MLS Expansion Draft: There Was No ‘Winner’


The MLS Expansion Draft took place on Wednesday. Orlando City SC and New York City FC each chose 10 MLS players from existing clubs ahead of their respective inaugural seasons. It was a good first step for both expansion sides as they continue to build their roster. However, neither team “won” the Expansion Draft.

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Each team picked players they felt filled some holes on their team. Many thought NYCFC “won” the draft because they filled more needs. Yet, no one actually “won” the Expansion Draft just yet. There are too many unknowns to sports to say so quickly who did better based on their picks. Injuries, suspensions, team chemistry etc. can affect a team’s success. Also, some of the players NYCFC and Orlando City SC selected in the Expansion Draft may not even be on the roster come the season’s beginning.

Even if these players remain on the respective team rosters, they may not be featured on the roster. How can a team “win” a draft if those players don’t see much playing time? The Expansion Draft is only one of the mechanisms of acquiring players. NYCFC and Orlando City will be able to take players in the Re-Entry Draft on Friday and MLS SuperDraft in January.

Winning occurs on the field, not from a draft. While the off the field meeting, planning, drafts, and other events that occur are important to a team’s success, the events on the field dictate whether a team wins or not. Drafts are great for acquiring talent, but they don’t guarantee that those players will fit and succeed with the team that drafted them.

It is important to remember that when teams are tagged as “winners” of a draft. They might have had the most impressive draft class, but the coaches and tactical staff must now make it work with their team and develop a chemistry that succeeds. Yet there are many examples of “draft winners” that have gone on to fail. Drafting players don’t guarantee success on the field. Those players must work together to become a cohesive unit; this is one of the issues with expansion sides. They acquire players from a various of drafts and through signing others. For the most part, these players have never played a game of soccer together before. It will take time to develop and play as a unit.

There are winners and losers in sports. Yet, it’s not worthwhile to call teams “winners” and “losers” from a draft. Yes, some do better than others in a draft, but a team’s success in a draft, especially MLS, is not indicative on how they will do at season’s end. A lot that affects a team’s success occurs from the offseason and the many drafts to the end of the regular season. Let’s start calling teams “winners” and “losers” when they start to play meaningful games on the field.

Next: MLS Expansion Draft Results