Atlanta United preparing for MLS draft

Atlanta United, led by coach Gerardo Martino, has a big week ahead.

Atlanta United, led by coach Gerardo Martino, has a big week ahead.

Tuesday’s MLS expansion draft isn’t the only method that Atlanta United will have to acquire players in what will be an important week for the expansion club.

The trade window will open and close Sunday morning, the draft will start at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, which will be followed by free agency starting at 5 p.m. The waiver draft will be held Thursday and re-entry draft Friday.

Most of Atlanta United’s work will take place Sunday and Tuesday.

The team has already confirmed the completion of one trade — midfielder Kevin Kratz from Philadelphia — and has reportedly completed others with Chicago for goalkeeper Sean Johnson, an Atlanta native, and with Columbus for defender Michael Parkhurst. All three require league approval.

With five picks in the expansion draft and possibly two or more trades, Atlanta United will have at least seven new players by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Atlanta United has already announced the signings of 10 players, nine of them midfielders or forwards. The roster can carry as many as 28 players. The season will start in March.

Club President Darren Eales said the team has spent the majority of its time preparing for the expansion draft and college draft, which will be held Jan. 13 in Los Angeles.

Free agency is in its second year in MLS. Because of requirements for qualifying for free agency, the player pool will be very shallow and unlikely to be much help in building the roster.

The same is also true for the waiver and re-entry drafts.

“In the fun part now,” Eales said. “It’s been brilliant and exciting building it.”

There is another still-developing wild card that could affect Atlanta United’s roster: the demise of the NASL.

The league appears to be on its last legs. The New York Cosmos, considered the NASL’s flagship franchise, has ceased operations and terminated contracts with players. Some teams have already declared they are switching leagues or appear on the verge of folding. A few franchises have yet to announce their plans.

The majority of NASL players whose contracts are terminated will become available to be signed through MSL’s discovery process. Eales said Atlanta United will approach those players as they would any others.

“If they do become available, we will put them in the mix,” he said. “We will try to get best available players and at the best cost.”