Mid-January marks the MLS Superdraft and the start of a new domestic season in the United States.
The MLS SuperDraft has long played a pivotal role in helping clubs finding gems in the college game such as Jack Harrison (now at Leeds United), Cristian Roldan (2x MLS Cup Champ) and Andre Blake (2020 MLS GK of the Year) to build the core of their rosters.
Much has changed in the American soccer landscape over the years as many of the top youth players are signing HomeGrown contracts or testing their luck overseas, but MLS clubs who do their due-diligence are still capable of finding impactful players from the college game.
In 2020, the fall collegiate season was extremely limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, which only saw the ACC and a few other conferences play some version of a season. This makes scouting even more difficult for MLS clubs, as many are relying on players’ performance in past years, coaching references and the lone Sporting KC College Combine, which took place in November.
An added wrinkle to this draft is that players can return to school for their spring semester and join the team that drafted them, following their spring season. While many first rounders may opt to join MLS preseason regardless, it will be a discussion between player, MLS club and college coach on the best route for these prospects.
This year’s draft takes place this Thursday so customarily, MLS has announced their Generation Adidas (GA) class for the 2021 SuperDraft. Generation Adidas is a mechanism in which the top underclassmen from college are eligible to sign with the league and are deemed ‘free’ players on each team’s salary cap. Historically, the GA players provide the most value for the team’s at the top of the draft order. This year’s GA class currently sits at five players, where it will likely stay prior to Thursday’s SuperDraft.
With all that said, take a look at the 2021 College Soccer News MLS Mock Draft, where we predict the first round selections.
|1. Austin FC |
Philip Mayaka** –
|With the first pick in franchise history, Claudio Reyna and company select a two-way midfielder with a great engine in Mayaka. |
The College Soccer News Preseason 1st Team All-American from Clemson should have an opportunity to play impact minutes in his rookie year for the expansion side.
|2. FC Cincinnati|
|Cincinnati could use depth in a few places, but opt for a talented GA forward in Harris, who has the ability to play centrally or as a winger. |
The Demon Deacons have had a good track record with prospects in recent drafts, so Cincinnati is hoping Harris can join the rest.
|3. Houston Dynamo |
|Tab Ramos opts for a GA defender here in Ethan Bartlow, a ball-playing center back from the University of Washington. |
Bartlow addresses Houston’s need for an improved back line and seems to fit what Ramos wants from his central defenders.
|4. D.C. United|
|DC select Pereira, a player who they’re familiar with having played locally for part of his youth and his entire college career. |
Periera, a GA signee, is a dynamic midfielder who could earn
minutes for a side who are desperate for talent in a variety of positions.
|5. Atlanta United|
|Atlanta Utd needs center back options and could go with a few players here, but Mabika has the highest upside and is in a similar mold to current Atlanta defender Miles Robinson. |
Mabika, the first non-GA player selected, has improved all aspects of his game tremendously at Kentucky, and if he can continue on the same trajectory, will be a consistent center back in this league for years to come.
|6. Colorado Rapids|
|Colorado could go a few ways here, but select Smith, an international forward/winger from Clemson, who won ACC Player of the Tournament. |
Smith, a preseason College Soccer News 1st Team All-American has a ton of potential and having Coach Robin Fraser, will help mold his game into a complete attacker.
|7. Real Salt Lake|
|Real Salt Lake selects Egbo, a technical and powerful left-footed forward, who could fit well into Salt Lake’s possession-based system. |
Egbo was in consideration for a GA deal in past years,
so RSL will be happy to snag the Zips forward here.
|8. Portland Timbers|
|Portland nabs a speedy winger converted to left back in Drack, a player who’s stock rose immensely at the SKC College Combine. |
Drack addresses Portland’s need for a back-up left
back and could show his dynamic ability, if given playing time.
|9. Vancouver Whitecaps|
|Vancouver selects Kibunguchy, a physically imposing center back, who’s improved comfortability on the ball has shot him up teams’ draft boards. |
Kibunguchy is a bit of a project, but has a high upside for a team with patience and a proper development plan.
