MLS has a long history of trying to be convincingly American: countdown clocks, all ties to be settled by shootouts, and drafts. Lots and lots of drafts. Most of the gimmicks born out of a desire to persuade the US that soccer isn't the vanguard of a Communist takeover have, mercifully, been cast aside as the league gathers confidence in the sport it is selling. But the drafts have remained. Indeed, they have proliferated.
This off-season alone, we've had an Expansion Draft, a Waiver Draft, two rounds of Re-Entry Draft, and a Super Draft followed by a slightly less super second installment. We had assumed that was the end of the drafts for now. Not so. With the relentless imagination of an irredeemable addict, MLS has figured out a way to have another one.
On Tuesday, February 24, at 3 pm Eastern, MLS will hold another Waiver Draft.
Don't expect to see a huge amount of activity from the teams. For a start, there are only six players available: Robert Earnshaw, Joe Nasco, Marco Franco, Victor Pineda, Grant Ward, and Aaron Wheeler. Six into 20 doesn't go very far.
Also, we're getting close to the end of preseason. Most teams are well advanced with their preparations. They have been playing friendlies, they have trialists in camp - there really shouldn't be a great many unattached players in MLS's player pool who aren't already getting a look from one team or another.
As it happens, there aren't many unattached players in the six-man group available in this draft. Joe Nasco is contracted to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Franco and Pineda are both signed with Indy Eleven. Grant Ward spent last season on loan with Chicago Fire, but is on Tottenham Hotspur's books and most recently has been playing for the EPL side's U-21 team.
As for the others, Robert Earnshaw has been training with Vancouver Whitecaps. Wheeler was recently cut from Philadelphia Union's roster, and could be interesting to one or two clubs, since he can play center back or center forward, and is presumably in decent enough shape to slot into a training camp at the right level of fitness for this stage of preseason.
The New York Red Bulls have the 12th pick. The team could use another forward, but whether Jesse Marsch is looking for a big man with one career goal in MLS to his name (Wheeler) or a veteran who is scarcely a month away from his 34th birthday is another question. A question most likely to be answered by RBNY's favored response to these drafts: pass.