MLS has officially revealed the terms of the 2016 Expansion Draft, and they are much as tipped by Grant Wahl for Sports Illustrated.
But with the official announcement comes an official set of rules, and the ability to start to speculate as to how this year's participation in the bi-annual MLS Expansion Grab-Bag will affect the New York Red Bulls.
First and foremost, as had been reported by Wahl, no club can lose more than one player in the draft. So RBNY's total possible exposure to the process is limited. The Uniteds of Atlanta and Minnesota only get five selections each, for a total of 10 players drafted. At one player lost per team, that means half of the 20 clubs currently in MLS will not lose anyone at all. The Red Bulls might be among the lucky 10 to avoid any disruption.
The team also appears to benefit from its recent hefty investment in its Academy. The eighth bullet point of the official rules of the 2016 Expansion Draft states:
Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2016 MLS Season and Homegrown players on a Club’s Supplemental/Reserve Roster at the end of the 2016 MLS Season are automatically protected (Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them).
OK. With the caveat that MLS rules are a constantly shifting sand of improvisations and exceptions - and that Once A Metro does not have inside knowledge of RBNY's roster arrangements - here's a stab at which Red Bulls might be automatically protected by that rule.
Generation Adidas players? Nope. RBNY has none of them. Homegrown players on the Supplemental/Reserve Roster? Yes, RBNY has a few of them.
Currently, the Red Bulls have six Homegrown players on their MLS roster: Connor Lade, Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne, Sean Davis, Brandon Allen, and Alex Muyl.
There are four Supplemental Roster spots and four Reserve Roster spots. It's not just any old Homegrown player who gets automatically protected, only those on the Supplemental/Reserve Rosters. There are eight spots in total on those rosters (they are, technically, spots 21-28 on the MLS roster), and RBNY only has six Homegrown players currently signed. In principle, all six could be protected.
We can guess a little better at whether all six are in fact protected by looking at the (not totally accurate, but it's what we have) MLS Players Union's published salary information.
First, note what it takes to make the Supplemental roster, per the published MLS roster rules:
Slots 21-24 may be filled with (i) Senior Minimum Salary Budget Charge Players ($62,500 in 2016) which may include Homegrown Players, (ii) Generation adidas Players, or (iii) any specifically designated Players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft.
All Players on the Supplemental Roster must be paid a base salary which is at least the Senior Minimum Salary: $62,500.
All Generation adidas players are Supplemental Roster players.
And note what it takes to make the Reserve roster, per the same published rules:
Players occupying roster spots 25-28 may be filled with Players earning either (i) the Reserve Minimum Salary Budget Charge ($51,500 in 2016) or (ii) Homegrown Players earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary Budget Charge.
Reserve Minimum Salary Players must be 24-years-old or younger during the league year*.
These slots may not be filled with Senior Minimum Salary Players or Generation adidas Players.
All Players in slots 25-28 must be paid a base salary which is at least the Reserve Minimum Salary: $51,500.
So what we are looking for on the salary list are players earning $62,500, which suggests they are likely on the Supplemental Roster; and players earning $51,500 or Homegrown Players earning more than that, which suggests they are likely on the Reserve roster.
On the MLSPU salary information list, there are nine players who definitely fit those respective profiles, and two who might just.
RBNY players who are candidates for Supplemental or Reserve Rosters, per MLS Players Union Salary Info
|Name||Base Salary||Guaranteed Salary||Homegrown?||Supp. Roster eligible?||Reserve Roster eligible?|
|Chris Duvall & Karl Ouimette||63,000||63,000||No||Maybe||No|
Duvall and Ouimette are wild cards. Either or both are close to meeting the requirements for the Supplemental roster. Either or both might meet the baffling stipulation for inclusion on that list: "any specifically designated players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft", since OaM really has no idea what that means. And their $63,000 salaries might easily be bought down to $62,500 with allocation money, or maybe there is loophole that allows for their inclusion.
