The MLS SuperDraft 2021 presented by adidas, broadcast live on mlssoccer.com starting at 1pm CT on Thursday, Jan. 21, is another milestone opportunity for Austin FC to select players ahead of the Club’s inaugural season. Unlike the Expansion Draft held last month, the 2021 SuperDraft involves all 27 MLS teams selecting, and Austin FC, as the League’s only expansion team heading into 2021, gets the first pick in each of the SuperDraft’s three rounds. Plus, as the result of a trade Austin FC made with the Montreal Impact during the Expansion Draft, the Club also has the 11th pick in the first round.
College seniors, Generation adidas signings, and players who have waived their college eligibility by competing in a domestic professional league are eligible for the SuperDraft. The full list of draft-eligible players was made public this afternoon on MLS’s official website, but clubs are already making their own player evaluations and setting up their own priority lists.
The rise of MLS academies in recent years, and the Homegrown players they produce, has provided teams with a valuable route to bring young players into their rosters. But the SuperDraft, first launched in 2000 to bring MLS’s college draft and supplemental draft together, remains an important tool for clubs to build their squads.
As MLSSoccer.com analyst Matt Doyle points out, there are a lot of good players to be found in the SuperDraft, and clubs can use it to effectively build MLS rosters.
“Just look at what Daryl Dike and Henry Kessler did last year,” Doyle said, referring to the Orlando City striker and New England defender who had standout 2020 rookie seasons. “Those guys weren't just starters for good teams, they were stars who literally played their way into U.S. Men’s National Team consideration.”
“The fact is that there will always be talent in the Draft for two reasons,” explained Doyle, who will be part of MLS’s team presenting the SuperDraft. “First is that the U.S (and Canada) is a big place, one that's not completely covered by professional academies, so there's always talent that falls through the cracks. College soccer catches a lot of it, and the best programs give that talent a platform to flourish.
“Second is that lots of college programs have gotten very smart about overseas recruiting over the past 15 years, which has broadened the pool of talent in college soccer.” Doyle points to Andre Shinyashiki, a Brazilian player currently featuring for the Colorado Rapids, and Joao Moutinho, a Portuguese defender with Orlando City SC, both acquired through the SuperDraft to contribute significantly to those teams.
The Generation adidas program, a joint venture between MLS and U.S. Soccer, provides a pathway for young players not yet eligible for the SuperDraft to get early entry into the pool.
According to SBI Soccer, at least three players are set to sign Generation adidas deals heading into this year’s SuperDraft: Wake Forest forward Calvin Harris, Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka, and Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira. That list could also expand to include other players, including University of Washington defender Ethan Bartlow and Marshall forward Milo Yosef, leading into the SuperDraft.
As with the Expansion Draft, the event will be conducted virtually. The first round will be viewable via MLSsoccer.com, the MLS App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as clubs make their selections. Austin FC’s social media team will also be on top of the updates.
Rounds two and three, though they won’t be streamable, will be tracked live via the MLSsoccer.com's SuperDraft tracker, as well as through Austin FC’s social media channels.
That means Austin FC fans will be able to watch the Club make the SuperDraft’s first and 11th picks in real time, and follow the draft’s 28th and 55th picks online. Because the SuperDraft has been reduced from four rounds to three rounds for 2021, the four teams that received fourth-round picks for this draft through trades will receive compensatory picks at the end of the third round to close out the SuperDraft.
Each team will have three minutes per pick, with the opportunity to declare one timeout during the SuperDraft.