The MLS Draft, in its various forms, has been in existence since the league began back in 1996. In its first year, the first-ever College Draft produced big names like Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney, Steve Ralston, Eddie Lewis, and Ante Razov. It was a young league, not subject to the parity of today. It was a simpler time, one before Designated Players, General Allocation Money, and Targeted Allocation Money. Teams could pick players that could step in right away.
Today, the SuperDraft may not be as relevant as in the past, but teams can still get quality players. Some are starters. Some are role players. Even more stock the rosters of USL affiliates, giving them a chance to still develop at a high level.
While coming up with projections for the MLS SuperDraft is incredibly difficult due to its unpredictability and uncertainty, a mock draft for the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft can be found below.
1. Los Angeles FC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Defender, Stanford – Expansion teams always have a lot of holes to fill and LAFC is no different. The Cardinal center back has won just about everything at Stanford, including three NCAA national titles and a laundry list of major awards. Defense wins championships as the saying goes and Hilliard-Arce will anchor the LAFC backline for the next 10-12 years. He’s as much as a “can’t miss” prospect as anyone in the draft.
2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, Forward, Wake Forest – The LA Galaxy, a team that finished 2017 with an 8-18-8 record, have seen better times to be honest and not having dynamic international stars like Beckham and Keane has to be part of the problem. The Galaxy’s public interest in Crew SC’s Ola Kamara shows their interest in a proven goal scorer. Enter Bakero, son of a former FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad standout, who tallied 16 goals and 14 assists at Wake Forest on his way to winning the 2017 MAC Hermann Trophy. A career total of 37 goals and 27 assists show he was a consistent attacking force for the Demon Deacons and even though he is a senior, he may be the first forward off the board.
3. D.C. United – Joao Moutinho, Defender, Akron – The Black & Red finished with a league-low 32 points in 2017 just like the Galaxy. The team struggled in nearly every category. A league-worst -29 goal differential, caused by a ratio of 31 goals for and 60 goals against, shows the squad needs work on both sides of the ball. They have building blocks like Luciano Acosta, (a healthy) Patrick Mullins, Ian Harkes, Darren Mattocks, and Kofi Opare, but they also lost one of the league’s best goalkeepers when Bill Hamid headed off to Denmark. It’s crazy to think of drafting a keeper this high in a class where there is no obvious standout. We have a feeling that they will go with Moutinho, a starlet from the Sporting Lisbon academy and a player so versatile that he can play anywhere in the midfielder or backline. He can also score, noted by the three goals and five assists in 2017.
4. Montreal Impact – Mo Adams, Midfielder, Syracuse – Montreal has two early picks so they have plenty of options. Stockpiling Generation adidas selections is always a wise option as they don’t count against a team’s salary budget. Adams showed strong leadership and skill from day one and was the Orange’s captain in just his sophomore season. This is a safe pick and could help upgrade the Impact’s midfield, complementing Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili nicely. More importantly, Adams could become the player that replaces Patrice Bernier, who recently became part of the club’s academy staff after a distinguished career.
5. Minnesota United – Chris Mueller, Midfielder, Wisconsin – A ninth-place finish in the West was respectable for the Loons in their inaugural MLS campaign. The 70 goals allowed by their defense is another story. However, it is hard to find a defender worthy of this pick with Hilliard-Arce and Moutinho taken. Minnesota can take Mueller, who is widely regarded as the most technical player in all of college soccer and perhaps the most MLS-ready. A ridiculous 20 assists in 2017, which led the nation in that category, adds to an impressive career tally of 22 goals and 35 assists in 75 appearances.
6. Orlando City SC – Ema Twumasi, Forward, Wake Forest – Entering the post-Kaka era will be tough for the Lions, but help is already on the way. Sacha Kljestan, acquired in a recent trade with the Red Bulls, is an able replacement as the face of this franchise right now. Twumasi, who registered ten goals and seven assists in 2017, is a surprising talent that could be the club’s future. Widely regarded as the player with the highest ceiling, Twumasi would be a tremendous value if he fell this far. Playing on the same team as Bakero probably pulled his numbers down a bit, but the Ghanaian will have his own spotlight in Orlando, especially if Cyle Larin departs for greener pastures as rumored.
7. Montreal Impact – Francis Atuahene, Forward, Michigan – Atuahene is yet another pro-ready prospect from Chaka Daley’s program. One of the Big Ten’s top players, this native of Ghana could add a spark to an already lively attack. Picking a second Generation adidas player makes a lot of sense and clears some salary room for other signings.
8. New England Revolution – Wyatt Omsberg, Dartmouth – This is a new season and a fresh start for the Revs. Jay Heaps is out. Brad Friedel is in. It would be surprising if New England addressed the offensive side of the ball as they have a plethora of options even after the trade of Kei Kamara. Krisztian Nezmeth, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury, and Juan Agudelo are all interesting attack-minded players. Even with the recent acquisition of Gabriel Somi, the Revolution look a little thin at the back. Omsberg brings a massive frame to the NE backline and would look great if paired with Andrew Farrell.