For now, Duvall and Ouimette are assumed to fall just short of inclusion on the Supplemental Roster (Ouimette is out on loan anyway), and look to be ineligible for inclusion on the Reserve Roster.
That leaves nine players for eight spots. Conspicuously, there are only four players who appear to fill the requirements for inclusion on the four-man Reserve Roster. That's "off-budget" salary, and Ali Curtis is a prudent manager of the team's resources: seems fair to assume all four Reserve spots are full.
So we're putting Tyler Adams, Justin Bilyeu, Derrick Etienne, and Sean Davis on the team's Reserve Roster. Bilyeu, however, is not a Homegrown player. So only Adams, Etienne, and Davis are automatically protected under the assumptions made so far.
And we still have five players to allocate to the Supplemental roster: Anatole Abang, Connor Lade, Kyle Reynish, Alex Muyl, and Brandon Allen. Each of those players looks like they're earning a base salary equivalent to the Senior Minimum Budget Charge of $62,500.
Reynish was the last of this group to sign a contract for this season, and is also the oldest. Guess: he is the odd man out. The Supplemental Roster is filled by Abang, Lade, Allen, and Muyl.
Of those, Lade, Allen, and Muyl would meet the criteria to be protected.
Best case scenario: all six of RBNY's rostered Homegrowns are on the Supplemental/Reserve Rosters and are therefore automatically protected for the Expansion Draft.
Worst case? Well, back at the start of the season, RBNY had Zach Carroll on the roster. He might have occupied one of the Reserve Roster spots, and that could mean Sean Davis (most likely, as the longest-serving, highest-paid player in the group in question) isn't actually on the Reserve Roster. Similarly, Lade - whose contract extension was announced the same day Reynish re-signed - might be off the Supplemental Roster.
Alternatively, of course, Abang is almost certainly off the Supplemental Roster - since he is off the team until next year- and there might simply be eight eligible players divided neatly between the eight spots on the back-end of the roster.
It seems likely at least four of the Homegrowns are protected from the Expansion Draft, and it is possible all six are not at risk.
Giving credit to Ali Curtis for wringing every possible advantage out of the MLS rulebook he famously helped to write, OaM guesses all six of RBNY's Homegrown players are automatically protected. There is scope for some reshuffling of roster designations during the season, and if there is an opportunity to restructure the squad's roster to bring advantage to RBNY, we're backing Curtis to have taken it.
OaM is including on-loan Karl Ouimette and Anatole Abang in this exercise, so that means there are 28 RBNY players being considered. Absent the six Homegrowns, RBNY has 22 players left to think about. And it can protect 11 of those.
But it has to protect some. There are two important stipulations in the Expansion Draft rules on this point. The first covers international players:
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 not make more than one such player available.
The second covers no-trade clauses:
If a Player has a no-trade clause in his contract, his MLS Club must protect him and he will count as one of the 11 Players who may be protected.
Once A Metro does not know who among the RBNY players has a no-trade clause, but it can identify the international players on the roster. Including Gideon Baah (injured) and Anatole Abang (on loan), MLS currently lists RBNY as having 11 international players (maybe 12, if Karl Ouimette has been left off the official list accidentally).
The 11 (or maybe 12) international players on the RBNY roster
|Anatole Abang||Fwd||Loan to Hobro IK until summer 2017|
|Gideon Baah||Def||Injured (out for season)|
|Omer Damari||Fwd||Loan from RB Leipzig to end of MLS 2016|
|Gonzalo Veron||Mid/Fwd||Designated Player|
|Bradley Wright-Phillips||Fwd||Designated Player|
|Karl Ouimette||Def||Loan to Jacksonville Armada to end of NASL season|
The rules state the club must protect at least three. OaM expects RBNY will protect considerably more than that, which likely means international status isn't much of a consideration for the team for this exercise. Whether Ouimette (listed as international on the RBNY website) has a Green Card or not doesn't much matter: RBNY will protect more than the minimum number of international players required.
Who specifically will RBNY protect? More speculation to come in Part 2 of OaM's first run at guessing the Red Bulls' Expansion Draft plans.