2019 MLS Expansion Draft – How It Works (Rules And Procedures)

During the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft on Tuesday, Nov. 19, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC may add up to five players to their rosters in preparation for their inaugural 2020 season. 

Key dates

  • MLS Expansion Draft: Tuesday, November 19, at 5:30 p.m. EST.
  • The list of players eligible for selection will be released on Saturday November 16 10:00 a.m. EST.

2019 MLS Expansion Draft process:

  • Club Drafting Authority: Each participating club (Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC) must designate one representative to make selections.
  • Rounds: Five rounds as Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC can select up to five players from the eligible pool; they can only claim a single player from any one club.
  • Selection clock: Permitted three minutes for each selection.
  • Timeouts: No timeouts.

Trades: No trades permitted during draft.

Key Parameters

General Allocation Money (GAM):

Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will receive an additional sum of allocation money as compensation for five exempt teams, protected Homegrown players, and the one additional protected player per team in the MLS Expansion Draft.

For a club that has a player claimed from their unprotected roster, that team will receive $50,000 in General Allocation Money for the selection.

Exempt / Non-Exempt Clubs

The following five teams, who had players selected by FC Cincinnati during the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft, are exempt from the 2019 Expansion Draft:

  • D.C. United, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and New York Red Bulls.

The other 19 MLS clubs that competed during the 2019 season can protect 12 players between their Senior, Supplemental and Reserve Roster.

Maximum player loss: Once one player has been claimed from a club’s unprotected roster, that club is eliminated from the Expansion Draft and may not lose any further players.

Protected/Unprotected Player-Related Rules:

If the player’s contract expires at the end of 2019, he will still be considered part of the club’s Roster.

Players whose Options are declined and Out of Contract Players who meet Free Agency requirements are part of the Expansion Draft and are not automatically protected.

If a club protects a player, it is not obligated to exercise the player’s option. It may renegotiate a new contract with the player as in previous years, subject to the CBA. 

Players on a club’s Supplemental Roster, other than Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2019 MLS Season or Homegrown Players – ages 25 and under (born in or after 1994), are eligible.

Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2019 MLS Season and Homegrown Players (ages 25 and under –born in or after 1994) on a club’s Roster at the end of the 2019 MLS Season are automatically protected. Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them.

Designated Players are NOT automatically protected (i.e., clubs must choose whether to protect such players and if such player is not protected, he will be available for selection in the Expansion Draft).

If a player has a no-trade clause in his contract, his MLS club must protect him, and he will count as one of the 12 players who may be protected.

Retired player rules: If a player retires, he will not be a part of the Expansion Draft, but his club will lose its right of first refusal to him should he ultimately decide to re-enter the league.

International player rules: Clubs with four or more international players must protect at least three international players, excluding any automatically protected players. If a Club has only three international players, it must protect two. If a Club has only two international players, it must protect one. A Club that has only one international player is not required to protect that player.

Selection of Free Agents: If a Free Agent is selected in the Expansion Draft, the expansion club that selected the player will gain his previous club’s ability to negotiate a new contract consistent with the CBA. The player’s 2019 club would be treated as a new club for purposes of the Free Agency rules.

If either Inter Miami CF or Nashville SC selects a Supplemental/Reserve Roster Player, it must offer him a Senior Roster position and he must remain on the Senior Roster as of Roster Compliance Date.

Right to negotiate: Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will have the right to renegotiate a selected player’s salary (either up or down) without having to place such player on waivers or giving his previous club a right of first refusal.


Background: For the first time with the 2016 Expansion Draft, the league changed its system as Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United were granted only five selections each, and General Allocation Money awarded to them in lieu of lost picks. As recently as 2014, the Expansion Draft allowed for 10 players to be selected by any participating expansion clubs; in the 1997 Expansion Draft, up to 12 selections were allowed. 

Notable former Expansion Draft picks

Notable former Expansion Draft picks include a pair of LAFC’s 2017 selections: Latif Blessing and Tyler Miller. Blessing has six goals and five assists alongside Miller’s nine shutouts for the top-ranked club in league standings. FC Cincinnati selected Darren Mattocks and Roland Lamah in 2018, and both became regular contributors for the club this season.

The expansion draft is one of the five roster-building mechanisms. Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will flip a coin on Sunday, October 6, 2019 to determine who will have priority in the expansion draft, along with the other player acquisition methods. If the winner of the coin toss elects to make the first pick in the expansion draft, the loser of the coin toss will receive the top pick in the MLS Superdraft.