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Major League Soccer’s draft: yes, it still matters

Jan 9, 2014, 8:31 PM EDT

2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas

We keep writing the obituary for Major League Soccer’s draft. It goes something like this:

Surely with all the other player acquisition mechanisms, and with such emphasis being hammered into every clubs’ academy and the attached efforts to sign home grown talent, the draft will be drift further and further toward irrelevancy, right? Or, at best, it will be deemed nominally significant as a player personnel tool?

Thing is, we’ve been saying that for several years now. And yet the annual college draft keeps churning out talent that gets regular feature in matches, with various levels of difference-making threat.

Major League Soccer’s pre-draft combine kicked off today; the league’s annual SuperDraft happens one week from today, Jan. 16 in Philadelphia.

So, let’s take a very quick look at how the draft continues to impact the MLS game.

In 2012, Darren Mattocks, Kelyn Rowe, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Austin Berry and Matt Hedges all went within the first 11 picks. All are solid MLS starters (or in Mattacks’ case, surely blessed with MLS-starter quality, even if his entire reserve of ability has yet to be tapped).

Four players from the same window of early selections in 2013 are already valued MLS starters: Andrew Farrell (pictured), Carlos Alvarez, Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers. Powers, Brown and Farrell were Rookie of the Year contenders; Brown took the honor.

So, clearly, it’s not just good talent that can be plucked from the draft; potentially greatness is there to be found as well.

After the first 15 picks or so, it becomes a real mixed bag. Yes, there are finds out there; New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara, RSL midfielder Sebastián Velásquez and Houston midfielder Warren Creavalle were all selected near the bottom of the second round in 2012 (between picks Nos. 31 and 37) and any club would be happy to have any of them today. On the other hand, 15 of the 19 picks from that round have yet to make a solid impact in MLS after two seasons.

  1. mdac1012 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:41 AM

    A strong academy system is something that is lacking in U.S. Soccer at the moment and really maybe the only way for the U.S. to consistently develop true world class players. Looking at the USMNT as it currently stands, not including goalkeepers, can you say there is a world class player, a top 50 player on the roster? Probably not. Michael Bradley is probably the best all around American player, maybe you could have made the case for LD being a top 50 player a few years ago but not anymore.

    A big problem with the academy system, as pointed out by MLS on their website a few months back, is that as soon as a player signs a contract with a team, they lose their NCAA eligibility. Which if the academy doesn’t workout, they are no longer able to get any scholarship money if they want to go to college. There is such an emphasis on going to college in this country, it’s tough for a kid to turn down a full ride to a school like UNC, or Virginia or UCLA and take their chances signing a deal to train at an MLS academy with no guarantees about their future. I think that fact will siphon off enough talented players away from the academies on its own. And the college years, that 18-22 year range is crucial to development of an athlete. The job of college coaches is to win games, not necessarily develop players for the next level. That added to the limits the NCAA places on the amount of instruction time that is allowed from coaches to players hurts development of the player.

    Basically I don’t know if U.S culture is conducive to developing a strong enough academy system that it replaces the draft. As long as there are still good players going to college, which you always will have, you are going to need the draft.

  2. mdac1012 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    A big problem with the academy system, as pointed out by MLS on their website a few months back, is that as soon as a player signs a contract with a team, they lose their NCAA eligibility. Which if the academy doesn’t workout, they are no longer able to get any scholarship money if they want to go to college. There is such an emphasis on going to college in this country, it’s tough for a kid to turn down a full ride to a school like UNC, or Virginia or UCLA and take their chances signing a deal to train at an MLS academy with no guarantees about their future. I think that fact will siphon off enough talented players away from the academies on its own. And the college years, that 18-22 year range is crucial to development of an athlete. The job of college coaches is to win games, not necessarily develop players for the next level. That added to the limits the NCAA places on the amount of instruction time that is allowed from coaches to players hurts development of the player.

    Basically I don’t know if U.S culture is conducive to developing a strong enough academy system that it replaces the draft. As long as there are still good players going to college, which you always will have, you are going to need the draft.

    • mdac1012 - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      Sorry about the multiple posts, the second post even took it upon itself to edit my original.

  3. hightopandrocket - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    Landon Donovan was never in the top 50 world footballers, maybe in the top 500. Think about it, he wouldn’t make the national teams of, Germany, Brazil, Spain
    Netherlands,ect, ect…

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