Time to create, for posterity, a document that will almost certainly be wrong! Just for the record I'm putting my head together with MLS announcer and MLSsoccer.com contributing editor Jonathan Yardley for this project. We've talked to just about every coach and/or GM in the league, a bunch of scouts, other journalists, some quants (more and more of those around every year in MLS, folks) and the kids themselves.
And we still have no idea what's going to happen during Thursday's 2016 MLS SuperDraft (1 pm ET, livestream on MLSsoccer.com). The Chicago Fire are actively listening to offers for the No. 1 pick, and one of the potential top prospects -- UCLA attacker Abu Danladi -- is still on the fence about signing with the league. I'm hearing it's unlikely, but Ives Galarcep actually included Danladi in his own mock draft, and he has great sources. So... you never know.
With that as preamble, here's our best guess:
1. Chicago Fire:Joshua Yaro, CB (Georgetown - GA)
Yaro hasn't been particularly sharp at the Combine. One coach actually called him "terrible," but that coach is actually trying to trade up for him, so let's not read too much into a couple of bad games in what is really not a great situation for any player to show his wares.
There are other guys in play here depending upon who ends up with the pick. But if I'm Chicago, I don't over-complicate things. I take Yaro, and I start him in the middle of the defense from Day 1.
For what it's worth, though... I've heard they're very interested in trading the pick.
- ET Radio:Yaro on SuperDraft hype
2. Colorado Rapids:Brandon Vincent, LB (Stanford)
I feel like if they were really going to make Dillon Serna a left back it would have happened already. That means Vincent fills a position of need for the Rapids, and like Yaro he's an instant starter. Don't overthink it -- just make the right pick.
3. Philadelphia Union:Jack Harrison, MF (Wake Forest - GA)
Harrison's the youngest player in the draft by a year-and-a-half, and he was the best player in the country's best collegiate league this past season. We're not sure if he'll play centrally or on the wing for the Union, but I'd expect to see a bunch of him in 2016 regardless.
4. New York City FC:Jonathan Campbell, CB (North Carolina)
They'd love it if Danladi entered the draft because that'd probably allow them to sit tight and still get Harrison, who is their real target. However, as I said above it's not guaranteed that Danladi will be available.
In the meantime, they'll continue to work the phones in hopes of trading up to grab Harrison. If that doesn't happen, they're unlikely to burn an international slot (they have three left) here in the draft, and will instead take the best American available. Since they need help in central defense, I have them going with Campbell, but don't rule out a "reach" pick for Generation adidas goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
5. Real Salt Lake:Omar Holness, MF (North Carolina - GA)
Stop me if you've heard this one before: There are some questions about Holness's best position. He played a ton of attacking midfield in college (putting up ho-hum numbers) and was used often on the wing at the Combine. He's the type of athlete who can provide that flexibility.
But he's also a pretty damn good soccer player, and to me he looks most at home as a box-to-box No. 8 who can chew up ground. A guy like that would look good between Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
6. Philadelphia Union:Keegan Rosenberry, RB (Georgetown)
I've heard they're absolutely not going to take Rosenberry -- whose Homegrown rights they had, then lost -- with this pick. But he makes a ton of sense and addresses a position of need in a big way.
If Holness or Campbell are available here, Philly might prefer one of them instead.
7. Orlando City:Jordan McCrary, RB (North Carolina)
McCrary knows what he is: a defense-first fullback. While OCSC have a bunch of guys who can play wide on the backline, almost all of them are pure overlappers who are dying to get forward at all times.
McCrary could be both depth and a different look for a team that suffered through a rash of injuries last season. It's also important that he doesn't take up an international roster spot.
8. San Jose Earthquakes:Fabian Herbers, F (Creighton - GA)
Chris Wondolowski turns 33 in two weeks. Even though he's still a scoring machine, you don't have to look too far into the future to see the end of the line.
In Herbers, San Jose would get a potential heir. He plays the same position (a little bit differently), and plays it well.
9. Toronto FC:Richie Laryea, CM (Akron - GA)
Laryea's seen his stock drop just a bit because, once again, he's a guy whose position is a little bit uncertain. He combines around the box well and threatens goal, but he doesn't really control the game like a No. 10 and there are questions about his ability to contribute defensively.
That said, talent is talent, and happily enough for TFC, Laryea qualifies as local talent to boot as he's from Toronto.
10. New England Revolution:Kyle Fisher, CB (Clemson)
Fisher hasn't stood out at the Combine and he struggled in the College Cup while coming off an injury, but he was so consistently good during his collegiate career that teams are willing to overlook recent struggles.
The Revs have a real need for depth in the center of defense, and Fisher is the highest-rated center back left on the board.
