Who Will Sporting Protect in Expansion Draft?

Breaking down Sporting’s most important 11 players
by Eric Harris   |   Thursday, December 04, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

Two new teams will be having their inaugural season in MLS next season, which means that those rosters have to be filled. In less than a week, the expansion draft for New York City FC and Orlando City will fill those rosters. In the process a couple teams might lose some key players. Sporting’s depth means that some quality players will be available to be drafted.

SKC gets to protect 11 players in addition to Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, Kevin Ellis and Mikey Lopez who are protected automatically. Picking those last few players may be difficult for Peter Vermes and company, but some recent contract news has given some insight to who will be kept.

Five players seem to be locks for protection. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler both signed long-term, designated player contracts. So we can expect both sides to do whatever they can to keep the two US-internationals in Kansas City. In the middle, Benny Feilhaber has proved himself to be the best in the SKC midfield and has become an indispensible part of the lineup. After becoming the single-season leader of goals in team history, Dom Dwyer is another obvious pick to be protected. Aurelien Collin is the final lock on the team. Despite some rumors of his departure from the team, he and Besler are the anchors on defense for SKC.

Due to league rules, Sporting has to protect three players currently in international spots. SKC has seven players that fill that requirement, but who gets protected remains a little cloudy. Jorge Claros is a fairly safe choice to protect, with Sporting still looking for an answer in midfield to work with Feilhaber, expect Sporting to have multiple options there. Because of the new partnership with Fluminense, they are required to loan one player to both Sporting KC and their USL affiliate, OKC Energy FC. That means Igor Juliao has a place with SKC in the near future. The final international spot could go a lot of different directions, because Sporting did not pick up the option on Toni Dovale, he definitely won’t be selected. Instead, Martin Steuble seems the most likely option, again because Vermes wants options in the midfield.

That leaves three more spots for the rest of the roster. Sporting declined the options on a lot of players recently, including the two keepers, Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum. Vermes plans on signing two keepers in the offseason so neither will be protected. So far only one striker has been protected, between the remaining options, Soony Saad seems the most likely option there. Teams can select another player to protect after one is taken, so if Claudio Bieler or C.J. Sapong is taken, expect Sporting to use that option on the other. Seth Sinovic was taken by Montreal in their expansion draft, don’t expect sporting to take that risk again.

10 players down, one final spot left. Chance Meyers is probably too much of a risk after his achilles injury to protect. With rumors of Roger Espinoza coming back, it shows Vermes wants as many options at midfield as possible, meaning Paulo Nagamura will most likely be the final pick. Sporting would the be forced to leave players like Ike Opara and the previously mentioned Meyers and Bieler open.

NEXT UP: January 31 – Sporting Kansas City v. Portland Timbers (Pre-Season Friendly), Kino North Stadium, Tucson, Ariz. 8 p.m. EST, TBD.


U of Arkansas
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
American soccer fan by birth, SKC and Fulhamerican by choice. Watcher of all soccer, professional, WoSo and college. A life long Arkansan, he spends more money on soccer jerseys than a college student should.