In his report on the Philadelphia Union's signing of New York Red Bulls Homegrown prospect Adam Najem, Jonathan Tannenwald notes that the Union's roster would be full under the 2016 MLS roster rules, but it's not under the anticipated 2017 roster rules.
Back in December, Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel advised a town hall meeting that MLS would be adding two extra roster spots for 2017. This season, it is expected that teams will be allowed 30 players on their first team rosters - as long as the 29th and 30th players are Homegrown. Perhaps not incidentally, Philadelphia didn't just sign Adam Najem as the 28th player on its current roster, it acquired his Homegrown rights from RBNY.
We'll have to wait for a little more clarification to understand how exactly the extra roster spots get unlocked (Will they simply allow teams to sign 28 players plus two Homegrowns? Or will they permit two additional Homegrowns on top of some stipulated minimum?), but that detail is unlikely to significantly affect RBNY. The Red Bulls are among the league's leaders in Homegrown signings, and are either already responding to this year's incentive to add more HGPs or don't need that incentive anyway. What RBNY does potentially need is a few more players, and the expansion of roster limits from 28 to 30 players does change the analysis of the current squad and its needs.
The Red Bulls have 25 players on MLS contracts for 2017, plus Anatole Abang (on loan until the summer...at least) and Zeiko Lewis - who was drafted with a league contract already signed but has not formally been signed to RBNY's official roster, as far as we know.
Most of Panama's sports media seems to expect defender Amir Murillo to join the Red Bulls shortly. Add him to Lewis (what would be the point of drafting a pre-contracted player if not to sign him?) and that would be 27 players: just one spare roster spot for the season ahead under the 2016 rules. And that spot might reasonably be expected to be claimed by NYRB II's 2016 USL Defender of the Year, Aaron Long. So the roster might already be full.
But the extra two spots expected for 2017 would suggest RBNY can sign Lewis, Murillo and Long and still have two spots left. Also, last year's roster rules allowed for one player to be loaned down to a team's USL affiliate and effectively be removed from the MLS roster and budget as long as the loan is for the full season and the player is not recalled. Take advantage of that rule, and there are 31 MLS contracts for a team to hand out for 2017.
If RBNY, for example, plans to loan goalkeeper Evan Louro down to NYRB II for 2017, then it has as many as six roster spots still to fill and only three look to be already accounted for - which suggests the Red Bulls' team-building for 2017 isn't as close to complete as we might have imagined. It also suggests there are still rosters spots available to the trialists not named Lewis or Long in RBNY's preseason camp.