by Ryan Bailey
MLS 101 is a new series in which we get to grips with Major League Soccer’s format, rules and regulations. Here, we take a look at the workings of the annual SuperDraft.
The MLS SuperDraft is the league’s annual player draft, where every team is given the opportunity to sign the best prospects from the collegiate system.
A draft in some form has existed in MLS since the league’s inception in 1996, and has historically provided some top talent: United States Men’s National Team stars Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe all came through the draft—and none were the first pick in their respective years.
What format does the SuperDraft take?
The MLS SuperDraft closely follows the draft format of other major American sports. The draft is divided into four rounds, where clubs pick in reverse order of their finish the previous season.
First pick, however, goes to any new expansion teams in the league. In the 2020 draft, therefore, Inter Miami and Nashville SC will pick first ahead of their respective inaugural seasons.
When and where will the 2020 SuperDraft take place?
Previously, the SuperDraft has taken place in conjunction with the annual United Soccer Coaches convention, held every January.
In 2020, for the first time, it will be held remotely and conducted by conference call and web streaming.
The first two rounds will take place on Thursday, January 9 at 12:30 p.m. ET. They will be streamed live on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and the ESPN app.
The third and fourth rounds will take place via conference call on Monday, January 13th, but they will not be streamed live.
Will Charlotte MLS participate in the 2020 SuperDraft?
Charlotte MLS is not eligible for the 2020 edition, but will participate in January 2021 ahead of the inaugural season.
Either Charlotte MLS or Austin FC will get first pick.
Who can be picked in 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 talented 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. Every No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft since 2003 has been a Generation adidas product.
In 2020, four Generation adidas players will be available in the draft, along with two pre-signed college seniors.
Most draft picks will head to training camp with their new team, but not all are guaranteed, nor obliged to receive, a spot on an MLS roster.
Is the draft the only way for a team to get new players?
The draft is one of several ways a club can build its roster: players can also be signed in either of the two transfer windows, or brought through as Homegrown prospects through the academy.
The first edition of MLS 101 details the options that Charlotte MLS for building its inaugural squad.
At a time when clubs are focusing on building academy programs and developing scouting networks, the SuperDraft arguably has decreasing significance. However, there are still plenty of gems to be found in the collegiate system. Jack Harrison, for example, was No.1 draft pick in 2016 after playing with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He subsequently played for New York City FC, was traded to parent club Manchester City and is now on loan at Leeds Utd.
Who are the names to look out for in the 2020 SuperDraft?
MLSsoccer.com has put together a list of the 10 best draft prospects in 2020. It includes the aforementioned four Generation adidas players and two senior signees—all of whom will likely go in the early rounds.
A potential No.1 overall pick is Robbie Robertson, who hails from Camden, SC and plays at Clemson. Another potential “local” name to look out for in the top ten picks is defender Alistair Johnston, who attends Wake Forest.