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Expansion Plans; Improved TV
November 1st, 2006 12:59PM

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As MLS Cup 2006 approaches, coaches and general managers are receiving updates and information regarding procedures for an expansion draft to be held Nov. 17, the Friday after the championship game.

Several directives have gone out and plans are still being formulated. A few points of note regarding procedures in the current version:

Teams can protect only 12 of their 28 players, counting the regular 18-man roster and developmental players. In a previous version teams were allowed to protect 10 of their 18 roster players and developmental players were not subject to being drafted.

Teams must protect at least three of their four senior internationals.

Each team can only lose one player directly in the draft.

Since Toronto coach Mo Johnston surely has his own preferences for senior internationals, the provision that teams must protect three of theirs will force teams to make some very good rostered players available, as in effect, a team can only protect nine, since three spots are taken up by protected senior internationals.

All teams, including Toronto, will be permitted four senior internationals next season. Beyond that, the situation of a Canadian team playing in an American league has prompted MLS to come up with a few tweaks of its rules.

Not yet defined is how much flexibility Toronto will be granted regarding the signing of Canadian and American players. Not counting against the senior international limit will be three (although this number could change) Americans, and there also will be special provisions for a certain number of Canadian internationals.

In the days of the North American Soccer League, since it included teams in both Canada and the United States, its teams listed Americans or Canadians - regardless of which side of the border a player was employed -- as non-foreign players.

TV TIME. The influence of ESPN has already been seen in MLS playoff telecasts, with a subtle increase in statistics being shown on-screen during play.

Rather than using graphic blocks that sometimes cover up a third of the screen, though, a small box with a single stat -- say, shots for each team -- slides down from the score/time bar across the top of the screen, lingers for a few seconds, then slides back up into the bar and out of sight.

It's a clever way to keep viewers abreast of statistics without intruding on the action significantly. It's one of many changes being contemplated as ESPN takes greater control over the televised product.

Thanks to a camera placed behind the goal at the FC Dallas-Colorado game last weekend, viewers got a glorious look at Clint Mathis' laser shot with six minutes left in overtime. The look enhanced viewers' appreciation of just what a great strike it was; from behind the goal, the power, placement, and technique - as well as Dario Sala's futile dive - were spectacular.


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