The MLS Expansion Draft dates back to 1997 and has been implemented a total of nine times in the league's first 21 years. As the league expands (and contracts), each season it gets more difficult to implement. Rules change drastically from draft to draft and each year the players selected get hosed (mainly because the are going to a team that is likely going to stink).
The last draft, unsurprisingly, was two years ago when Orlando City (who had a team in the USL) and NY City FC (who had to start from scratch) joined the league via meeting Don Garber's qualifications and paying, presumably, a nine-figure sum.
Let's bullet point what happened.
- 8 players no longer play in MLS (value dropped)
- 4 of those dropped a level or two
- Another 4 are no longer playing
- 5 players are still with the team that drafted them
- Only 2 of those are regular contributors
- 4 Players were used to acquire various MLS dollars and draft picks
- 3 players were traded right back to the team they were drafted from
- In two of the cases, value was received in return
First takeaway is that the Expansion Draft has turned into more of a value / commodity acquisition event than a player acquisition mechanic. Well, at least for NYCFC it was.
Orlando is the clear loser of the last draft. Only Pedro Ribeiro, selected 7th, is still around on the team. Seven of the ten players don't even play in MLS anymore. The last two were turned in for value while NYCFC flipped 5 for value and still have four on the roster.
The second takeaway is that this mechanism is incredibly destructive for the player's career. Because these teams come into the league mostly "cold," the selected player is likely going to a bad team (top to bottom), therefore hurting their own personal value and earning power. I doubt the MLS Player's Union will ever look at this, but they should.
SOLUTION: Take the players out of the draft. Skip that step. Give expansion teams extra MLS financial benefits (ie. MLS-funny-money: TAM, GAM, Allocation money) so they can use that to work with other teams to acquire players. This way you're adding to the league instead of stripping valuable, hard-earned commodities from existing teams.