Latif Blessing - LAFC - tight shot
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The Top 5 picks in MLS Expansion Draft history

It's a rite of passage for every new team entering the league: The MLS Expansion Draft, which gives new entrants one of their first opportunities at acquiring proven talent as they assemble their inaugural roster.

This year, all eyes will turn to Austin FC, which is set to kick off its MLS existence in 2021, and will have their pick of five players from the eligible pool when the 2020 Expansion Draft gets underway on Tuesday at 6 pm ET streaming live on MLSsoccer.com and the free MLS app.

Ahead of Tuesday's event, it's worth looking back at some of the biggest success stories from Expansion Draft history that new teams have used to help launch their clubs from the get-go.

Watch: The Top 5 Expansion Draft picks in MLS history

Sebastien Le Toux

Philadelphia Union

After acting as a key cog for the Seattle Sounders during their own 2009 expansion season, Le Toux was one of the 11 players left unprotected by Seattle for the subsequent Expansion Draft, clearing the way for the Union to swoop him up ahead of their debut 2010 MLS campaign. The Frenchman proved to be a productive addition, earning an MLS All-Star selection in that 2010 season, and netting 25 goals in 62 appearances over the next two years. Le Toux would be traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps and then the New York Red Bulls before returning to Philadelphia in 2013, putting up another 25 goals in 113 appearances.

Andy Williams

Real Salt Lake

The Expansion Draft is a great opportunity to add proven MLS players, and Williams is a prime example of an established face that wound up paying dividends upon arrival to a new club. The Jamaican midfielder arrived as the second player in Real Salt Lake history via the 2004 draft, and became the second player in league history to feature for six teams. Williams found a long-term home at RSL, becoming a stalwart presence in the club's midfield racking up 189 appearances from 2005-2011. He would remain with the club following his retirement, first as an assistant coach and then in the scouting department.

Brad Evans

Seattle Sounders

After arriving in Seattle from the Columbus Crew via the 2008 Expansion Draft ahead of their debut season, Evans would go on to become a club legend for the Sounders, making 200 appearances over the next nine seasons and becoming one of the league's most versatile players, able to play in virtually any position all over the midfield and backline. His play on the field was always rock-solid, but it was Evans' presence and leadership in the locker room that he also became known for, helping lay the foundation for the consistent run of success the club experienced from its first days in the league. Given where the Sounders are now, this pick can be considered one of the early moves that helped get them there.

Zach Thornton

Chicago Fire FC

When talking about Expansion Draft picks paying long-term dividends, Thornton's name has to be near the top of the list. After arriving as Chicago's pick ahead of their 1998 debut campaign, Thornton immediately established himself as one of the best backstops in MLS, taking home the Goalkeeper of the Year Award and helping lead Chicago to an MLS Cup title in their first season. He would hold it down for the club between the posts all the way until 2006, making 215 appearances.

Latif Blessing

LAFC

Blessing was thought of as a talented player during his original MLS stint with Sporting Kansas City, but he really took off after his arrival at LAFC as the second selection of the 2017 Expansion Draft, where he's become one of the league's best and most versatile midfielders. LAFC's more flashy names may get more of the attention, but it's players like Blessing that have helped provide the glue for the team's remarkable early success in the league, which included arguably the best single-season in MLS history in their record-breaking Supporters' Shield-winning campaign of 2019. LAFC fans have the Expansion Draft to thank for Blessing's presence in the fold.

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