Minnesota United FC takes its first halting steps as a Major League Soccer club Sunday when the team participates in the Expansion Priority Draft (1 p.m. on ESPN3, Facebook and YouTube).
With Minnesota coming into the league at the same time as Atlanta, the two teams must determine which club will have first crack at six different player acquisition methods. A coin flip will decide who gets the first selection in the first of those methods. The loser will get the higher pick in the second method, with the order reversing each time thereafter.
Minnesota has priority to sign its current players to MLS contracts, thus giving the club the chance to keep the best parts of its current NASL roster. But the team is likely to get 10 or more players from the acquisition methods that are part of Sunday’s event.
For the first method, Atlanta and Minnesota will receive picks one and two in the MLS SuperDraft, the league’s draft for American college players. The prize could potentially be Bloomington native and current UCLA standout Jackson Yueill, which would give Minnesota a local reason to want the first pick in the SuperDraft.
Since Atlanta doesn’t already have a roster like Minnesota does, it might rather have first pick in the second method, the December expansion draft, which would give it first choice as the two teams select five players each from current MLS clubs.
The third acquisition method is the league’s “allocation ranking,” which organizes teams’ priority to sign national-team players or other players who are returning to MLS. The current list of eligible players includes few big names who are likely to make the move to an expansion team, though. It might be more likely that the top spot in this ranking would be trade bait, for another MLS team that wants to jump the line.
Fourth, both the Loons and Atlanta will have the opportunity to claim priority on a player who is currently in either the NASL or the third-division USL. One of the acquisition methods that the two will draft for on Sunday is priority for this extra player, in the unlikely event that both teams claim priority on the same player.
The final two methods put Minnesota and Atlanta at the end of the line, rather than at the start, and won’t be worth a lot. One of the clubs will be 21st and one will be 22nd for priority on the league’s waiver list and re-entry draft. These exist for veteran players who are released or otherwise out of contract.
In addition, both clubs will be at the back of the line for priority for “discovery” players — the league’s secret lists of players who teams would like to bring into the league. Again, being 21st on this list instead of 22nd won’t be particularly valuable.
United still has a few weeks left to play out in its NASL season, but when the final whistle goes, all eyes will be on the team’s transition to MLS. Sunday’s Priority Draft, esoteric though it may be, is the start of that road and will shape what the Loons roster looks like come next spring.
• FIFA President Gianni Infantino continues to push for a further expansion of the men’s World Cup, and soccer’s international governing body will consider proposals in January that could expand the tournament from 32 teams to 40 or even 48. An expansion wouldn’t help the quality of the tournament, which usually has four or five teams that aren’t up to speed already.
• La Liga announced that the first Barcelona-Real Madrid game of the year, on Dec. 3, will kick off at 4:15 p.m. It is specifically timed to appeal to viewers in both America and Asia, rather than continental European viewers. After the success of the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, both the German Bundesliga and La Liga are pushing for more worldwide attention. But they’re starting from way behind.
• This week, the L.A. Galaxy announced that it would fund a girls’ development academy, one of the few U.S. Soccer academy programs for girls that will be cost-free for the players. Taking financial concerns out of youth player development is good for all levels of soccer in America, so it’s nice to see the Galaxy — winners of a record five MLS Cups — taking the lead.
WEEKEND WATCH GUIDE
Premier League: Everton at Manchester City, 9 a.m. Saturday, NBCSN. Everton was briefly in second place in the league, but a loss and a draw in its past two games have shunted it down the pecking order. Manchester City is still in first place, but a loss to Tottenham ended dreams of an unbeaten season — and puts three teams within striking distance.
Liga MX: Tijuana at América, 9 p.m. Saturday, Univision. With only a handful of games left in the fall season, Tijuana has opened a comfortable lead at the top of the league. A trip to Mexico City to take on América is always difficult, though, especially given that the home side is not guaranteed to finish in the playoff places.
MLS: Toronto at Montreal, 2 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. With two games left in the season, Toronto has clinched a playoff berth and Montreal is all but in. But the soccer version of the Maple Leafs-Canadiens rivalry always has a bit of extra spice. Toronto is five points ahead of Montreal, but the Impact would love to close that gap.
MLS: Colorado at Portland, 4 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. Portland, the defending MLS Cup champion, needs to win both remaining games and get help to even make the playoffs. Colorado, meanwhile, climbed to the top of the MLS standings with a victory Thursday against San Jose. But will the Rapids have anything left for this game?