Soccer in America is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth. TV viewership is at record numbers, team valuations are skyrocketing and most importantly, the product on the field has never been better.  

One way that both Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League are looking to capitalize on this growth by adding new franchises. This offseason, MLS will see a new franchise established in Charlotte FC before adding Saint Louis City SC in 2023 while the NWSL will feature two new California-based clubs in Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC.  

With the establishment of every expansion franchise naturally comes another expansion draft. This year’s expansion drafts will take place on December 14 in MLS and December 16 in the NWSL.  

While this mostly impacts the new franchises, the rest of the league, including the Dynamo and Dash, are already hard at work determining which players they will protect, and which players they will leave open to potential selection.  

Per league rules, the Dynamo can protect 12 players from their Senior, Supplemental, and Reserve rosters. Last year, some of the players Houston protected include defender Zarek Valentin, forward Darwin Quintero and midfielder Matías Vera, whom the team recently re-signed through the 2023 season. 

The team is not required to protect homegrown players such as midfielder Juan Castilla and forward Daniel Rios.  

Additionally, there are five teams that are exempt from the MLS expansion draft. Those exempt are the teams that had a player selected in the 2020 expansion draft by Austin FC. 

In the NWSL, teams are permitted to protect a total of nine players, which may include one U.S. allocated player. As James Clarkson recently discussed in an exclusive interview with The Striker Texas, this means the Dash may have to choose between protecting midfielder Kristie Mewis and goalkeeper Jane Campbell. 

If either expansion franchise selects a U.S. allocated player from the Dash, the Dash will receive a $150,000 Allocation Money grant funded from said club.  

Teams can also ensure that they don’t have a player selected in the expansion draft if they include that in the terms of a trade, as the Chicago Red Stars did in trades with both ACFC and San Diego on Dec. 2. 

Both leagues have released the protected players list that expansion franchises will select from.