Meet the MLS SuperDraft

The MLS SuperDraft is less than two weeks away and it’s the last major roster-building event before FC Cincinnati’s preseason begins. Like many aspects of MLS, the SuperDraft is complicated. It resembles the drafts of other major American sports but also has a number of idiosyncrasies. This article lays out the essentials of the SuperDraft for readers who are new to the draft, or for soccer fans that haven’t paid close attention until Cincinnati had an MLS team.

MLS SuperDraft Essentials

The SuperDraft consists of four rounds of player selections, typically split over two days. The first two rounds will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago on Friday, January 11th. Two more rounds typically follow the Sunday after (although that schedule has not yet been confirmed). MLS conducted the final two rounds via conference call rather than in person in recent years.

As the lone expansion team, FC Cincinnati holds the first overall pick and the first pick in each subsequent round of the draft. Teams that did not make the 2018 playoffs select after FCC, beginning with the team that totaled the fewest points during the 2018 regular season. The remaining teams select based on which team had fewest regular season points among teams eliminated in the same round of the MLS playoffs.

Generation Adidas (GA) players are a small group of players but are often the hottest commodity in the SuperDraft. Each year, through the GA program, the league signs a handful of elite underclassmen and youth national team player to MLS contracts. They then enter the SuperDraft. As an added benefit to teams that select them, GA players don’t count against the salary budget until they graduate from the program. Since 2003, every number one draft pick has been a Generation Adidas player. MLS should announce the 2019 GA class during the first week of January. For the rest of the draft details we’ll turn to our fast facts format.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati has five total picks, including two second-round draft picks. They secured an extra second-round pick by means of a trade with Toronto FC in return for the first overall allocation spot.
  • Only players on the league’s draft-eligible list can be selected. Club technical staffs and the league itself nominate the players on this list.
  • The majority of the eligible players are college seniors, but the list also includes Generation Adidas players, and a can include non-collegiate youth international players. For example, there was one non-collegiate player in 2018 draft, Issaka Nyemewero, a Ghanaian youth-international.
  • The Homegrown Player Rule overrides SuperDraft eligibility if a contract is offered. For example, if a college senior played for an MLS academy and qualifies as a homegrown, that player will not be available in the draft as long as the MLS club offers the player a contract before the SuperDraft. They essentially get first dibs on any homegrown talent. A good example of this situation is Indiana senior Andrew Gutman, who is currently Top Drawer Soccer’s Player of the Year and #1 overall Men’s player. Gutman is a Chicago Fire academy product, but they have not yet signed him and he’s rumored to be on his way to Europe.
  • MLS teams can trade SuperDraft picks like in other American sports, so teams can move around in order to get a player they want or trade their pick for other assets, such as allocation money, a player, or an international spot.
  • Draft picks typically enter training camp with the clubs that drafted them but it’s not a guarantee that they will make the team’s roster.

The MLS SuperDraft will be streamed live on MLSSOCCER.COM. The SuperDraft is open to the public at no charge. However, seating is limited, so get there early if you’re making the trip to Chicago. Orange & Blue Press will be in Chicago on January 11th to cover the event.

Stay tuned for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and MLS roster build.

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