For a half-hour on Tuesday afternoon, the MLS world will stop and focus its full attention on FC Cincinnati.
With all eyes on them, FC Cincy will hold court as the club make their five selections in the 2018 Expansion Draft at 2 pm ET. The list of players left unprotected is comprehensive, presenting countless different options for MLS's 24th club.
FCC head coach Alan Koch says the club will try to acquire both players who can contribute to the team and others with value who can be used in trades.
"We need players that can come in and play, and start, because we don't have too many of those right now," Koch told MLSsoccer.com. "But we also want to do good, solid business as an expansion club. We're open to bringing players that we need, but if we need to use these other mechanisms to help build a club, then we'll obviously do that too."
Koch did admit that he sees more than a few starting-caliber players left unprotected, answering without hesitation, but explained that it may not be as simple as it looks.
"There's only a few that we think are starters that are easier to get, in terms of having guaranteed contracts," Koch said. "I think as soon as you look who can start for you and who's on a guaranteed deal, that list gets shortened very quickly. Then it's obviously about the position, the character of the player. It may look like there's a lot of players out there, but that list gets whittled very quickly."
For instance, there are players available like Jeff Larentowicz and Michael Parkhurst, two players who were integral to Atlanta United's 2018 MLS Cup triumph, but come with difficulties to select. Parkhurst declared for free agency, so he can theoretically re-sign with ATL even if FCC select him, and Larentowicz is 35 years old. They have to worry about international slots, salary cap limitations and positions where the club have already signed players.
But the club have long been doing research, preparing for Tuesday’s draft. FCC dedicated their technical staff to scouting the entirety of MLS with regular meetings to report back their findings since the beginning of the season. Furthermore, they they have recent history to look at and delve into. Just last year, LAFC were in the same position.
At the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Black & Gold utilized their five picks in different ways. They selected a few players that became regular contributors, like Tyler Miller, Latif Blessing and Marco Ureña, while also selecting a pair of players that would immediately be used in a trade for the club's first captain and defensive rock Laurent Ciman.
"We had a really good conversation with (LAFC general manager) John Thorrington, picked his brain to see what worked and didn't work, to see what the craziness of the 48 hours will be like," Koch said. "I think John was fantastic at sharing his experiences. It's an absolute whirlwind, but it's a fun whirlwind. You get to build a new team."
FCC's new team will have more than a few familiar faces from their old one. On Monday, the club signed five players from their 2018 USL squad to the MLS roster. The club is rapidly expanding their team, and by Tuesday night, they'll likely have the core of the team in place, after acquiring Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe in July.
"I'm excited to have the last 24-48 hours over, we're not sleeping, we're talking to everybody on the planet," Koch said. "It'll be nice to have a little bit of calmness back."
With the Expansion Draft immediately preceding the start of free agency, the calmness Koch craves won't set in anytime soon. But that's fine, Koch and co. have a team to build, whirlwind be damned.