Major League Soccer's two expansion teams now know where they stand in MLS' myriad methods for acquiring players, as New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis and Orlando City boss Adrian Heath each made their selections Wednesday's Expansion Priority Draft.
The need for such a draft is simple to explain. Usually, with one expansion team entering the league at a time, that team automatically takes a spot at either the very top or very bottom of each of the eight methods by which MLS clubs can acquire players. However, with two teams entering the league at the time time, the teams needed to "draft" a higher spot in the acquisition method of their choice.
Orlando City was selected via random draw to receive the first pick, which it used to take top spot in the MLS Expansion Draft. NYCFC's top pick, second overall, was used for top spot in the MLS Allocation Ranking.
The formal affair was given a jolt of drama (and a bit of humor) in the next round of picks. After Orlando City elected to have top pick in the MLS SuperDraft, NYCFC coach Kreis selected "Discovery Ranking," meaning that NYCFC would rank 20th in that acquisition method, as opposed to 21st.
If that seems like a mistake, it was. Kreis realized as much after making the selection, interrupting host Jimmy Conrad's explanation of the Discovery Ranking with a meek and frankly sort of hilarious "I made a mistake…"
Kreis intimated that he had mis-read the sheet in front of him on which he had listed the club's priorities, and said plainly that he meant to take top spot in the USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking instead. Conrad appealed MLS Executive Vice President for Player Relations Todd Durbin, off camera, for a ruling. Durbin's response, on the spot?
"We'll have to go with the decisions that are made."
Kreis' mistake confirmed, Orlando then took first spot in the USL PRO/NASL PLayer Priority Ranking, and Kreis mustered a resigned chuckle.
The entirety of the draft, via MLSSoccer.com, went as follows:
1. MLS Expansion Draft: Pick 1 goes to Orlando City SC, Pick 2 goes to New York City FC
2. Allocation Ranking: Pick 1 goes to New York City FC, Pick 2 goes to Orlando City SC
3. MLS SuperDraft: Pick 1 goes to Orlando City SC, Pick 2 goes to New York City FC
4. Discovery Ranking: Pick 20 goes to New York City FC, Pick 21 goes to Orlando City SC
5. USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking: Pick 1 goes to Orlando City SC, Pick 2 goes to New York City FC
6. Waiver/Re-Entry Draft Ranking: Pick 20 goes to New York City FC, Pick 21 goes to Orlando City SC
7. Lottery Ranking: Pick 20 goes to Orlando City SC, Pick 21 goes to New York City FC
8. Designated Player Ranking: Pick 1 goes to New York City FC, Pick 2 goes to Orlando City SC
Curious what, exactly, each of these player acquisitions are? You're probably in good company. Here's a brief explainer on each:
MLS Expansion Draft
What: Standard-issue expansion draft. Teams around the league can protect a portion of their squads, but the rest are available for selection by the expansion teams. Each team gets 10 picks in the draft.
Who: Of the 10 players selected by the Montreal Impact in the last MLS Expansion Draft in 2011, only one (Justin Mapp) is still with the team, and only six ever actually made an appearance.
What: A draft of players from the college soccer system.
Who: Only two players taken in the top two picks of the SuperDraft have gone on to win Rookie of the Year honors: Jay Heaps in 1998 (No. 2 pick), and Maurice Edu in 2007 (No. 1 pick).
USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking
What: A ranking of which clubs can claim talent from the lower-division leaves USL PRO and NASL
Who: To be honest, I can't recall any MLS player of consequence acquired using this method. I didn't even know it existed before this draft was announced.
Designated Player Ranking
What: If two teams each wish to enter into negotiations to sign the same Designated Player (A player that the team pays a certain amount outside of the salary cap), this ranking is used for priority.
Who: See this section under "USL PRO/NASL Player Priority Ranking.
What: For everyone else (i.e. not a retuning MLS player, a USMNT player, or anybody that would make a Designated Player-level salary)
Who: Mikael Silvestre and Nigel Reo-Coker were both acquired using discovery claims, with their respective clubs needing to trade draft picks to gain a higher spot in the Discovery ranking
What: Used to determine which team has the right to sign a U.S. National Team player, or any player that leaves MLS to go abroad and then re-signs with the league.
Who: This is how the Houston Dynamo signed DaMarcus Beasley after the 2014 World Cup.
Waiver/Re-Entry Draft Ranking
What: Determines the order of clubs that can pick up players who have been placed on waivers or haven't exercised their option, but remain in the league.
Who: D.C. United picked up Sean Franklin and the Portland Timbers got Steve Zakuani using this method last offseason.
What: Order used for teams to sign young players that would otherwise go through the SuperDraft, but sign with MLS after the SuperDraft takes place.
Who: Lee Nguyen, who has recently been in great form with the New England Revolution, was acquired by the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012.
This concludes today's crash course on MLS player acquisition.