MLS SuperDraft 2022 presented by adidas is set for Jan. 11. And while the youth landscape in North America has changed dramatically since the first SuperDraft in 2000 replaced the original MLS College Draft, it remains an important mechanism for teams building their roster for this year and beyond – selecting some of college soccer’s most promising talent.
There are three rounds in the SuperDraft, with each team allowed one pick per round. The first pick this year goes to expansion side Charlotte FC, followed by the teams that did not qualify for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs beginning with the team with the fewest 2021 regular-season points (3 points per win, 1 point per tie). The remaining positions are ranked by the fewest regular-season points among the teams that were eliminated in the same round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
However, some teams moved up, or down, following trades. The order can be found at the Draft Tracker.
And here's how you can follow along.
Streaming MLS SuperDraft 2022
Back in its early days, the MLS SuperDraft was THE way for teams to add the most promising young talented players from college soccer.
Now, every MLS team has culled their own academies for homegrown talent and that only continues with MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro adding to the development pyramid for MLS teams. The league's U22 Initiative has also infused promising, young talent from home and abroad.
But there’s still plenty of value to the MLS SuperDraft and big players who have emerged throughout the years. It's not the same as the NFL Draft or the NBA Draft. It's unique to Major League Soccer and we'll explain why.
“With the first overall pick…” are words often spoken by MLS Commissioner Don Garber at the start of most MLS SuperDrafts. In 2014, Garber announced the Philadelphia Union selected Andre Blake out of the University of Connecticut. And the Jamaican international has since become a two-time Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner, leading the Union to a Supporters’ Shield title in 2020.
New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell was picked the year before and he’s been a rock for their backline ever since, an integral part of the Revs’ record-breaking Suporrters' Shield title in 2021. The 28-year-old leads all MLS outfield players in regular-season appearances and games started since entering the league.
MLS has heavily invested in youth development over the last decade and that has paid dividends with the likes of Tyler Adams, Alphonso Davies, Brenden Aaronson and, most recently Ricardo Pepi, climbing their respective clubs pyramids to make lucrative moves to Europe.
And while club academies are churning out more and more of MLS' top young talent, there’s plenty of value from the MLS SuperDraft — even beyond the first few picks of the first round.
Here are just a few examples:
- Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC): The younger brother of Cristian Roldan played four years at nearby Seattle University and was picked by the Sounders as the 22nd overall selection of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. He’s coming off a season where he’s a regular starter for both club and country, a leader of an El Salvador competing in the Octagonal stage of Concacaf World Cup Qualification.
- Sean Nealis (New York Red Bulls): The center back had a decorated career at Hofstra University before being selected in the second round (25th overall) of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls. This past season, the 24-year-old started 28 games for the Red Bulls and earned a multi-year contract extension after the season.
- Alistair Johnston (CF Montréal): After transferring from St. John’s University, Johnson played for two years at Wake Forest University where he switched from a central midfielder to a right back. Expansion side Nashville SC selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and the Vancouver native started almost immediately, a key cog in Nashville’s stout defense. The 23-year-old, who has also become an important player for the Canadian national team and has featured as a right back and a right center back, was traded to CF Montréal for $1 million in General Allocation Money.
Big-money transfers to Europe aren’t reserved for homegrown talent. Players selected in the MLS SuperDraft in recent years have also made the jump.
That includes Tajon Buchanan, picked by the Revs with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft after two years at Syracuse. The Canadian winger worked his way up to a 2021 MLS Best XI selection and became a valuable starter for Les Rouges. The 22-year-old just made the move to Club Brugge in the Belgium first division for a club-record transfer fee reportedly in the neighborhood of $7 million and a 10% sell-on clause.
Daryl Dike was a standout at the University of Virginia before signing a Generation adidas contract and being selected by Orlando City SC with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.
The 21-year-old forward played a pivotal role in the Lions reaching back-to-back Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, notching 19 goals and seven assists across all competitions, while also scoring three times in eight senior caps for the US men’s national team.
On New Year’s Day, Dike signed a four-and-a-half year contract with English Championship side West Bromwich Albion with Orlando reportedly garnering a $9.5 million transfer fee, performance-based bonuses and 20% of any future sale.
In the past, that answer varied greatly based on the club making the pick. For some, MLS minutes come almost immediately, like Revs center back Henry Kessler (sixth overall pick in 2020 MLS SuperDraft) or Nashville defender Jack Maher (No. 2 in 2020). Others have played for clubs’ USL affiliates or loaned to a lower division side to earn important playing time.
Others don't pan out and never step foot in an MLS game, remaining in the lower divisions or changing careers altogether.
That answer will likely be much clearer this year with the launch of MLS NEXT Pro, with 20 of the inaugural 21 teams serving as reserve sides for MLS clubs. That'll provide another platform for college soccer prospects to develop and then make a first-team impact, similar to how USMNT and RBNY center back Aaron Long did before becoming an MLS Defender of the Year.
College soccer is a unique element of North American soccer that isn't going anywhere soon. And while it's not supplying the same quantity of MLS day-one starters as years past, there's still incredible value to be found. Plus, keep in mind that Generation adidas players don't count against the salary cap, offering great flexibility to clubs if they strike gold.
So stay tuned for Jan. 11 when the MLS SuperDraft 2022 presented by adidas gets underway. As much as MLS academies are rising and clubs are benefitting with first-team minutes and transfers, a few gems are likely to arise.