It’s that time of the year again. MLS SuperDraft time is here. (What is so super about it anyways?)
While the draft certainly means less and less each year, we here at The Blue Testament try our best to cover the draft to the best of our abilities. Mike Kuhn did a breakdown of the recent history of the eighth overall pick and Josh Wallace did not one, but two breakdowns of targets Sporting Kansas City can focus on with that first round pick.
Then we set out to do our annual “mock draft roundup” and highlight all the mock drafts and who they have going to Sporting KC. However, when this article was written, less than 48-hours out from the draft, just two first round mocks exist. Two!
Top Drawer Soccer, the preeminent college soccer site, has Joey Akpunonu going to Sporting (Josh highlighed Akpunonu here) and Draft Utopia has a nonsensical forward pick after spending the entire two paragraphs saying SKC needs a CB. Not only that, but they say last year’s pick, Esai Easley, outplayed Andreu Fontas. Except they played in different leagues and that’s just a ridiculous statement. Additionally, Bleacher Report did the first five picks, but gave no supporting words for any of their selections.
(Update: MLS put out their own mock with left-footed CB Daniel Munie going to SKC.)
All of this got me thinking, as I do every year around this time, why does the MLS Draft even exist?
There are absolutely still talented players who will contribute in Major League Soccer but the draft is a silly way to decide what team they go to. There are so many teams who don’t value the draft at all. In recent seasons the Philadelphia Union have traded away all their draft picks and instead focused on their specific roster building model of academy kids and undervalued foreign talent.
It could be argued Sporting Kansas City are one of the teams that doesn’t value the draft. The 2018 draft was the last time players actually made the first team roster (Eric Dick and Graham Smith). Then you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find anyone who had real sustained success (Dom Dwyer — my apologies to journeymen Amadou Dia and Saad Abdul-Salaam). Admittedly, Sporting KC draft late, but they don’t even always consistently sign guys to second team contracts.
So why force the best college prospects, the guys who maybe were not identified earlier, not in an MLS academy territory or who were just late bloomers, to go to potentially the worst teams in MLS?
Instead, players should be free to sign with any team, whether that’s MLS or in a lower division like the USL Championship. That way they can go to the situation that’s best for them. Maybe that means signing for the most money possible. Or more guaranteed years. Perhaps that means looking for a team that plays a style that’s most suitable to that players skill set. Possibly it means looking for a team that has thin depth at that players spot and they have more of a chance to be a regular contributor. Maybe it just means a player can stay closer to home. Another option could be going to a place where you think the coach is a good fit for you, or you want to learn under them.
Whatever situation is best for the player should be the priority. MLS no longer values the draft. They have millions invested in their academies and those players will often take priority over a rookie draft pick. MLS should stop trying to be like the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. The draft is an ineffective system for moving players out of college into professional life. At least in soccer in 2022.
The damn thing is being held over conference call! Can you imagine the NFL doing the draft over conference call? Stop trying to copy the other American sports and let the draft die!