Toronto FC to be exempt from MLS expansion draft

Toronto FC to be exempt from MLS expansion draft
FC Cincinnati mailbag: Scheduling, expansion draft, MLS travel wish list
FC Cincinnati will make the jump from the second-tier United Soccer League to Major League Soccer next year as the leagues 24th team.

Under normal circumstances, Cincinnatis arrival in MLS would mean Toronto FC could potentially lose a player this off-season in the expansion draft.

FC Cincinnati can draft 5 current MLS players

But the league on Friday released the rules for the expansion draft slate to take place on Dec. 11, and confirmed that the five teams who lost players in last years expansion draft to LAFC will be exempt this time around.

2018 MLS offseason calendar for player moves announced

LAFC selected Canadian winger Raheem Edwards from TFC in last years expansion draft, which means the Reds have earned a reprieve and wont lose anybody to FC Cincinnati.

Current players, who recently wrapped up play in the United Soccer League, are on standby as to whether they’ll make the cut during the transition to the major league.

The Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes, and Columbus Crew will also not be involved after losing players to LAFC last year.

FC Cincinnati already has two players signed for next year. MLS veterans Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe inked deals with the club on July 30.

The other 18 MLS clubs, including the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps, can protect 11 players on their rosters for the upcoming expansion draft. FC Cincinnati can select up to five players from the pool of available players, but they can only claim a single player from any one club.

TFC general manager Tom Bezbatchenko hinted that his club might be exempt in the expansion draft when speaking to reporters at the club’s end-of-season media availability late last month.

Welcome to the FC Cincinnati mailbag, a selection of soccer and FC Cincinnati-related questions submitted to The Enquirer via Twitter. For the Nov. 9 edition, 10 questions (on any FC Cincinnati subject) were accepted. Five will be answered Friday, with five more answered Monday). 

• Question No. 1 from Jared Fite (@Jared_Fite): “Who are your top 5 lower league prospects (non-FCC) that youd like us to snatch up for MLS?” Pat Brennan: Suspending disbelief and MLS roster rules, these are my top 5 lower-league prospects: Michael Seaton (Orange County SC), Luiz Fernandez (Richmond Kickers), Hassan Ndam (New York Red Bulls), Wan Kuzain (Swope Park Rangers), Andrew Carlton (Atlanta United 2). 

• No. 2 from “S.J.” ( @seanackley): “Scheduling question(s): Who would you most like to see opening game? Which road matches are you looking forward to? Other than Columbus, who are you looking forward to seeing at Nippert?” PB: Id like to see FC Cincinnati on the biggest stage possible for its first-ever game, and on the road. Going on the road to start the season could build anticipation for the home opener at Nippert Stadium, especially if FC Cincinnati gets a result in its first-ever match. So, I think at Atlanta, at one of the L.A.s, or at Seattle would be great for the first-ever match. Baptism by fire, and an immediate reminder for the Queen City of what the club is up against now that it is in MLS. 

All that said, MLS gets to dictate some of the script of its season via scheduling. I wouldnt rule out a trip to Columbus to start 2019. Whenever the Columbus matches happen, theyll be primetime, must-see matches. 

Being a native Philadelphian and a season-ticket holder from the Unions inaugural season, going back to Philadelphia will be special for me. Im also eager to see and experience soccer in the Pacific Northwest, so Seattle, Portland, Vancouver are dates Ill circle. 

As for Cincinnatis home opener (and excluding Columbus), the club has developed quite a history with the New York Red Bulls organization, so I think NYRB (the Supporters Shield holders, mind you) would make for a great home opener. 

• No. 3 from “Name Cannot Be Blank” (@DSherman39): “Also, whos our next DP signing? And what do you think about @johnharkes6 and his new gig down at @GVLTriumph?” PB: Its tough for me to say who, if anyone, FC Cincinnati would make another designated-player-type investment in while Im still learning which players from the 2018 team are coming to MLS, as well as any other players that have been pursued outside the organization. This is a little farfetched, but if another Fabian Johnson situation came up and you could bring in an established U.S. international – one that might take a smaller deal to come back to our shores – that would probably be an instant hit with the fan base and smart business. 

As for John Harkes taking the reigns at Greenville Triumph SC, I think thats a good situation for him in terms of the level of play and what will be expected of him in terms of results, but the situation isnt without risks for John. Hes been passed up for jobs in his post-playing career, and when you factor in his firing from FC Cincinnati, he needs to put it all together in Greenville – results, organized training sessions and exhibiting professional conduct in every interaction. If he cant do these things at Greenville, getting the next job could be very complicated. John and I had a good relationship while he was in Cincinnati. I wish him well. 

• No. 4 from Jacob Clary (@JacobClary25): “Do you think the fact we play at Nippert, and on turf, will cause some of the players like Zlatan and Rooney to not make the trip to Cincinnati? And will that affect the attendance numbers a bit in terms of matches people will attend the most?” PB:  I think the bottom line is youll see quality, threatening players in every single MLS match next season, regardless of turf. The more FC Cincinnati fans watch of the ongoing MLS Cup Playoffs and educate themselves on MLS in general, the more theyll appreciate Cincinnatis 2019 opponents.

Will some big-name players refuse to play at Nippert, even after the surface is upgraded this offseason? Maybe. Bradley Wright-Phillips is as big as they come in MLS and he played in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal in 2017. These guys might not like turf but the type of player youre talking about receives a hefty paycheck to win goals, results and points for their clubs, so many of them will tough it out. And I think the attendance might vary slightly based on the opponent, but in general FCC Ticketing Guru, Jeff Smith is on top of that. The club is still aiming for about 28K per game if memory serves. 

• No. 5 from Ben Ferree (@ben_ferree): “Who should FCC target with an expansion draft all to themselves? Prognosticate on who will be unprotected as best you can, using LAFCs expansion choices as a guide. presume 5 picks.” PB: Wow. This is a bear of a question… First of all, understand that what is known of FC Cincinnatis signings prior to the expansion draft will inform how the existing MLS teams protect their players. For instance, If FC Cincinnati loads up on defenders between now and the draft, MLS teams could feel more comfortable leaving defenders unprotected and block/protect FC Cincinnati from other assets the club could covet.

So, with that in mind and suspending a bit of disbelief, if an American goalkeeper like Matt Lampson is around, thats an easy pick to make, in my opinion. I think FC Cincinnati could definitely get a serviceable goalkeeper in the expansion draft. A Lampson or a Steve Clark-type talent (keyword being “serviceable.”). I mentioned Hassan Ndam from the NYRB organization in my response to Question No. 1. He was left unprotected in last years Los Angeles Football Club expansion draft, although he also counts as an international roster spot. After seeing what he did to Fanendo Adi a few weeks ago in the USL Cup playoffs, that would be a tough player to pass on. 

Its very hard to do a mock expansion draft at this point not just because we dont know what the unprotected lists will be, but because we dont know what personnel FC Cincinnati will have locked in a month from now.