What you need to know about the 2018 MLS SuperDraft

Don-Garber

MLS commissioner Don Garber. (David Goldman/AP)

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

By virtue of being an expansion club, LAFC holds the first-overall pick in Friday’s draft in Philadelphia.

What else do you need to know about the 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: Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, D.C. United, Montreal Impact, Minnesota United
6-10: Orlando City, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake
11-15: FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United, Chicago Fire
16-20: New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Sporting Kansas City, New York City FC, Houston Dynamo
21-23: Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC

All three Canadian teams have one pick each in the second, third and fourth rounds.

The first two rounds take place Friday in Philadelphia. Rounds 3 and 4 will be conducted over the phone on Jan 21.

According to the league’s website, 220 players will be available for selection.

What are "Generation Adidas" players?

That’s an important question.

NCAA underclassmen and youth national team players 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 for non-seniors to leave school early in order to pursue pro careers. As you can imagine, Generation Adidas players tend to get picked 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.

Last year, UCLA forward Abu Danladi went first overall and had a strong campaign, scoring eight goals in 27 games for Minnesota. He was also a finalist for the rookie of the year award.

Generation Adidas players in this year’s draft class include: midfielder Mo Adams (Syracuse), defender Joao Moutinho (Akron), and forwards Francis Atuahene (Michigan), Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest), Mason Toye (Indiana), Edward Opoku (Virginia) and Gordon Wild (Maryland).

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Is there a consensus No. 1 pick?

Not really.

There’s a bit of buzz about Moutinho, who besides being a Generation Adidas player has the added bonus of being versatile – he can play either in defence or midfield.

Another player who is generating some talk is Wake Forrest senior Jon Bakero, who won the MAC Herman Trophy as top male NCAA player for 2017. He is also the son of Jose Mari Bakero, a former FC Barcelona star and Spanish international.

Who might Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver take?

With the fourth and seventh picks overall, Montreal is well-positioned at this draft, and will be looking to add some quality talent after what was a disappointing 2017 MLS season. Defensive depth is an issue for the Impact after they traded Laurent Ciman, and waived Wandrille Lefevre and Deian Boldor this off-season.

Vancouver did well at last year’s draft in selecting Jake Nerwinski, a defender from the University of Connecticut who impressed in the second half of the 2017 season. The Whitecaps have been pretty busy this off-season as they’ve brought in strikers Kei Kamara and Anthony Blondell, goalkeeper Brian Rowe, defender Doneil Henry and Mexican midfielder Efrain Juarez. Look for the ‘Caps to add a depth player – maybe even goalkeeper.

Toronto will have the last pick in the first round, and though the Reds have lost some players this off-season – most notably midfielder Benoit Cheyrou (retired), defender Steven Beitashour (signed with LAFC) and Canadian winger Raheem Edwards (now in Montreal) – they are still the deepest team in MLS. GM Tim Bezbatchenko has been on scouting trips to South America, and like all MLS teams, Toronto has a new pot of targeted allocation money to spend. So, whatever major off-season additions TFC will make won’t come in this draft.

Are there late-round gems to be found in this draft?

That’s impossible to say, but the draft does have a history of producing late-round picks who go on to have very good MLS careers.

The list includes San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski (No. 41 overall, 2005), Kansas City midfielder Davey Arnaud (No. 50 overall, 2002) and Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson (No. 51 overall, 2010).

Midfielder Mike Duhaney went 87th in the inaugural 1996 MLS draft, and he ended up winning the league’s rookie of the year award in 1997 with the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Defender Jonathan Bornstein won the rookie honour after being selected 37th overall by Chivas USA in 2006.

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