NEW YORK — As the 2019 MLS regular season entered its final day on Sunday, the league's two newest clubs took another step towards their inaugural campaigns in 2020.
On MLSsoccer.com’s Matchday Central: Decision Day presented by AT&T Pregame Show, Inter Miami and Nashville SC came together for the Expansion Priority Draft, deciding which club would go first across five roster building mechanisms in the coming months. All eyes were on the coin flip to see who would select first, with the fate of key categories such as the Expansion Draft, MLS SuperDraft and Allocation Order up for grabs.
Miami's crest landed face up, giving them the first selection. They chose the No. 1 pick in the Expansion Draft, then Nashville took the top place in the Allocation Order. Both clubs are happy with how the draw played out, both focused on value.
“As we build, valuing the MLS experience and guys that have been in the league, is super valuable," Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough told MLSsoccer.com. "With the expansion over the salary cap and TAM, there are deeper squads, I think we can get guys that can help us from other MLS teams. ... Now I know that I control the expansion draft and I can focus on the teams that have good depth. I know I control that, I know that no matter who Nashville picks, I can probably have a pretty good guess at my first two picks. There are more than two teams that are deep who will have good players available.”
Nashville, meanwhile, are content with their pick, despite choosing second. They opted for the top spot in the Allocation Order.
“To be honest with you, we thought it was a no-brainer," Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs said. "If anything, it was more Allocation Order vs. Expansion Draft. Pretty quickly and pretty clearly, those were the top two with the highest value.”
Jacobs didn't indicate whether the club plan to use utilize the top slot in the Allocation Order to sign a player or trade it for value. Some notable names on the Allocation Order include Cyle Larin, Andy Najar, Sebastian Giovinco and others, while the LA Galaxy spent $400,000 TAM, as well as a 2020 first-round SuperDraft, pick to move up from No. 11 to No. 1 on the Allocation Order in May.
“In the priority draft, where is the most value from? We still have an Expansion Draft pick, it’s just No. 2 rather than No. 1," Jacobs said. "The reality is, I think the biggest disparity [in value is] between No. 1 and No. 2 is the Allocation Order. We’re pretty happy with how things ended up. Each of those reference points we draw from, the best practices and what not to do. The reality is, it all comes down to how you utilize the assets you have rather than past precedent of what someone else did with them.”
After Nashville took the top Allocation Order with the second pick, Miami selected the No. 1 SuperDraft pick. The club haven't decided if they intend to use the selection for their roster or to trade it.
“Everything is on the table," McDonough said. "Now that we know we’re number one, we can dive into it a little bit deeper and look harder now that we control our own destiny. We’ll meet with guys that we think are the top picks, we’ll talk to them and see how they fit into our team, but we’re always going to be open to moving it if it makes sense to the club.”
This is McDonough's third go-round through the expansion process, first with Orlando City then Atlanta United. With Atlanta, their first SuperDraft saw the club end up with Julian Gressel and Miles Robinson. Despite Miami already splashing lavish transfer fees on the likes of Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza, McDonough values the SuperDraft.
“One of the good things is when you go through this process you have different ways, monies and mechanisms, you have to hit on all of them to try and be a good expansion team," McDonough said. "The SuperDraft is one of them. In the past, we were really fortunate that we were able to trade one of the expansion picks, because we controlled the expansion draft. We got the number eight pick and we were fortunate that it turned into Gressel, which was good.”
Now, with orders set, the clubs are each looking forward to the Expansion Draft on November 19.
“It all depends on who is available," McDonough said of what positions Miami will target in the Expansion Draft. "Even though we’ve signed a couple young attacking players, having an experienced attacking player from within the league is super valuable. We need to be six-deep up front for the four spots, at a minimum. One or two players could come from within the league, via a trade or expansion draft, so everything is on the table.”
“In these next three months, [we’re focused on] solidifying our plans with Expansion Draft," Jacobs added. "We have a really good idea of the players we want to add to our team. Finishing up our roster with international scouting and recruitment. We’ve announced a specific amount of players. We have some other players we haven’t announced yet, in the coming weeks we’ll start to announce those. It’s an exciting time ahead. It’s arguably the busiest three months we’ll have in our roster building.”
Sunday was just another small milestone passed as each club become closer and closer to their inaugural MLS matches in about five months.
“It’s a big roster, the Expansion Draft probably gives you the single biggest opportunity to acquire players in one go," Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said. "It goes back to: It’s just one piece of a number of parts. We can’t say the amount of work that’s gone into it.”
“March 2020 is right around the corner," Miami co-owner Jorge Mas added. "Our training camp is going to open in three-and-a-half months. It’s roster build, it’s facilities, it’s stadiums, it’s coaching—it’s all of the above. We have all hands on deck, we’re going to be able to execute on all of them.”