MLS Draft preview: CF Montreal and Whitecaps look to fill gaps, TFC trades pick

CF Montreal players celebrate a goal by Samuel Piette against Toronto FC during first half MLS soccer action. (Graham Hughes/CP)

All eyes will be on Charlotte FC at this year’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

By virtue of being the league’s newest expansion club, Charlotte holds the No. 1 pick in Tuesday afternoon’s draft and will look to bolster its roster from the NCAA player pool ahead of its MLS inaugural season in 2022.

Toronto FC looked set to be a major player in the draft, as it held the third overall selection. But the club announced on Monday that it had traded the pick and veteran forward Dom Dwyer to FC Dallas in exchange for $50,000 in general allocation money.

With Toronto out of the picture, the Canadian focus in the first round now turns to CF Montreal (11th) and Vancouver Whitecaps (16th), who are both in positions to select solid NCAA prospects.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.

The Draft Order

The first round breaks down like this:

• 1-5: Charlotte FC, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Austin FC
• 6-10: FC Dallas, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes, Inter Miami, Colorado Rapids
• 11-15: CF Montreal, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls
• 16-20: Vancouver Whitecaps, Minnesota United FC, Orlando City, Atlanta United FC, Seattle Sounders
• 21-25: LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake
• 26-28: Nashville SC, Portland Timbers, New York City FC

The Vancouver Whitecaps have two picks in both the second round and third rounds. Toronto FC has a single pick in the second and third rounds. CF Montreal has a third-round pick.

According to the league’s website, 176 players will be available for selection.

Canadian Players Available

There are nine Canadian players eligible for this year’s draft:

• Creighton midfielder Charles Auguste (Montreal)
• Marshall defender Nathan Dos Santos (Oakville, Ont.)
• St. John's goalkeeper Luka Gavran (Hamilton, Ont.)
• St. John’s midfielder Tani Oluwaseyi (Mississauga, Ont.)
• Florida Gulf Coast forward O'Vonte Mullings (Toronto)
• Notre Dame midfielder Mohamed Omar (Toronto)
• Charlotte forward Preston Popp (Montreal)
• Providence midfielder Simon Triantafillou (Burlington, Ont.)
• Texas Rio Grande Valley forward Reshaun Walkes (Toronto)

Oluwaseyi, Mullings and Omar are projected first-round picks.

“Generation Adidas" Players

NCAA underclassmen are especially attractive draft options because they’ve already signed Generation Adidas contracts with MLS, and therefore 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 for non-seniors to leave school early in order to pursue pro careers in MLS. After several years, these players graduate from the Generation Adidas program and their wages are charged against a team's salary cap.

As you can imagine, Generation Adidas players tend to get selected early in the draft – every No. 1 pick in the draft since 2003 has been a Generation Adidas product, including Canadian forward Cyle Larin in 2015, who went on to be named MLS rookie of the year. Other notable Canadians who came through the Generation Adidas program include Richie Laryea and Tajon Buchanan.

Generation Adidas players in this year’s draft class include: midfielder Ben Bender (Maryland), forward Ousseni Bouda (Stanford), defender Erik Centeno (Pacific), goalkeeper Roman Celentano (Indiana), defender Kipp Keller (Saint Louis), forward Isaiah Parker (Saint Louis), goalkeeper Patrick Schulte (Saint Louis), forward Thorleifur Ulfarsson (Duke).

Who will go No. 1?

There isn’t a consensus No. 1 pick, so expansion club Charlotte FC could go any number of routes with the overall top selection.

Maryland’s Ben Bender is an attack-minded, box-to-box midfielder who has been mentioned as potentially going first overall. He needs to develop a bit more, but considering he is a Generation Adidas player (which means he won’t count against the salary cap), Charlotte could invest in the youngster and give him time to grow.

The other most likely option for Charlotte is Kipp Keller, a highly rated central defender who also played in midfield for Saint Louis University. Keller is also a Generation Adidas player.

Montreal and Whitecaps look to fill roster holes

CF Montreal has solid depth in all areas of the field except for up front, with only four forwards currently under contract, so the expectation is that club sporting director Olivier Renard will be looking for attacking options in this draft.

With this in mind, two players stand out. The first is forward Kyle Holcomb, a senior who scored 33 goals in four seasons at Wake Forest. The other is Icelandic forward Thor Ulfarsson, a Generation Adidas player from Duke who was voted the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann award (the soccer equivalent of the Heisman Trophy).

The Vancouver Whitecaps have a pretty full roster at the moment, so this year’s draft could be just about them picking the best available athlete regardless of his position. Another tact the Whitecaps could take would be to select one of the nine Canadian players who are eligible for this draft. If that’s the case, then they’ll be eyeing forward Tani Oluwaseyi.

Born in Nigeria, Oluwaseyi grew up in Mississauga, Ont., and spent the last four seasons at St. John’s where he has scored 20 goals and tallied 10 assists, and was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.

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