The following is a breakdown of the rules of the 2012 MLS Expansion Draft, rule-by-rule based upon how each rule affects the Philadelphia Union's protection list choices. The Montreal Impact, a now former North American Soccer League team, will draft 10 players from various MLS teams.
• MLS Clubs may protect 11 players between their On-budget and their Off-budget Roster. If the Player's contract expires at the end of 2011, he will still be considered part of the club's roster.
The Union currently have 27 players on the active roster, meaning that 16 players will go unprotected during this year's expansion draft. However, it's not as tough of a choice of players as those numbers may make it appear to be. Zach Pfeffer and Zac MacMath are automatically protected, Pfeffer through his Home Grown Signing designation and MacMath because of his Generation Adidas designation. Otherwise, the Union had two players that saw no minutes this season (Juan Diego Gonzalez and Chase Harrison), one that saw only ten (Morgan Langley) and thirteen more than played less than 1500 minutes, which is less than half the available minutes in a 34-game season, in 2011. Additionally, Danny Califf, Stefani Miglioranzi, Faryd Mondragon and Veljko Paunovic are all over the age of thirty, making them less likely to be taken, and thus less of a gamble to not protect.
• If a club protects a player, it is not obligated to exercise the player's option. It may renegotiate subject to terms of the new CBA.
This rule would most likely apply to Gonzalez, Justin Mapp or Miglioranzi. There is not much speculation about the contract statuses of any other veteran players that would possibly see themselves protected. Of the three, only Mapp would have a chance of being protected and undergo negotiations on his contract, or have an option exercised. Miglioranzi played less than 1000 minutes this season and was seldom used at his natural central defensive midfield position. Gonzalez never touched the field for the first team and did not impress with the Union's reserve squad.
• If a player retires, he will not be a part of the club's roster, but his club will lose its right of first refusal to him should he ultimately decide to play.
Mondragon is the closest player on the Union's roster to a retirement age, coming into the 2012 season at 40-years of age. However, the former Colombian national team starting goalkeeper has stated that he wants to play this season and was talking to the Union's front office about a year extension to his current contract.
• Players on a club's Off-budget Roster, other than Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season or Homegrown Players on a Club's Off-budget Roster, will be part of the expansion draft.
Potentially, Levi Houapeu, Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo, Ryan Richter and Morgan Langley are all available due to this rule. See the next rule, below, to see why McInerney, Mwanga and Okugo are at risk in this draft.
• Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season and Homegrown Players on a club's Off-budget Roster at the end of the 2011 MLS Season are automatically protected (Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them).
It's being assumed that Mwanga will graduate Generation Adidas because of his minutes played in the last two seasons, meaning that his $225,000 or so contract will become part of the Union's salary cap situation, along with taking a spot up on the protection list. Okugo and McInerney are in an unknown world in terms of their respective Generation Adidas statuses. The typical length of time for a Generation Adidas player to remain is two years, but there's no standard for graduation.
The Brotherly Game talked to a league source, which said that each player's situation is looked over individually and that there is no standard whatsoever for graduation of any players in the Generation Adidas program. That means that Mwanga, McInerney and Okugo could all graduate, or none could graduate. The protection lists that come out tonight at 5 pm will tell who does and does not graduate.
• Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) that they may make available. Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three, provided that if a club has three or fewer international players it may make available not more than one.
• For purposes of this expansion process, for US-based clubs, any non-domestic US player would count as an International and, for Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, any non-domestic US player or non-domestic Canadian players would count as an International.
Keon Daniel, Gonzalez, Houapeu, Thorne Holder, Mondragon, Paunovic, Roger Torres and Carlos Valdes are the Union's international players on roster, meaning that the Union have to protect at least three and can only leave a maximum of five available for selection on Wednesday.
Valdes is a sure protection list choice, as is the potential laden Torres. The third choice, or more, is up in the air. My choice would be Paunovic, simply because of his cheap price, but solid play this past season even after having been retired for nearly three years. Daniel would be my choice if not for his visa situation, and Mondragon's $400,000 price tag, plus 40-years of age, doesn't seem to hint towards him being necessary to protect.
• Designated players are NOT automatically protected (i.e., clubs must choose whether to protect such players and if such player is not protected, he will be available for selection in the Expansion Draft). However, if the Designated Player has a no-trade clause in his contract, then his MLS club must protect him and he will count as one of the 11 players who may be protected.
This rule - potentially - applies to Freddy Adu, no one else though.
• Once a player has been claimed from a team's non-protected roster, that team is eliminated from the expansion draft and may not lose any further players.
• Rounds: The expansion draft will be 10 rounds.
Only one player can be taken, but who that player is could potentially change the Union's approach to the offseason. 5 pm tonight will show who is safe, and who could be the next Shea Salinas or Alejandro Moreno.