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How Sounders will be affected by 2021 MLS Expansion Draft

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This year’s list of protected players appears to be reasonably straightforward.

Los Angeles Galaxy v Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

After a one-year reprieve, the Seattle Sounders must again worry about the MLS Expansion Draft almost immediately after the season ends. Charlotte FC will be allowed to select up to five players from the 22 eligible teams, who are allowed to protect 12 players, plus others who are exempted.

For the Sounders, the list of players who are exempt include Homegrown Players Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva, Ethan Dobbelaere and Reed Baker-Whiting. Jordan Morris, however, will need to be protected as Homegrown players born before 1996 are otherwise eligible for the expansion draft.

If the Sounders do lose a player in the Expansion Draft, they’ll be compensated with $50,000 in General Allocation Money.

As of press time, it was not immediately clear if Andrew Thomas — who was a pre-signed collegian picked in a midseason waiver draft — would be eligible for the Expansion Draft. (Update: We’ve confirmed that Thomas won’t have automatic protection.)

For the most part, the list of players the Sounders are likely to protect seems fairly straightforward. My guess is that these 12 players will be protected:

  1. Xavier Arreaga
  2. Léo Chú
  3. Stefan Frei
  4. Yeimar Goméz Andrade
  5. Nicolás Lodeiro
  6. Jimmy Medranda
  7. João Paulo
  8. Jordan Morris
  9. Cristian Roldan
  10. Alex Roldan
  11. Raúl Ruidíaz
  12. Nouhou

I also suspect part of the reason players like Spencer Richey, Kelyn Rowe and Fredy Montero currently have unexercised options is possibly an effort to make them less desirable to potential expansion teams. Similarly, there’s no reason to waste a protected spot on Stefan Cleveland, Shane O’Neill or Will Bruin, as all three will be free agents and selecting them would only give Charlotte a relatively small window in which they’ll have prioritized negotiating rights.

Of the players I suspect will be exposed, the most attractive is probably Abdoulaye Cissoko. At 21 years old and a league-minimum contract, Charlotte could see him as an interesting project who has already proven capable at the MLS level. Thomas could fit into a similar category, if left unprotected, but he’s also relatively unproven with just seven USL starts and still nursing the back injury that caused him to miss the final three months of the season.

Sounders 2021 roster

Player Roster Category Player Category Automatically protected? (Y/N) Roster status
Player Roster Category Player Category Automatically protected? (Y/N) Roster status
X. Arreaga Senior International N Signed
J. Atencio Supplemental Slots 25-28 Homegrown Y Signed
R. Baker-Whiting Supplemental Slots 29-30 Homegrown Y Signed
N. Benezet Senior International N Unknown
W. Bruin Senior N Out of contract
L. Chú Senior International, U22 Initiative N Signed
A. Cissoko Supplemental Slots 25-28 N Unknown
S. Cleveland Senior N Out of contract
J. Delem Senior N Option
E. Dobbelaere Supplemental Slots 25-28 Homegrown Y Unknown
S. Frei Senior N Signed
Yeimar Senior International N Signed
S. Hopeau Supplemental Slots 25-28 Homegrown Y Unknown
D. Leyva Supplemental Slots 25-28 Homegrown Y Signed
N. Lodeiro Senior Designated Player N Signed
J. Medranda Senior N Signed
João Paulo Senior Designated Player N Signed
F. Montero Supplemental Slots 21-24 N Option
J. Morris Senior N Signed
T. Muse Supplemental Slots 29-30 Homegrown Y Unknown
S. O'Neill Senior N Out of contract
A. Ocampo-Chavez Supplemental Slots 29-30 Homegrown Y Unknown
S. Richey Supplemental Slots 21-24 N Option
C. Roldan Senior N Signed
Á. Roldan Senior N Signed
K. Rowe Senior N Option
R. Ruidíaz Senior Designated Player N Signed
B. Smith Senior International N Unknown
A. Thomas Supplemental Slots 21-24 N Signed
Nouhou Senior International N Signed