The draft will start at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Every MLS club can protect 11 players. The rest, other than Generation Adidas or Homegrown Players, can be left exposed. Once a player is selected from a team, it can’t lose any more players.
That dynamic adds a bit of pressure and interest because if Minnesota United were to pick a player from Portland, when Atlanta United was interested in another Timbers player, Eales and Bocanegra will have to consider other alternatives to acquire that player.
The protected list of players will be made available following Saturday’s MLS Cup. Atlanta United and Minnesota United will have 36 hours to pour over the list and decide who they like.
There are many factors to consider. Though Eales has said they will likely select the best available player, he amended that tactic earlier this week by saying that they may select the best available player at the right price.
Because MLS has a salary cap, Atlanta United can’t just select the biggest names with the biggest salaries. They have to build a 28-man roster that currently has just 10 players, of which four are younger than 19 years old and therefore may not make the senior squad. There are a lot of slots to fill and less than $4 million to spend.
Eales said they must be pragmatic and work on the theory that the 17th and 18th players on the roster are just as important as the first and second because of the long season, travel, likelihood of injuries, etc.
The team has run several mock drafts and will run more Sunday and Monday. It keeps dossiers of players in a shared file in its computer system. McDonough said months ago that the team has been scouting MLS players ahead of the expansion draft.
“It’s a doctrine of marginal gains in trying to build a roster,” Eales said. “In every possible way to acquire players and build a roster, we want to be better than everyone else at that method, whether it’s the academy, the expansion draft. We want to be prepared so we are able to maximize utility from that mechanism.”