Opinion: It’s time to move on from the MLS SuperDraft

13 January 2017: Abu Danladi (UCLA) (GHA) (Generation Adidas) was select
13 January 2017: Abu Danladi (UCLA) (GHA) (Generation Adidas) was select /
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SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 30: Cristian Roldan
SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 30: Cristian Roldan /

So What Happens Next?

With the emphasis on youth hitting its stride, the question now becomes what is the real purpose of the MLS SuperDraft? Recent years of MLS Expansion have caused new clubs like New York City FC, Orlando City, Atlanta United, Minnesota United, and Los Angeles FC to jump ahead of the league bottom dwellers, with all of the expansion clubs (save Minnesota) being some of the more spend-friendly clubs in the league.

Immediate impact players like Cyle Larin, Julian Gressel (who did fall to the eighth pick), and Jack Harrison are ending up with teams who have a plethora of means and networks for player signings, while more cash-strapped and needy teams like the Philadelphia Union are caught in draft limbo. Even in Harrison’s already mentioned 2016 draft, the Union opted to load up on picks, acquiring three of the first six to be specific, but only the top pick in Harrison has proven to be a real game-changer out of the entire class.

With the youth movement happening in Major League Soccer, the MLS SuperDraft is practically obsolete, while the NCAA still plays a vital role in giving players development options. Dropping the draft altogether may be the best option for the league, or modifying the draft to include only teams looking to participate. Having the option to forgo the SuperDraft would allow additional roster space for MLS teams to bring in their academy players, while also allowing the players themselves to connect with teams who are interested in actually using their services, including USL teams.

A Generation Adidas Draft could be put in place of the SuperDraft, which is a special contract given to the top NCAA prospects who aren’t already claimed as Home Grown Players. Generation Adidas allows similar cap relief for teams who draft these prospects, much like signing academy players.

These contracts are only given to a select few players, recently including prospects like Alex Bono, Cyle Larin, Cristian Roldan, Jack Harrison, Andre Blake and Marlon Hairston, most of whom are the top players selected in the SuperDraft anyway. Last year, there were six Generation Adidas players, and this year there are seven.

NCAA Impact

With the ever-increasing playing level of MLS likely to jump up once again this year, having NCAA players opt for a move to USL, or even the new USL Division 3 starting next season, could help in the development of players who don’t already get claimed by MLS Home Grown Deals. Along with a Generation Adidas draft, opting to let the USL have their own mechanism for appointing college prospects would be more beneficial for the majority of individual players, the lower divisions involved, and domestic soccer in general.

MLS teams could still be included via their reserve squads, if they feel so inclined, while independent USL teams would have a beneficial system in adding young talent and raising awareness of the growing leagues.

The NCAA still remains the largest network of teams in the United States offering young players a place to continue their own development as well a platform to show their skills against the additional competition. Major League Soccer teams would still have the option to sign standout college prospects if they feel so inclined, while NCAA teams could still harbor international players who fell out of favor in their native countries, like Harrison, Gressel and additional success stories like MLS veterans Dom Dwyer and Luke Mulholland (who wasn’t drafted at all).

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Overall, Major League Soccer continues to evolve at a very rapid rate. This evolution is particularly visible with the notable change in reliance on the SuperDraft and NCAA in recent years. Long gone are the days when the draft was the best way to land domestic standouts or promising young talent, which means moving on from the draft altogether may be more beneficial for all parties involved.