All the unprotected lists are now in, giving Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC just a few days to get their wish lists together before Tuesday's five-round Expansion Draft.
It also gives us a crack at one of those unique prognostication exercises where one can actually be both right and wrong at the same time: the mock draft. It's part prediction, part suggestion and all good fun.
There isn't much in the way of goal-scorers to be found in the pool of available players this time around, whereas somewhat pricey veteran defenders are practically a dime a dozen. And seeing how both expansion teams are already building up strength in defensive midfield, that position has essentially been ignored.
One last thing: I'm not here to predict trades, so what follows is an attempt to make tough roster-buildings calls for the two new kids on the MLS block.
Inter Miami: Brandon Vazquez
Vazquez with Atlanta United in 2019. | USA Today Images
Atlanta United have a handful of intriguing players up for grabs, so the expansion teams will know they'd better get while the getting's good. Miami may well also dip into the dirty south to grab athletic defender Florentin Pogba, but it seems at least as likely they'd take a shot on cheaper potential for the forward line with Vazquez.
Nashville SC: Sebastien Ibeagha
Ibeagha has been NYCFC's primary central defensive backup. | USA Today Images
Like their Eastern rivals, New York City FC's exposed list falls under the "hurry before it's gone" heading. Ben Sweat would make for a solid choice and the Cityzens have also left a couple of nifty wingers exposed, but gosh, reliable and affordable center backs with plenty of tread left on the tires are awfully hard to come by, so that leaves Ibeagha.
Inter Miami: Luis Argudo
Argudo saw more playing time with the Crew in 2019. | USA Today Images
Versatility is a huge asset when it comes to Major League Soccer's somewhat thinner player pools, so we almost went for Hector Jimenez. However, Miami might be more tempted by a young playmaker that started to come into his own at the end of the 2019 season. Argudo exhibits an excellent work rate and has the ability to become a supplemental offense threat.
Nashville SC: Mohamed El-Munir
El-Munir played a reserve role for LAFC in 2019. | USA Today Images
Supporters' Shield winners LAFC are another club dangling several interesting players, even if some passed 30 a few years ago. Having already passed on Sweat, we'd imagine that general manager Mike Jacobs might be pleased as punch to grab a potential high value difference-maker like El-Munir for the left back slot.
Inter Miami: Gedion Zelalem
Talented midfielder Zelalem still looking for his breakthrough in MLS. | USA Today Images
Given their fan base and cultural milieu, it stands to reason that Miami will want a squad that can control the ball. We're still waiting for the Sporting KC youngster to fulfill his large potential, but Zelalem has the possession skills, potential and small salary that might be too good to pass up.
Nashville SC: Alvas Powell
Powell (left) in action with 2019 expansion team FC Cincinnati. | USA Today Images
The right back bar around the league has been raised the last few years by several impactful newcomers, so stocking the position well has become more important. Powell certainly didn't have his best season in 2019, but he's quite talented and still only 25. He's also one of the guys who could double as a valuable trade chip.
Inter Miami: Olivier Mbaizo
Mbaizo has not played many games in MLS, but is considered a potential future star. | USA Today Images
While we're on the topic of right backs, there's a young one with with what looks to be a bright two-way flank future ahead of him on Philly's unprotected list. Mbaizo is a regular with Cameroon's Under-23 side and just about as cheap as they come. The Union and their fans would hate to lose him, but that's not really Miami's problem, is it?
Nashville SC: Abu Danladi
Injuries have slowed Danladi, but the striker still has potential. | USA Today Images
Goals are in short supply in this year's expansion pool, but there are a few young forwards worth taking a flyer on. Danladi has struggled to live up to his top SuperDraft pick status so far, but he's still has plenty of talent and time to bloom. If he can turn himself into a double-digit goal man, this pick becomes a steal.
Inter Miami: Evan Bush
Grabbing a sturdy netminder scratches a big job off any expansion side's to-do list. And as they often give up plenty of chances to opponents, grabbing a splendid shot-stopper like Bush (pictured, top) makes sense. This past season wasn't his best, but that just makes him another potential "buy low" bargain.
Nashville SC: Harry Shipp
Shipp (right) is among the best depth players in MLS. | USA Today Images
While the Music City boys are already starting to fill out a decent wing stable, every club needs dependable, cost-effective depth. Shipp represented just that for the MLS Cup champs this season. He's a good teammate who produces a decent amount of end product in a backup's minutes (0.52 goals + assists per 90 in 2019).