11. Sporting Kansas City:Tony Alfaro, CB (Cal State-Dominguez Hills)
If there was a pure center forward worth taking here, Sporting would be on it. Instead they'll go with the big and raw central defender, who will likely spend most of the upcoming season (no matter who drafts him) honing his craft in the USL.
Teams love Alfaro's cultured left foot, but he'll need time working up to the speed of the game in the pros.
12. LA Galaxy:Julian Buescher, CM (Syracuse - GA)
The 23-year-old German is the best passer in the draft and looked like a man among boys before coming off with a hamstring strain. There's no ready-made spot in the Galaxy lineup this season, but they'll play multiple competitions and he'll have multiple chances to make an impression.
Bruce Arena tends to ask his central midfielders to cover a lot of ground, which is not Buescher's strong suit. But he's too good with the ball to pass on here.
13. D.C. United:Andrew Tarbell, GK (Clemson - GA)
Tarbell's the highest rated 'keeper in the draft, and a bit of insurance for D.C. Sure, United signed Bill Hamid to a long-term deal, but everybody's available for the right price.
At the moment D.C. only have one other player in the position on the roster
, so getting Tarbell here makes a bunch of sense. If he's not around, expect them to try to bolster the midfield.
EDIT: United re-signed Andrew Dykstra yesterday, so they're now carrying three 'keepers again, and picking Tarbell no longer makes a bunch of sense. So the prediction for this pick is almost certainly wrong.
14. Montreal Impact:Cole Seiler, CB (Georgetown)
This might be a reach for Seiler, but he's been a good college defender for a long time and his ability to put long balls onto the foot of his wingers will be prized in Montreal, who always want to get out and run.
Seiler provides extra depth, which is also valuable. He won't be a superstar, but he has the look of a good, long-time MLS central defender.
15. Seattle Sounders:Ben Polk, F/W (Syracuse)
Polk struggled on Day 1 of the Combine while playing as a true No. 9, then fared better on Day 2 as he spent more time on the wing.
It's not 100-percent clear what he'll be in MLS (he actually was a No. 9 in college), but versatility isn't a bad thing -- especially for a team that seems to be considering a switch away from the 4-4-2 to something that looks more like a 4-3-3.
16. Vancouver Whitecaps:Hadji Barry, F/W (UCF)
Berry had a shocker on Day 2 of the Combine but bounced back strong on Day 3. He can be used on either wing or up top in a pinch, and has the type of final third skills that teams covet.
Honestly though, the Whitecaps roster is tough to crack. They're two deep at every position.
17. FC Dallas:Eric Verso, MF (Stanford)
Perhaps the biggest winner of the Combine, Verso was clever and lethal in the two games he played, setting up numerous chances and even heading home a corner kick. He can play on either wing for Dallas, and provides a different look than most of the guys they have in the mix.
He's not a speedster, but more of a playmaking wing. He can help carry part of the burden when Mauro Diaz inevitably misses a few games.
18. New York Red Bulls:Taylor Washington, LB (George Mason)
I left Washington out of my top-five left backs list, which I've been told was a mistake. He's on the fringes of the first round, and while RBNY don't have any real needs, there is always the chance they could sell Kemar Lawrencesooner rather than later.
Washington wouldn't necessarily fill that spot immediately, but he'd provide depth for a team that often puts it to good use.
19. Columbus Crew SC:Liam Doyle, CB (Ohio State)
Doyle looks slow at times out there, and seems to lack agility. But he aced the athletic tests, and he fills a need for Crew SC.
He's also local(ish), having come from the Isle of Man to play his college ball as a Buckeye.
20. Portland Timbers:Todd Wharton, DM (Virginia)
Wharton wasn't great at the Combine, but he's a smart, one-touch passer who spent time with the Timbers U-23s over the summer. He'll fit in somewhere down the depth chart and get some minutes with Timbers 2 in the USL.
Five More to Watch
- Michael Salazar, F (UC-Riverside) – Salazar's a full Belize international who's tough on the ball and has a low center of gravity.
- Tsubasa Endoh, M/W (Maryland) – Endoh was the Combine's most consistent attacker over the three games. He has a limited range of passing, but is very clever with his touches and movement around the box.
- James Moberg, M (Washington) – Missed most of his senior season with an injury, and wasn't great at the Combine, but he has soft feet and a patience on the ball that many scouts appreciate.
- Zach Carroll, CB (Michigan State) – Struggled against pacey attackers at the Combine, but Carroll was good in college and has the physical characteristics certain teams prize in the center of defense.
- Justin Bilyeu, LB/CB (SIU-Edwardsville) – Bilyeu was up-and-down at the Combine, and generally looked more comfortable as a left back than a central defender. Any team that takes him here, however, will likely give him time to hone his craft in the USL.