Even if the MLS SuperDraft is no longer a primary mechanism for building a roster, it can still provide players right away.
Early returns from the 2019 draft reflect that most drafted players face an uphill battle to providing an immediate impact. However, 24 players remain active on MLS rosters, and Andre Shinyashiki, DeJuan Jones, Chase Gasper and Frankie Amaya were among the players to provide immediate return to varying degrees.
Before Thursday's 2020 edition of the draft, it’s worth sizing up some of the candidates from college soccer that could come in right away and contribute, with the knowledge that much of this will come down to how a player fits and adjusts, and the kind of opportunity provided by his coaching staff.
RB Dylan Nealis, Georgetown
Courtesy of Georgetown Athletics
Arguably the top senior available in this year’s draft, Nealis has the potential to earn a starting role this season, depending on the team and opportunity. His ability to prove he can handle the jump up in attacking quality is going to dictate that, but he’s as polished a prospect as it comes from college soccer these days.
CB Jack Maher, Indiana
The polished center back is likely to be snapped off the board in the top three, whether that’s to Miami, Nashville or another team that trades up. In the right spot, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Maher earn a significant chunk of minutes at center back, even if it’s a tough spot to come in to carve out a consistent role as a rookie.
CF Cal Jennings, Central Florida
Courtesy of University of Central Florida
While Jennings may not be the impressive specimen as some of his other peers, his goal-scoring rate could open up opportunities right away this season. Most are likely to be from off the bench, but in the right situation, Jennings has the ability to chip in goals as a substitute with the spots he takes up in the box.
CM/RB Alistair Johnston, Wake Forest
The versatile Canadian could come in right away and chip in, either in a box-to-box midfield role or potentially as a right back. It would obviously take the right system and fit for Johnston, who is talented but could be challenged to keep up with the pace in MLS. But leaning on the ability to play in different spots is likely to get him into the mix sooner rather than later.
CB Henry Kessler, Virginia
Courtesy of University of Virginia
There’s no doubt that Kessler has the size to cope with some of the biggest attackers in the league. He’ll need to prove that he can keep up with them, however. And there’s every reason to believe that Kessler will land in a spot that not only has minutes available to him sooner, but also trusts the 21-year-old center back to compete and excel early on in his career.