Expansion Draft

2021 MLS Expansion Draft Rules & Procedures

During the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft on Tuesday, Dec. 14, Charlotte FC may select up to five players in preparation for their inaugural 2022 season.

Key dates:

  • Dec. 13: The list of players eligible for selection will be released by MLS Communications at 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 13.
  • Dec. 14: MLS Expansion Draft: Tuesday, December 14

2021 MLS Expansion Draft Process:

  • Five Rounds: Charlotte FC may select up to five players from the eligible pool of players, claiming only a single player from any one club.
  • Selection clock: Charlotte FC will be permitted three minutes for each selection.
  • Timeouts: No timeouts
  • Trades: No trades are permitted during the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft.

Key parameters:

General Allocation Money (GAM):

  • Charlotte FC will receive an additional sum of General Allocation Money as compensation for 5 exempt teams, protected Homegrown players, and the twelve protected players per team in the MLS Expansion Draft consistent with prior expansion clubs.
  • Any club that has a player claimed from their unprotected roster will receive $50,000 in General Allocation Money.

Protected/unprotected player-related rules:

  • The following five teams that had players selected by Austin FC during the 2020 MLS Expansion Draft, are exempt from the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft: San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC, LA Galaxy, Orlando City SC.
  • The other 22 returning MLS clubs that competed during the 2021 season can protect 12 players from their Senior, Supplemental, and Reserve rosters.
  • If a player’s contract expires at the end of 2021, he will still be considered part of the club’s Roster.
  • If a club protects a player, the club is not obligated to exercise the player’s option. The club may renegotiate a new contract with the player as in previous years, subject to the CBA.
  • Option Decline Free Agents and Out of Contract Free Agents not automatically protected and are eligible for selection.
  • Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2021 MLS Season and Homegrown Players (ages 25 and under –born in or after 1996) on a club’s Roster at the end of the 2021 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 and is not part of the Expansion Draft, 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 2021 club would be treated as a new club for purposes of the Free Agency rules.

Supplemental or Reserve Roster Player:

  • If Charlotte FC selects a Supplemental or Reserve Roster Player, he must be offered a Senior Roster position and he must remain on the Senior Roster as of Roster Compliance Date.

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.

Right to negotiate

Charlotte FC 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.


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.