mls-superdraft

Written by Zach Lowy

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Two months after selecting Nicholas Gioacchini, Indiana Vassilev, Jonathan Bell, John Nelson and trading for Tim Parker in the MLS Expansion Draft, St. Louis CITY SC will participate in their first-ever MLS SuperDraft.

When is the 2023 MLS SuperDraft?

The 24th edition of the MLS SuperDraft will be held on December 21, making it the first of its kind to occur in December (it is usually held in January). The pre-show will begin at 3:30 pm CT on mlssoccer.com with the first pick to follow shortly after 4:00pm CT.

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 are eligible to be drafted, with the lowest-ranking teams having priority. 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.

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. Remaining ties are broken by the goal differential, goals scored, goals conceded, and then the flip of a coin. Similarly to the NFL, NBA and other major leagues, the annual draft typically sees plenty of trades involved. This 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. While 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 this year.

“The MLS SuperDraft is a vehicle to sign and find players like Ben Bender for Charlotte FC, but the balance of the league is now focused heavily on allocation money and the other ways you can find and sign players,” says former USMNT forward and current ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman.

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 MLS Commissioner Don Garber 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 the best MLS SuperDraft successes?

In January 2021, MLS Soccer released a list of the top 10 all-time best MLS SuperDraft picks. Geoff Cameron sits atop the list, racking up 14 goals and 15 assists in 144 appearances for the Houston Dynamo after being selected in the third round of the 2008 Draft, leading them to the MLS Cup Final in 2011 before moving to Stoke City the following summer and spending a decade in England for Stoke and QPR as well as registering 55 appearances for the USMNT and starting three matches in the 2014 FIFA World Cup alongside Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Graham Zusi, who made up the rest of the top four in MLS’ top 10 MLS SuperDraft picks.

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