The 2015 MLS SuperDraft is just around the corner on January 15, and for Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, this year’s draft provides a “unique opportunity” for the club to shape their roster not only for present success, but also with the club's future in mind.
In a video posted to the club’s YouTube channel, Bezbatchenko revealed his strategy for the 2015 SuperDraft, focused on a class of players Toronto's scouting and coaching staff have spent almost two years scouting.
“What we found is that successful teams have a way of building out of the draft,” Bezbatchenko said. “Most successful teams have a number of drafted players on their roster; TFC is one of the few teams that only has a few drafted players. What I would like to do over the next three to five years is increase that – in fact, double the number of [TFC] players that come out of the MLS SuperDraft.”
Toronto FC’s roster currently features three players drafted by the club: Nick Hagglund (pictured), Daniel Lovitz and Kyle Bekker. But Toronto FC is no stranger to developing young players. The team’s academy system has pumped through talent at a good pace, and players coming through the academy have not only found a spot in the first team, but abroad as well: The club's first Homegrown Player, Doneil Henry, was recently transferred to Premier League side West Ham United, albeit through a Cypriot club.
With a new team in USL PRO and former TFC Academy coach Stuart Neely returning to his old position at the helm of the senior academy team, Bezbatchenko has complete confidence in the club's pipeline of local development.
However, Bezbatchenko says the Homegrown route is not yet a full substitute for the SuperDraft. With three of the first 11 picks in the SuperDraft, plus two more picks in the second round – Bezbatchenko is not ruling anything out for this year’s draft dealings.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of action and a lot of offers from other teams that we will have to consider, and we will have contingency plans in place that will help value each of our picks,” Bezbatchenko said. “Currently we have the Nos. 6, 9 and 11 picks in the first round; based on our evaluation of players, we could potentially move up or move down for assets for giving assets or receiving assets in both directions. It allows us to control our destiny.”
Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.