Major League Soccer welcomes two new teams for the 2017 season with Minnesota United and Atlanta United FC. Each club will bring in players in a variety of ways, with the next phase being the MLS Expansion Draft on Tuesday.
Atlanta and Minnesota will each make five picks in the draft, with Atlanta and owner Arthur Blank starting off the proceedings with the first choice. The league’s 20 existing teams will be able to select 11 players to protect from selection.
Homegrown and Generation Adidas players are automatically protected during the draft. Thanks to this rule, players like Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown and Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl will not be available to either Minnesota or Atlanta.
The Expansion Draft will likely not produce major movement but will provide critical depth as both new sides build their roster.
We take a look at where Minnesota and Atlanta stand currently and what direction they may go in Tuesday’s draft.
Atlanta United FC
The Atlanta franchise has already made big waves before even taking the field for the first time. With well over 20,000 season tickets sold and former Barcelona manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino on board as head coach, fans have plenty to look forward to.
United have signed talented midfielder Miguel Almiron and former Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones. Rumors that the team is also looking at Mexican international Andres Guardado suggest that Atlanta could have one of the most potent attacks in the league next season.
President Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra will want to focus on midfield and defensive depth in both the Expansion Draft and the MLS SuperDraft in January.
Expect to see a move towards experienced full-backs and defensive midfielders who will not impact the salary cap too greatly.
The Loons have not yet brought in as many players as Atlanta, but that fact is more an element of timing than anything else. After several years in the North American Soccer League, Minnesota management is still deciding which players will stay for the move to MLS.
The team has signed only defenders Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas so far. Quality players like forward Christian Ramirez may soon be signed to MLS contracts as well.
Minnesota hired former Orlando City SC manager Adrian Heath to lead the club into Major League Soccer. While successful with the team in the USL, Heath was unable to lead Orlando into the playoffs in his two seasons at the helm. The Englishman has fired this past July and replaced by former NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis.
Along with Minnesota sporting director Manny Lagos, Heath will want to look for players who can play a variety of positions and will need to understand who the team may be targeting down the line. One of the issues that plagued Orlando was putting so much into getting Kaka in the midfield and failing to provide clear tactics around him.
Heath will be unlikely to make the same mistake again with Minnesota.
Construction of a brand-new stadium is expected to begin next week for United. The franchise’s management will now be focused on constructing the best possible line-up to go with the new grounds on Tuesday.