Soccer 101

SOCCER 101: MLS SuperDraft

Soccer 101 - Superdraft_article header

Written by Zach Lowy

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When is the 2024 MLS SuperDraft?

The 2024 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas kicks off on Tuesday, December 19, at 3 pm ET, with a total of 83 selections being made throughout three rounds. Each of the 29 teams in Major League Soccer will have the chance to reinforce their squad with some of the brightest young talents in American soccer in the 25th edition of the SuperDraft.

It presents St. Louis CITY SC with a unique opportunity to reinforce its squad with some of the brightest young talents in the United States. After a record-breaking campaign that saw Bradley Carnell’s side become the first MLS expansion team to win a regular season conference title, finishing atop the Western Conference, St. Louis CITY to will not only be playing in MLS and Leagues Cup next year, but the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup as well. As they look to navigate their way around a busy schedule, St. Louis CITY have the chance to fortify their ranks in the 25th annual MLS SuperDraft.

How was the MLS SuperDraft formed?
In the first three years of MLS’ existence, all American players who were graduating college were entered into the MLS College Draft and were eligible to be selected by all MLS teams, whilst players who had already graduated from college were entered into a separate MLS Supplemental Draft. In 2000, the league decided to merge the two and create the MLS SuperDraft to ensure greater balance amongst teams. Only players from the American college sports system were eligible to be drafted, with the lowest-ranking teams having priority, but as opposed to the MLB or NBA Drafts, MLS gives the first pick to an expansion team; if there are multiple expansion teams, the two teams will flip a coin to determine who goes first.

This year, for the first time ever, MLS has expanded the criteria to allow collegiate sophomores and juniors, alongside seniors and above, and Generation adidas signees, in the selection pool to be eligible for the draft. Drafted players retaining college eligibility can opt to return to school to continue their studies but will forfeit future draft eligibility. The drafting club retains SuperDraft Priority for approximately two years if a selected player chooses to return to college or remains unsigned.

What is the selection format of the MLS SuperDraft?
While expansion teams take priority in any MLS SuperDraft, the teams that did not make the playoffs are ordered by their regular-season record and points tally, with the lowest-ranking side receiving the second pick. Teams that made the MLS Cup Playoffs are ordered by which round of the playoffs they are eliminated, with the winners of the MLS Cup having the last pick in the first round and the runners-up the penultimate pick. The remaining ties are broken by the goal differential, goals scored, goals conceded, and then the flip of a coin. Similarly to the National Football League, National Basketball Association and other major leagues, the annual draft typically sees plenty of trades involved. Last year, New York Red Bulls were able to pick seventh due to a trade that would see the Red Bulls acquire Chicago's 2022 first-round selection in exchange for $100,000 in general allocation money. Whilst the MLS SuperDraft’s order gives priority to lower-ranking teams from the prior season, teams can trade up and find their way into an advantageous position, as New York were able to do.

What are the procedural rules?
As opposed to the NFL Draft, which has seven rounds, the MLS SuperDraft has three rounds, with expansion teams retaining their spot atop the following two rounds. Teams are permitted four minutes to make a selection and there is a ten-minute break between each round with each team being allotted a three-minute timeout. Prior to being announced, trades need to be verified and approved by the MLS Commissioner and/or his designee. Teams are allowed to pass on a selection, but doing so precludes them from participating in the rest of the draft – in the 2022 edition, Colorado Rapids passed on their second-round choice whilst eight teams passed on their third-round choice. The first MLS SuperDraft back in 2000 would see six rounds held amongst the 12 teams, but it would decrease to four rounds in 2005 following the signature of the first MLS players' union contract, with the Supplemental Draft being reinstituted to allow teams to fill out their developmental rosters, before being reduced to three rounds in 2011.

What are St Louis CITY’s draft picks?
In their first-ever MLS SuperDraft, St. Louis CITY selected Creighton defender Owen O’Malley in Round One and Saint Louis midfielder John Klein in Round Two. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Klein spent five seasons at Saint Louis University before being selected by CITY. He impressed with St Louis CITY2 in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Regular Season, starting 26 out of 29 matches and racking up 13 goals and 4 assists, winning 38 fouls and registering 58 shots – 33 on target – and earning a maiden appearance with the first team, coming off the bench in a 4-0 win against Sporting Kansas City on May 21 and making his second appearance a month later in a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. With St. Louis CITY set to balance three domestic competitions with participation in Concacaf’s biggest club tournament, there could be ample opportunities for Klein and the other draftees to impress in what will be a jam-packed 2024 season.

Whilst CITY received the first pick of the Second Round as the only expansion side in the draft, they traded away their #1 overall pick to Charlotte and picked up the No. 20 SuperDraft pick, $400k in GAM and conditional GAM. As a result of their historically successful season, St. Louis will have to wait until the 21st pick of Round One to make their first selection of the draft.