Atlanta United will get top pick in MLS expansion draft

Atlanta United won the coin flip with Minnesota United in Major League Soccer’s Expansion Priority Draft on Sunday and selected the top pick in the expansion draft.

Atlanta United and Minnesota United will begin play in MLS in 2017.

The Expansion Priority Draft is a six-part mechanism that helps determine how the expansion teams build their rosters.

The expansion draft will be held on Dec. 13. Each of the league’s 20 MLS teams will be allowed to protect 11 players. Atlanta United will get the first pick of those players that aren’t protected. Once a team loses a player, its remaining players can’t be picked in the draft. Each of the expansion teams will get to select five players.

The list of available players will come out on Dec. 11, giving Atlanta United roughly 48 hours to decide who it wants.

Atlanta United President Darren Eales said he chose the expansion draft over the SuperDraft because he felt that signing players with MLS experience will be the hardest to get a hold of as the team builds its 28-man roster. The team has already signed two players, Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin, from its academy in a nod to potential.

Eales said he doesn’t yet know if Atlanta United will prioritize a position over a player in the expansion draft. That may be determined by the players the team agrees to terms with between now and the expansion draft.

With the next selection in the Expansion Priority Draft, Minnesota United chose the top pick in the SuperDraft, which will be held in January in Los Angeles.

Atlanta United then selected the top pick in the allocation order, giving the team priority on claims of U.S. men’s national team players, select U.S. youth national team players, and former MLS players who are no longer in the league and were sold for more than $500,000. For example, that pool could include Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and Brad Guzan, who are playing in England.

Eales said the top picks in the expansion draft as well as the allocation order are valuable because they can also be used in trades. For example, to move up to No. 1 in the allocation order to sign U.S. men’s national team player Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia traded to Chicago general allocation money, targeted allocation money, the club’s natural first round pick in the SuperDraft and Discovery Priority on a player to be named later.

Minnesota United followed by selecting priority on NASL/USL players should it and Atlanta United try to claim the same player in one of the other leagues in the U.S.

Atlanta United followed by selecting priority in the waiver/re-entry pool, with Minnesota finishing the Expansion Priority Draft with top claims in Discovery.

Atlanta United will play its home games at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in March, part of April and May while construction on $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium continues. The team will train at its $60 million headquarters that are under construction in Marietta. The team has eight players on its roster and will be coached by Gerardo Martino.

The last expansion draft, held for Orlando City and NYCFC in 2014, featured 10 rounds. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was taken by the Lions with the first selection.

Eales said Atlanta United has a copy of the coin that was used on Sunday. It will be housed in the training complex.