There has been some confusion in the Sounders community on how many internationals the Sounders must protect. While the general consensus is that Rosales will be protected, and many believe that Flaco will also be protected, there is much disagreement over whether a third, most likely Friberg, must also be protected to satisfy the MLS expansion draft rules or if Tetteh actually satisfies that requirement. Here is my analysis, in which I conclude that Friberg does not have to be protected.
There are three key provisions from the 2012 Expansion Draft Rules:
• Players on a club’s Off-budget Roster, other than Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season or Homegrown Players on a Club’s Off-budget Roster, will be part of the expansion draft.
• Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2011 MLS Season and Homegrown Players on a club’s Off-budget Roster at the end of the 2011 MLS Season are automatically protected (Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them).
• Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) that they may make available. Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three, provided that if a club has three or fewer international players it may make available not more than one. (See table below).
The Sounders have 6 internationals: Flaco, Rosales, Friberg, Sanyang, Montano and Tetteh. Gonzalez is listed as an international on the Sounders' website, but has received his green card and is not actually an international. According to the MLS rules, with 6 internationals the Sounders may "Make Available Not More Than" 3.
A plain reading of this rule gives us the quick answer that by protecting Rosales and Flaco, and having Tetteh automatically protected, the Sounders are only making 3 available (Friberg, Sanyang, and Montano) and are satisfying the rule. If they want to protect Friberg as well, they certainly can; there is no restriction on the number of internationals protected.
Where the confusion arises is that the rule is generally interpreted as requiring that 3 internationals are actively protected. The rule is a bit more nuanced than that. The rule is that "Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players  minus three . . . ." The rule does not require that three are actively protected by the Sounders, but rather that three are unavailable in the expansion draft. 6-3=3. That's pretty clear math to me.
A monkey wrench that might be thrown by Montreal is that they could argue that Tetteh simply isn't part of the expansion draft. The first quoted rule implies that GA and HG players are not part of the draft. Extending that argument, the Sounders would have 5 internationals and could only expose 2. The Sounders could have two clear responses: first, GA players are part of the draft, as they are specifically protected via the 2nd rule quoted. This would be an argument that the first rule quoted was only meant to clarify that off-budget players may be protected and selected just like other players, and was not meant to imply that GA and HG players are not part of other considerations. Second, the third rule refers to the "total number of international players on the roster." The reference is not to players in the expansion draft, but rather to the roster as a whole.
But is this what MLS meant to do by crafting the rule in this manner? Did they actually intend to write a rule where you have to have 3 internationals as part of your protected 11, but worded it in a different way? I would argue that they did not. One of the main concerns of the MLS has been to limit the number of international journeymen that fill the league. As I recall, this was a problem for NASL, and was a real concern upon the founding of MLS. One of the main reasons for the MLS is to grow the sport domestically, and one way to do that is to make sure your domestic players are actually getting playing time in your league. Montreal will be limited to the number of internationals they can draft, since each team has a limited number of international slots. By ensuring that a limited number of internationals are available, MLS is forcing teams to leave a few quality domestic players unprotected. If an expansion team only had good internationals to pick from, they would be unable to bring in their own talent through the transfer market and would be forced to scrounge around for domestic help to fill out their roster. I believe that this is the intent of the rule, and supports a finding that as long as three internationals are unavailable, that the Sounders are fulfilling their obligation.
Hopefully this settles the debate. Feel free to keep leaving Friberg off of your protected lists at your leisure.