9. New England Revolution – Mason Toye, Forward, Indiana – It doesn’t hurt to look for the next great striker to lead the Revs to glory. Kamara had much success over his decorated career, but it didn’t seem like New England was the greatest fit. Toye is one of the draft’s top strikers even after just one season at IU. His strong skill set proves that the 10 goals and the 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor was no fluke.
10. Real Salt Lake – Gordon Wild, Forward, Maryland – Wild earned the 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year honor after scoring a whopping 17 goals. The German’s production dipped in 2017 as he registered a still respectable five goals and two assists. Maryland always produces solid pros and Real Salt Lake is the perfect environment for any player to develop.
11. FC Dallas – Jon Gallagher, Forward, Notre Dame – The Hermann Trophy semifinalist is a solid attacker, but might be better suited to the midfield thanks to his smallish 5’9” frame. Yet he’s a proven goal scorer and could be developed to replace someone like Tesho Akindele.
12. San Jose Earthquakes – Alan Winn, Forward, North Carolina – Many of the Quakes’ top players are in the latter stages of their careers. Replacements for Chris Wondolowski (34), Shea Salinas (31), Marvell Wynne (31), Quincy Amarikwa (30), and Simon Dawkins (30) will need to be found at some point. With a quality option like Winn available, this could be the year.
13. Sporting Kansas City – Brian White, Midfielder, Duke – Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza are both 31 and a replacement should be found sooner rather than later. White looks to be an excellent prospect after a successful career at Duke that included 63 starts for the Blue Devils. White has always been a blue-chip prospect, receiving NSCAA Youth All-American honors after playing in the USSDA in his younger years.
14. Atlanta United – Tim Kubel, Defender, Louisville – The Stuttgart, Germany native is listed at 5’9” 162, but is still a perfect fit for Atlanta’s high-octane attack, contributing as an outside back or anywhere in the midfield. He has won a ridiculous 13 major awards and is a back-to-back Hermann Trophy semifinalist. His youth pedigree includes time with both FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. This is a great value at #14 and will make Atlanta United even stronger. Perhaps Kubel could be seen as a long-term replacement for an older player Michael Parkhurst (33).
15. Chicago Fire – Arthur Bosua, Forward, Columbia – The Johannesburg, South Africa native has been one of the Ivy League’s top players over the past four years. 27 goals and 12 assists in 59 starts are solid stats from an impressive college career. Bosua’s domination has earned him an opportunity at the next level and Chicago could be a perfect place to start, especially since the Fire only have three forwards on the roster at the moment.
16. New York Red Bulls – Chris Lema, Midfielder, Georgetown – The Red Bulls look to be a force for many years to come thanks to a stable of strong veterans and up-and-coming youngsters. The trade of Kljestan for a defender and forward means there is a hole in the midfield, one that can be lessened by the addition of Lema.
17. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Harry Cooksley, Forward, St. John’s – The London native is a versatile player capable of success in a number of positions. His 6’3” frame makes him a big target up and his technical skill makes him an effective midfield option. Cooksley could be a long-term replacement for either Kei Kamara (33) or Fredy Montero (30). In any case he will be joining fellow St. John’s alum Tim Parker in the pros, perhaps with the ‘Caps.
18. Sporting Kansas City – Tristan Blackmon, Defender, Pacific – The Las Vegas native is an athletic option that could fit the backline of any MLS team. Having previously experienced success as a forward, Blackmon wouldn’t be afraid to push up the pitch and contribute to the attack.
19. New York City FC – Sam Gainford, Forward, Akron – The run for Akron players continues with NYCFC’s selection of the Liverpool native. He comes from the strongest possible background, having played for Liverpool’s academy from the age of 10. Jared Embick has continued Caleb Porter’s legacy of getting players to the next level in a big way and you should see plenty of Akron players in the later rounds. MLS teams know what they are getting when they draft a Zip
20. Houston Dynamo – Danny Musovski, Forward, UNLV – Getting a quality striker at this stage of the draft is a major plus, especially for a playoff team. The Henderson, Nevada native earned 14 major awards as a Rebel and there’s no reason he won’t find several more as a pro
21. Columbus Crew SC – Brandon Bye, Defender, Western Michigan – Bye is a versatile playmaker that is at home in a number of positions including right back, right wing back, right winger, and center forward. He’s won no fewer than 22 major awards and is easily the most decorated and distinguished player in Bronco history. Bye is a hard-working player with a strong motor and high level of fitness and should fit in nicely with a Crew SC squad that has seen a number of changes this offseason
22. Seattle Sounders FC – Drew Skundrich, Stanford – The legacy of Cardinal soccer continues with another Stanford player being chosen in the first round. Successful programs create successful players and that is certainly the case here. The Sounders have few holes to fill and Skundrich will have time to develop, perhaps with Sounders 2
23. Toronto FC – Rafael Andrade Santos, Midfielder, VCU – Called the best attacking midfielder in college soccer, the Brazilian has the tools to be an MLS standout. He won’t be called into action right away and could even have the opportunity to star for Toronto’s USL side. This could be the steal of the entire draft all the way down at pick #23.