On Friday morning in Chicago, the 2019 MLS SuperDraft will take place, offering an opportunity for nearly 100 players to make their mark in the top league in the U.S. and Canada.
The SuperDraft is highly discussed, if not criticized, for being less of a priority than in other American sports. If you hold a top-five pick in the NBA or NFL, it could produce a franchise-defining player like LeBron James or Peyton Manning. But in Major League Soccer, the draft has been more of a crapshoot, leading to fewer and fewer ‘big time’ players.
What’s defined as success at the SuperDraft is dependent on who you ask. One team may be looking for a starter; another may look for a role player off the bench; another may just want to stock their USL side; and another may not want to participate at all. It usually reveals itself in the days or hours leading up to the draft which is which.
The Philadelphia Union, for example, sent every one of their five picks this year to FC Cincinnati for a lump sum of allocation money. Cincinnati enters their first season in MLS and is in need of players to round out their roster. The Union on the other hand have chosen to pursue player acquisition elsewhere, including their strong youth academy.
As the years have gone by, fewer and fewer top-level talent has been available for selection because of the rise of MLS academies and the sudden interest in American youth overseas. Imagine if players such as San Jose’s Nick Lima, Seattle’s Jordan Morris and Columbus’ Wil Trapp had been available for selection instead of signing Homegrown Player contracts with their respective clubs. Imagine if players such as Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent had stayed in the U.S. and entered the draft when the appropriate time came. Every year, as MLS teams invest more and more into their youth setups, the amount of upper-end talent that ‘slips through the cracks’ is reduced – or at least they’d like to believe so.
Regardless, the MLS SuperDraft has its place in American soccer. Over the last four years, the draft has produced players like Cyle Larin (2015, No. 1), Tim Parker (2015, No. 13), Cristian Roldan (2015, No. 16), Jack Harrison (2016, No. 1), Jeremy Ebobisse (2017, No. 4), Julian Gressel (2017, No. 8), and so on.
The Quakes currently hold five picks, including the No. 2 overall selection. They’ll also be selecting at No. 26, 46, 50 and 74. Talent has been found with the second-overall pick over the years, including defender Steve Birnbaum (2014), forward Darren Mattocks (2012) and midfielder Darlington Nagbe (2011).
Only time will tell what type of players the 2019 MLS SuperDraft will produce. We’ll have to wait and see.