make available a number equal to the number of internationals on their roster minus three.
        I read that as a negative way of,stating that they must protect at least two internationals, since if they have less than three they may still offer one for selection.
        Go to the website find a search box and search 2018 expansion draft. You should find an article labeled expansion draft rules and regulations.
        Well done Andy, and Yee! Thank you.
        Also, if I interpret correctly, they players out of contract and the ones whose options have been declined may be grouped under the Union’s name even if they are no longer on the Union’s official roster. Not sure,about that.

  7. You could expose almost everyone but Blake and sleep easy they wouldn’t be selected.
    Since we came in – Atlanta / Minny / Portland / Montreal / NYC / Orlando / Vancouver have all drafted players from across the league. Who have we lost? Pedro Ribeiro? Anyone else?
    We’ve been able to maintain our level of mediocrity just fine in spite of the drafts. Speaking of, I’m struggling to recall ANY former Union player exposed in the re-entry draft being selected. Usually they wash up like flotsam in the USL because that was their level to begin with.

    • Ha! Remember how pissed everyone was when Ribeiro got left unprotected…that did not age well.

      • Ha. I was one of those angry people. Though I think I was more shocked and surprised than angry. I’d say angsty. But yeah, definitely angst not spent wisely.

      • Had he not gotten hurt in Orlando, it might have been a different story though.

    • Not that it shoots a giant hole in your argument, but I believe the Union lost Justin Mapp in the Montreal expansion.

      • We kept Keon Daniel over him. Let’s call it a small caliber hole because without My Left Foot they weren’t quite as dangerous on the wing and it led to the Marfan (Ilsinho 1.0) disaster.

      • Mapp had at least one very good season with Montreal, maybe two.

  8. I’m pretty sure I read yesterday that Herbers has his green card at this point and wouldn’t count as an international.

  9. Entering season 9 and left back is STILL a top priority. My gosh this team is so woefully mismanaged. We – fans, especially on this site – have seen the need for that for 2+ years and could see the empty hole there from a mile away, but for whatever reason the front office has just completely ignored it for years, and years, and years. I have ZERO confidence that they go out and acquire a quality left back, if they get one at all, at this point.

    • There are at least 10 other teams with a hole at left back. Seems to be one of the bigger challenges for everybody. In all leagues. But I get your point. Why are the Union always on that list of 11 teams looking for a serviceable left back.

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