It's time for the least exact science known to mankind: Predicting the MLS SuperDraft! Below you'll find the pre-Combine version, and a week from now you'll get the post-Combine version.
Bear in mind that, thanks to the infusion of TAM, MLS teams are more aggressively targeting young international players from other leagues. That means it's going to be more difficult for internationals to get drafted out of college, so a few of the guys listed below will no doubt ply their trade at the USL level for a while before getting a serious MLS look.
As always, feel free to give me the business in the comments section below.
CB - stanford
It's been 15 years since the last non-Generation adidas No. 1 SuperDraft pick (Chris Gbandi), but Hilliard-Arce should buck that trend. He checks every physical box you'd want in an MLS CB, he's a winner (three straight titles in Palo Alto), and recent roster building success by top clubs has tended to revolve around "hey, if you can get a domestic CB on the cheap, you should do it."
FORWARD - Indiana (GA)
Toye is a true center forward who can stretch the field and has the tools to hold the ball up a bit, too. His technique is very good, and he was superb as a true freshman. The one worry is that he plays small despite his size (6-foot-3, 180). He might be a bit of a reach at No. 2, but the Galaxy aren't in a position to toss around international slots.
Winger - Michigan (GA)
The Ghanaian is a speedster, best in isolation on the wing though capable of playing as a second forward. His upside is probably the highest of anyone in the draft, but his college career was beset by injuries and there are legitimate questions about his ability to combine.
CB/MF - Akron (GA)
He might end up being too slight to be a center back in MLS, but he's got the technical ability to step into midfield and conduct business there (as he often did for Akron). Put him with the right partners in the defense, though, and you'd have a true orchestrator from the back – a rarity in MLS.
ATTACKER - Wisconsin
The first player in more than a decade to register 20+ assists in a college season, Mueller is somehow still flying under the radar – in part because he comes from a traditionally weak program, and in part because he's a 'tweener. I think he could operate just fine as a second forward off of either Christian Ramirez or Abu Danladi, though.
Winger - Wake forest (GA)
Another Ghanaian winger, Twumasi lacks the explosiveness of Atauhene but is better on the ball and more clever in the final third. He could fill a need for an OCSC team that lacks some elusiveness in attack.
CB/RB - Pacific
Blackmon spent most of his college career as a pure right back, but might end up projecting better as a highly mobile center back in a back three or a back five. He's comfortable on the ball, and has the size to make a go of it – though it would take a year of development in USL to get him up to speed.
FORWARD - Notre Dame
Mueller, but less productive (still pretty good tho with 13g/2a for a traditionally strong program). He loves to take defenders off the dribble and has the ability to finish plays off, though there's some question of whether that can translate up to MLS.
FORWARD - Wake Forest
A big, imposing center forward who plays the game like an artist. Dude's got the softest feet in the draft, the vision of a No. 10 and the brain of a future coach. He might be three steps too slow for the pro game, but on a team with fast, field-stretching wingers, there's something to be said for having a playmaking No. 9 to send them through.
Left back - washington
Dallas need central defensive depth more than anything, but if you can grab a left back with the physical measurables to play in MLS at this spot, you should probably take him. Fiddes won't be asked to do much besides learn in Year 1, which is as it should be.
FORWARD - Louisville
Thiaw lined up everywhere across the front line for the Cardinals during his college career, and I'll admit I'm still not sure what his best spot is. But he checks a lot of boxes, and for the Quakes at this point it's just a matter of pure asset collection.
FORWARD - UNLV
He banged in just about a goal per game as a senior, improving over very productive sophomore and junior years (and he was nearly part of last year's GA class). This clearly fills a need for SKC, and given Peter Vermes's history of trusting the draft, this would be a pretty good landing spot for the kid.
Forward - Maryland (GA)
He probably should've come out for the draft after his wildly productive sophomore year instead of his hugely disappointing junior year. There are real questions about Wild's ability to make it in MLS, but somebody pushed for him because here he is with a GA contract. He's smart and understands how to use the space others create, which could make him a very useful back-up to Josef Martinez if the Five Stripes want to spend an int'l slot on him.
Forward/Winger - Duke
He was the PDL MVP playing for RBNY's U-23s, bagging 17g/3a in just over 1100 minutes this past summer before putting up a solid senior season in Durham. What's his best position? Don't know. I do know that he's got talent, though, and the Red Bulls have seen it up close.
Midfielder - VCU
He was probably the best No. 10 in college last year, but the Brazilian might end up being a better long-term prospect out wide on the left as a wingback, or maybe even as a fullback. This is maybe a weird fit for a 'Caps team that loves to play very direct boom-ball, but on pure talent, he shouldn't drop lower than this.
Midfielder - Stanford
If you keep winning championships you get noticed, even if you're a no-frills central midfielder whose best attribute is your ability to keep the game simple and put your teammates into good spots. Skundrich is simply tireless, which will endear him to Vermes (and his teammates).
CB - Dartmouth
A strong Combine could see him rocket up the draft boards, given his physical profile (6-foot-4 left-footed CB who can pass the ball) and the leaguewide need for center backs. Teams want to see if he can be a commanding, physical presence and bury his tendency to be a little too passive at times.
Right back - Western michigan
Bye is a project, but he had a simply outstanding season at right midfield for the surprise team of 2017. Like many college players who play in a direct system, he projects better long-term as an overlapping fullback. But – long story short – this is part of the reason why teams invest in USL affiliates. A year or two in Rio Grande Valley could make Bye into a weapon.
Winger/forward - North carolina
Pure asset collection here from the Sounders, who get a speedster capable of playing anywhere along the front line. Winn could – maybe even should – end up going much higher than this.
Defensive midfielder - Clemson
No-frills hard-man in the middle for a very good Tigers team over the last few years, Shannon should be able to find a niche as a destroyer behind Michael Bradley for the Reds. TFC are one of the few teams with international roster slots to spare, so they can afford to spend one on the English ex-pat.