Three tips to help you watch the MLS SuperDraft like a pro
The 2022 MLS SuperDraft starts tomorrow. While the SuperDraft has dwindled in importance with the rise of MLS academies, there is still quality talent available each year.
It is in vogue to express doubts about players coming out of college soccer, but this transfer window should be enough to convince even the biggest skeptic. Recent college draftees have earned big-money moves overseas.
- Daryl Dike – West Bromwich Albion ($9.5 million)
- Chris Mueller – Hibernian (Free)
- Richie Laryea – Nottingham Forest ($1 million)
- Tajon Buchanan – Club Brugge ($7 million)
Where else can a club acquire this level of young asset without paying a transfer fee or significantly investing in a youth academy?
Now that we know quality talent can be found in the college draft, the key is where to find it. Here are three tidbits that will allow you to watch the 2022 MLS SuperDraft like a pro.
1. Focus on the top 15 picks
There are talented players still coming out of college soccer. But the difference makers are increasingly coalescing toward the top of the draft.
After the first fifteen selections, the total value drops off rather quickly. Experienced MLS general managers understand not only the exponential drop in production, but also where to find the potential difference makers.
2. Skip the central midfielders
When evaluating the MLS SuperDraft, it is best to largely look past the midfield.
Of the MLS draftees since 2016 to log at least 1,500 minutes, only a select handful have occupied the midfield spots. Frankie Amaya, the 2019 number one overall selection, is the only drafted players to occupy a primarily attacking midfield role during this span.
Given MLS budget and roster rules, it should not be surprising to find a greater number of successful draftees playing in the backline. Designated Players often are signed to play the attacking positions, especially at the #10 position. Those midfield maestros simply cannot be found in college soccer. Even if a college draftee possessed the requisite skill, opportunities are tough to come by when having to unseat a club’s highest-paid and most marketable stars.
Progressing slightly deeper on the pitch does not yield much better results. Central and defensive midfielders taken in recent MLS SuperDrafts have left little mark on the league. Since the introduction of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) in 2017, a new breed of higher-earning central midfielders have entered the league. This also closes off opportunities for young draftees. San Jose’s Jackson Yueill and Minnesota’s Hassani Dotson are the only deeper-lying midfielders taken in the last five college drafts to make a lasting impression. The MLS SuperDraft simply has not produced the top-end talent at midfielder, as it has other positions, able to compete for starting minutes in the TAM era.
It is much easier for young defenders to break through in MLS. General managers look to fill the backline, especially at fullback, with budget conscious players that provide greater flexibility to spend more on the attack and midfield spine. This makes defenders a smart, albeit less sexy, position to target in the MLS SuperDraft.
3. The ACC, Big Ten and PAC-12 produce the most contributors
The last tip is to watch for players coming out of the three biggest conferences. The ACC, Big Ten, and PAC-12 produced 56% of the college draftees since 2016 to go on and log at least 1,500 minutes in MLS.
There are plenty of examples of MLS Best XI-caliber players coming out of other conferences, Julian Gressel (Big East), Jack Elliott (Conference USA), Richie Laryea (MAC), and Lalas Abubukar (A-10) to name a few. But a majority of the draftees that stick around and carve out meaningful roles come out of those three major conferences. The quality of competition is simply at a higher level allowing iron to sharpen iron.
Nashville SC’s first selection in the 2022 SuperDraft does not arrive until the 26th pick. But with these three tidbits, you can watch the rest of the draft with a little more insight and knowledge.