|10. Inter Miami|
|Inter Miami selects Bauer, a player many feel will go in the top 5, who is a defensively sound center back and considered one of the safer picks in the draft. |
Bauer should immediately help Miami’s center back depth and could prove to be a valuable rotational player in year one.
|11. Austin FC|
Center Midfielder/ Right Back
|Austin FC gets out of the first round with two GA players, as they pick Halsey, a promising technical midfielder, who many project as a right back long-term. |
With this pick, Austin adds another young player with positional versatility and depth for veteran full backs Ben Sweat and Nick Lima.
|12. San Jose Earthquakes |
|San Jose will be glad to select Kizza, a forward with loads of potential. Kizza didn’t play in the Fall due to some off-field issues, but is a top talent technically and physically, who could flourish in a proper setup.|
|13. New York Red Bulls |
|Red Bulls draft an athletic center back in Uche, who has played with Red Bulls PDL team, but is coming off of a knee injury. |
RBNY needs center back depth and hope Uche can follow in the footsteps of Sean Nealis, 2019 SuperDraft pick, and start to earn minutes with the first team after some time in USL.
|LAFC grab Trejo, a skillful diminutive forward, who is the California all-time high school leading goal scorer. |
Trejo, a College Soccer News 3rd Team All-American, adds depth for their DPs Carlos Vela & Diego Rossi, while seeming to fit Coach Bob Bradley’s full throttle style of play.
|15. FC Dallas|
|FC Dallas selects a speedy, direct winger in Penn, a former U.S youth national teamer, who signed with Indy11 in the Fall. |
Penn is one of the younger names in this draft and will be another promising prospect FC Dallas can stockpile at the club.
|16. LA Galaxy|
|LA Galaxy selects Herrera, a Venezuelan U-20 forward, who’s trained with the club’s USL side in the past. |
Herrera, although an international, adds much needed depth for their prize DP forward Chicharito and can provide good hold-up play and goal scoring ability, if given service.
|NYCFC only have two goalkeepers on their roster and select Shutler, a College Soccer News 3rd Team All-American and arguably the top netminder in the draft.|
|18. Toronto FC |
|Toronto FC needs back line depth and select Hackenberg, a physical left-footed center back, who’s qualities translate well to what new manager Chris Armas’ high pressing style.|
|19. Orlando City SC|
|Orlando City selects Perez, a creative midfielder who they’ve seen plenty of in college. |
Perez’s international status may scare away a few teams, but he has the attacking quality to make an impact in this league.
|20. Nashville SC|
|Nashville needs depth for their veteran center mids and add a talented hard-working midfielder, who could fight for substitute minutes in Coach Gary Smith’s defensive setup.|
|21. Colorado Rapids|
|Colorado drafts Stanley, a left back from Duke, who could be a potential long-term replacement if/when Sam Vines earns a transfer to Europe.|
|22. Orlando City SC|
|Orlando City selects Flanagan, a technical and athletic left back, who they’ve seen playing college locally. |
Flanagan has great versatility and could provide much need coverage for starter Joao Moutinho
|23. Vancouver Whitecaps|
|Vancouver selects Panchot a midfielder converted to right back, who provides good service and a high tactical acumen. |
The Whitecaps need plenty of reinforcements, but Panchot locks down a back-up outside back spot behind their former MLS Draft pick Jake Nerwinski.
|24. New England Revolution|
|New England will likely choose a domestic player here and select a raw forward with potential in Dodson. |
The Hoyas forward has had an encouraging college career and Coach Bruce Arena will get the best out of him.
|25. Minnesota United|
|Coach Adrian Healy tends to draft attacking players and selects McMaster, a Wake Forest winger, who would’ve been higher up on draft boards, had he not been coming off of an injury.|
|26. Inter Miami|
Matt Di Rosa
|Miami would be ecstatic for Di Rosa to drop this late in the round, as he is one of the defensively capable outside backs in this draft and has the mentality to continuously improve.|
|27. Columbus Crew|
|Columbus needs right back depth for long-term MLS stud Harrison Afful and they get that in Brown, a speedy outside back, who can also play center back if needed.|
** Denotes Generation Adidas Signee