MLS 101

MLS 101: The Expansion Draft

The 2021 Expansion Draft will play a key role in the construction of Charlotte FC’s inaugural roster. Here, we explain how it works…

What is the Expansion Draft?

Ahead of its inaugural season, an expansion team will participate in an Expansion Draft, in which it can pick five players from existing MLS teams.

At the 2020 Expansion Draft, in December 2020, for example, Austin FC selected five players from the ‘unprotected’ rosters of other MLS rosters. Their No.1 pick was Dutch forward Danny Hoesen from the San Jose Earthquakes, who went on to make five regular season appearances in 2021.

Charlotte FC will make its five picks at the 2021 Expansion Draft on December 14.

What format does the Expansion Draft take?

In 2021, Charlotte FC will make five picks from other rosters, but there are limitations as to which players can be selected.

Current clubs are able to protect 12 players from the Expansion Draft, and only one player may be selected from each club.

Any side that gave up players in the previous year’s draft is exempt from participating. Therefore, San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC, Orlando City and LA Galaxy will not be liable to give up any players in the 2021 Expansion Draft.

A club that loses a player in the Expansion Draft will receive additional as a means of compensation.

Expansion teams are on the clock for three minutes and there are no timeouts (this is more of a concern when there is more than one team in the Expansion Draft, such as the 2019 edition, where Inter Miami and Nashville participated).

No trades are permitted during the draft, but they typically take place afterwards (more on that shortly).

Which players are eligible to be selected in the Expansion Draft?

Expansion clubs make their picks from the Eligible Player list, which is typically made available following MLS Cup; a few days before the Expansion Draft.

The list is put together after each participating club has decided who will be among their 12 protected players. Hence, it consists of players on each club’s respective unprotected roster.

Do players picked in the Expansion Draft tend to play for the expansion team?

Often, the five players drafted by expansion teams in the Expansion Draft do not all end up playing for the team—at least one pick is usually traded to other clubs in exchange for other players or assets.

In 2019, for example, Nashville traded fourth pick Brandon Vazquez to FC Cincinnati in exchange for $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. In 2020, Austin picked defender Kamal Miller from Orlando City and then traded him to Montreal Impact for $225,000 in General Allocation Money and a 2021 first-round pick.

“In the most recent iterations of the Expansion Draft, three-to-four of the picks selected will play for the expansion team, while the other picks are traded,” says Charlotte FC Director of Player Personnel Bobby Belair. “In 2021, it will be important for us to be open to trade opportunities, while also finding value in the players we select.”

When and where will the 2021 Expansion Draft take place?

The 2021 MLS Expansion Draft, presented by Honeywell, will take place at Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday December 14 at 7pm ET.

It will be broadcast live on WSOC and Telemundo and a live stream will also be available on

The draft show will include interviews with Head Coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez and club president Nick Kelly, while Charlotte FC broadcaster Eric Krakauer and former MLS player Calen Carr will provide instant analysis after each pick.