Another year, another MLS expansion draft.
This time, FC Cincinnati is joining the league and the players available to the new Ohio club were announced by MLS on Monday afternoon. The expansion draft will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. Central.
For the Chicago Fire, the list of protected and available players gives a clue as to what other players may still be re-joining the Fire in 2019. Currently, the Fire have 17 players under contract. Six of those (Stefan Cleveland, Elliot Collier, Jorge Corrales, Nicolas Del Grecco, Nico Hasler and Richard Sanchez) were left unprotected.
None of those jump out immediately as players that Cincinnati will be eager to pick up, but past expansion drafts haven’t been about best players available. With the five teams that had players taken in last year’s draft exempt (Columbus, San Jose, Seattle, Kansas City and Toronto), the chances go up a bit that a Fire player will be taken. Cincinnati will select five players total from five different teams.
Not all of the players the Fire protected are under contract. The Fire protected Brandt Bronico, Diego Campos, Michael de Leeuw, Raheem Edwards, Fabian Herbers, Johan Kappelhof, Aleksandar Katai, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Matt Polster and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Djordje Mihailovic, Grant Lillard and Mo Adams were exempt from the expansion draft and didn’t need to be protected.
Of that list, de Leeuw, Kappelhof and Polster are not under contract. The Fire previously stated they are still in contract talks with the three players. At the very least, protecting them shows the Fire want to retain the MLS rights to those players even if they leave the league.