All eyes will be on the Chicago Fire at this year’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
By virtue of their last-place finish during the 2015 regular season, the Fire hold the first overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
What else do you need to know about the 2016 MLS SuperDraft? We answer a few of the more pertinent and pressing questions below.
What’s the draft order?
The first round breaks down like this:
• 1-5: Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union, New York City FC, Real Salt Lake
• 6-10: Philadelphia Union, Orlando City, San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto FC, New England Revolution
• 11-15: Sporting Kansas City, La Galaxy, D.C. United, Montreal Impact, Seattle Sounders
• 16-20: Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, Portland Timbers
Montreal has three picks in the second round. Vancouver has two. Toronto FC, Montreal and Vancouver all have picks in the third and fourth rounds.
Vancouver has the most number of selections in the SuperDraft (six) while New York City FC has just one pick.
The first two rounds take place Thursday in Baltimore. Rounds 3 and 4 will be conducted over the phone on Jan 19.
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Is there a consensus No. 1 pick?
Defender Joshua Yaro, a junior at Georgetown University, tops the majority of mock drafts out there, and he is generally considered the best prospect in this draft class.
Yaro was named the Big East's 2015 Defensive Player of the Year and he has the added bonus of being a Generation adidas player, which means he won’t count against the salary cap—more on this later.
Other players who could go number one include Stanford left fullback Brandon Vincent and Toronto native Richie Laryea, a midfielder with the University of Akron who led his school in scoring (11 goals) and ranked second in assists with seven.
"A quality player," Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said of Laryea in an interview with the Canadian Press. "He shows maturity on the ball, is clean on the ball."
Are there any other Canadian who could get picked on Thursday?
Yes, there are.
Goalkeeper Callum Irving, a native of Vancouver, is coming off a solid season as a senior, earning First-team All-America honours at the University of Kentucky.
Other Canadians who might hear their named called during the draft include Bowling Green midfielder Ryan James (Mississauga, Ont.) and Washington midfielder Josh Heard (Victoria).
Who might Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver take?
The first-round is expected to be top-heavy with defenders, so look for Montreal to use their 14th overall selection on a player to bolster its back line.
A year ago, Toronto went into the draft looking to add depth to its defence. They used two of their first-round selections on defenders Clement Simonin and Skylar Thomas. Simonin missed most of the season due to injury, while Thomas was assigned to TFC II, the club’s USL outfit.
Coach Greg Vanney revealed that TFC has a different draft strategy this year.
“With the group that we’re looking at, we’re going to look for the best player who best fits how we want to play the game. It’s not necessarily specific to a certain position. We did a bit of that last year when we felt we needed more depth at centre back. This year, our approach will be a little bit more of who is the best player available, who can be a role player, and how does he fit in to our team and our style, and how we work him in,” Vanney told Sportsnet in a one-on-one chat.
Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson admitted he has his eyes on selecting players he feels can potentially add something to his attacking group.
“If you look at the last two years, we’ve been pretty solid defensively, we’ve been pretty sound that way,” Robinson told Sportsnet when asked during a recent conference call about his priorities going into the draft.
“I want players that are good players, first of all, that are good characters, like we got in Timmy last year. It was a great draft for us last year being able to get Tim Parker at 13. I’ll be looking at the front end of the pitch to start with.”
What are “Generation adidas” players?
That’s an important question.
NCAA underclassmen are especially attractive draft options because they’ve already signed Generation adidas contracts with MLS and thus they do not count against the league’s salary cap.
Generation adidas players usually earn a much higher salary than the league minimum, so there is extra incentive of them to leave school early in order to pursue pro careers.
Aside from Laryea and Yaro, Generation adidas players in this draft class include: goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell (Clemson), midfielders Omar Holness (North Carolina), Jack Harrison (Wake Forrest) and Julian Buescher (Syracuse) and forward Fabian Herbers (Creighton).