Bear in mind that, thanks to the infusion of Targeted Allocation Money, MLS teams are more aggressively targeting young international players from other leagues. And thanks to the growing prominence of Homegrown Players, most MLS teams are more aggressively funneling their own talent up their own respective pipelines and into the first team.
Homegrowns, TAM signings and young DPs are investments. A drafted player is found money.
That means it's harder than ever to get drafted out of college and win a regular role in MLS. It still happens – Atlanta United aren't Atlanta United without Julian Gressel – but the odds of drafted players ever making a dent in MLS are becoming longer by the year.
As always, feel free to give me the business in the comments section below.
Winger / AM - VCU (GA)
The consensus most talented player in the draft according to the folks I've talked with. Were he a part of any other U-20 cycle, Haji would probably have been a featured player for the USYNT, but this group was so stacked he didn't make the final roster. So he's under the radar... for now.
AM - UCLA (GA)
Amaya actually did make that U-20 team, and got a few reps as a pure 10 as the US blitzed through the rest of Concacaf in dominant fashion. The difference between him and Haji is that Haji's a little more flexible – he can potentially play two spots. Amaya probably can't.
Forward - Syracuse (GA)
This is actually a happy confluence of both "best talent available" and "need," as Orlando City really do need a young understudy for Dom Dwyer (though they also did just sign Homegrown forward Benji Michel). Buchanan should be able to fill that role on the cheap, and has the flexibility to play out wide a little bit as well.
CB - Charlotte
I'm torn on this one. Montgomery is the consensus best center back in the draft, and Dallas could use young depth at that spot. But 1) he's not a GA, and 2) they actually need fullback depth more than CB depth. Still, I think the idea should be "best talent," and that's what Montgomery is here.
Forward - Kentucky (GA)
Williams is huge (6-foot-4, 200 lbs) and should be able to slot in as an Alan Gordon replacement. And maybe, long-term, as the successor to Nemanja Nikolic? Regardless, talent trumps need here – they'd gladly take a defender, but none besides Montgomery is worth a top-5 pick.
Dayne St. Clair
Goalkeeper - Maryland (GA)
Alex Bono was dodgy in 2018, and backup Clint Irwin is gone. In steps St. Clair, who's from the Toronto suburbs and just led the Terps to another national title. Once again it's a nice confluence of need + talent.
LB - North Carolina (GA)
Perhaps a bit of a reach here, as there are real questions about Nelson's ability to do the necessary defensive work to stick in MLS. But he can push up to help in possession, and really passes the ball quite well. And who doesn't need left back depth?
Winger - Indiana (GA)
Dorsey, like Amaya, was part of that US U-20 squad, getting a few minutes in the group stage before being replaced for the knockout rounds. He's an active, all-energy attacking type who's better off the ball than on it right now, and would be useful depth for a Dynamo team very dependent upon their wing play.
AM - Seattle
The Revs don't have a ton of midfielders right now, so it probably makes sense for them to go with the best midfielder on the board at this point. Rivas is probably that guy, though I'd question how well he would fit into Brad Friedel's energetic pressing scheme.
FB - Creighton
Ward's the consensus best FB in the draft, just ahead of Logan Gdula. He'll get a chance here to earn a spot as Reggie Cannon's backup at RB, and perhaps as Cannon's successor should the US international be sold on to a European club in the not-too-distant future. Or he could compete for a starting job at LB.
Forward - Denver
Shinyashiki was a goalscoring machine as a senior, hitting the back of the net 28 times – the largest single-season total in the college game in two decades. Odds are those numbers won't perfectly translate to the pro game, but his motor and commitment will. Friedel will like that.
RB - Wake Forest
Gdula really came on the last two years, and is a testament to Bobby Muuss' ability to develop players both technically and tactically. In the Demon Deacons' system, the right back isn't primarily an overlapper, but rather acts as a possession hub for the prettiest passing team in the college game.
d-mid - Notre dame
McCabe plays a very simple role: See the ball, win the ball, connect a simple pass to more creative teammates. Everybody needs a depth piece like that. Problem is, when he was asked to do more than that as a junior and senior, he wasn't really able to deliver.
Forward - FIU
Big, productive and consistent, Patino is a true center forward who delivered both in college and in USL League Two play with the Sounders U-23s. He's potentially a perfectly useful depth piece for a D.C. squad that have only a single forward on their roster.
d-mid - wake forest
Everything the Deacs did with the ball over the last four years started with Dunwell. They will miss him a lot. There are very legit questions about his ability to do the defensive work required of an MLS d-mid (pay attention to his athletic testing numbers). But if Colorado really are committed to playing with the ball in a 4-4-2 diamond, he checks a lot of boxes.
Cb - Pacific
Do LAFC want to burn a international slot on a college CB? That's the big question here, because if they're willing to take the plunge, then Verstraaten is a pretty obvious pick at this spot. The big (6-foot-3), PSV-bred Dutchman can really play.
forward - Michigan state
I really like Sierakowski, a true center forward who makes the right runs and has a knack for one-touch finishes from tight angles. RSL could, of course, use some of that at that spot, and Sierakowski would get plenty of reps with Real Monarchs to prove himself.
RB - Akron
Columbus need fullback depth, and so they turn to a local program to draft a local kid. Something tells me the new Crew SC head coach will have an affinity for Akron products as well...
MF - Pacific
I can imagine Riley working into the depth chart somewhere in the midfield, though his long-term future might be better as a ball-playing CB. It would require a multi-year, Aaron Long-style transition.
CM / Right back - Oregon State
Not a lot of holes on this roster, so it's an exercise in finding the right fit, both culturally and squad-wise. Dotson's a local kid who played as an all-action No. 8 in college while moonlighting some as a fullback. If he gets taken here he'll get a chance to prove his worth in Tacoma with S2.
LB - Maryland
This team is stacked. Their only real need is a big-time No. 9, and obviously they're not going to try to address that with the 21st pick in the draft. So my guess is they take a flier on potential depth at left back and then let Gasper marinate with Swope Park for a year or two.
CB - uconn
RBNY lost all their depth at center back this offseason, so it's simply a matter of identifying whoever they think the best CB in the draft is at this spot and picking him. Hauser-Ramsey is probably it – though the fact that Seattle passed on signing him as a Homegrown should raise an eyebrow or two.
d-mid / rb - Maryland
Samuels could, in theory, provide depth at two spots, and he comes from one of the great talent-producing college programs of the past three decades, so there's a pedigree. Like so many other players in this draft, he'll certainly play most of his 2019 minutes in the USL.
LB - Michigan
They don't really have many needs, as one would expect of the defending MLS Cup champs. So they'll go with the best talent available in Borges – a RBNY academy product who can really pass the ball, but perhaps lacks the athleticism to defend at the MLS level.