By Ryan Bailey

The 22nd edition of the MLS SuperDraft, taking place on Thursday, Jan. 21, holds strategic importance for Charlotte

CHARLOTTE—The MLS SuperDraft gives every team in the league the opportunity to sign the best prospects from the collegiate system.

The 2021 edition, which will take place virtually on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. ET, will not feature Charlotte FC. However, the club’s technical staff are closely monitoring this year’s proceedings ahead of the 2022 edition, where Charlotte will make its debut.

Here follows a cheat sheet of the 2021 SuperDraft, and some analysis of its significance for Charlotte FC:

What format does the SuperDraft take?

The MLS SuperDraft closely follows the draft format of other major American sports. In 2021, the draft is divided into three rounds, where all 27 teams will pick in reverse order of their finish last season.

The first pick, however, goes to new expansion teams in the league. Hence, in 2021, Austin FC will go first. FC Cincinnati, based on their finish last season, will draft second.

One of the key advantages of Charlotte FC’s 2022 start date is a guaranteed first pick in the SuperDraft and no competition from other expansion sides in the Expansion Draft.

It is also worth noting that teams are permitted to trade their picks for General Allocation Money (GAM), which can be used to strengthen the roster through other sources. For example, this year the Philadelphia Union has agreed to trade SuperDraft picks with Nashville in exchange for GAM.

Which players are eligible for the SuperDraft?

Most draft prospects are NCAA college seniors who have exhausted their college eligibility, and some non-collegiate international players are also available for selection.

Some of the most sought-after picks in the SuperDraft, however, are Generation adidas players. The Generation adidas program gives a SuperDraft path to a handful of top collegiate underclassmen and youth national team players. In 2021, MLS has pre-signed deals with five Generation adidas players, based on recommendations from MLS front offices.

Generation adidas players are desirable due to their perceived quality on the field, and because they are locked into the Supplemental Roster, which means their salaries do not count towards the Salary Cap for at least two years.

Every No.1 pick in the SuperDraft since 2003 has been a Generation adidas product—and 2021 is likely to be no exception.

Austin FC is deemed likely to select Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka as the No.1 pick. The Kenyan recently signed a Generation adidas contract, becoming the third Clemson undergraduate to do so.

Most draft picks will head to training camp with their new team, but not all are guaranteed a contract or a spot on an MLS roster. Clubs typically use preseason as a trial period prior to officially signing their draft picks.

MLS has published the full list of all 176 players who are eligible for selection in 2021. The league has also put together a list ranking the top 10 SuperDraft prospects.

How can I watch the 2021 SuperDraft?

For the second consecutive season, the SuperDraft will take place virtually via conference call and web streaming.

It will take place on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. ET, and the first round can be viewed at or on the MLS app. The second and third rounds will be available via the MLS Draft Tracker.

Is the 2021 SuperDraft significant for Charlotte FC?

“I believe this year’s SuperDraft will be very important for us,” says Director of Player Personnel Bobby Belair. “We will be watching the 2021 SuperDraft closely as it gives our staff another opportunity at a dry run, similar to the 2020 Expansion Draft.

“The SuperDraft is an important player acquisition method within MLS and we want to be strategic with every player we sign,” adds Belair. “Even though we won’t be participating this year, we will be taking notes and will have the opportunity to see how the drafted players fare in MLS this season.”

How important will the 2022 SuperDraft be for building Charlotte’s inaugural roster?

“The 2022 MLS SuperDraft will be a huge moment for the club as a whole,” says Belair. “It’s exciting to know that we will have the No.1 overall selection, as it’s a proven way to acquire a very talented young player.

“We will place a lot of emphasis on scouting throughout the NCAA season to make the right selections according to our team needs. The 2022 edition will be an exciting time for fans as well, since we’ll be finalizing our inaugural roster and gearing up for our first preseason.”

Is Charlotte FC already tracking players who may be eligible for the 2022 SuperDraft?

“We’ve been keeping tabs on NCAA players and will have the unique opportunity to scout these players during the spring and fall seasons,” says Belair. “There has never been an official spring NCAA season before, so we will take the opportunity to watch more matches and use it to our advantage.”