The No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas was determined last Thursday, when Robbie Robinson was selected by expansion side Inter Miami CF. Robinson’s professional career is only just beginning, but a trip down memory lane shows how difficult it is to pinpoint how the Clemson product will fare in his new digs.
The top pick has been anything but a sure thing, and only two have won Rookie of the Year (Maurice Edu, Cyle Larin). Through the years, it more often has been the case that top picks have been busts rather than stars, despite a few prominent exceptions.
Let’s turn back history for perspective on what direction Robinson’s career could head down.
1996 – Matt McKeon (Kansas City Wiz)
The first pick in MLS College Draft history, McKeon was a versatile player for the Kansas City Wizards for six of his seven MLS seasons. He appeared in a total of 172 games, collecting 13 goals and 19 assists. He made 30 appearances for the Wizards in 2000 when they took home MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.
1997 – Tahj Jakins (Colorado Rapids)
Jakins played three-plus seasons with the Rapids before being waived. He was later picked up by the Kansas City Wizards but lasted just 12 games with the club before his release.
1998 – Leo Cullen (Miami Fusion)
Cullen was a regular for a Fusion team that made the playoffs in his first two seasons with the club. Cullen made a total of 61 appearances in those two seasons and went on to appear in 166 total MLS games for the Fusion, New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids.
1999 – Jason Moore (D.C. United)
Moore played for four different teams over the course of his MLS career, appearing in 92 total games.
2000 – Steve Shak (NY/NJ MetroStars)
A surprise No. 1 pick in 2000, Shak was selected over the likes of Nick Garcia, Carlos Bocanegra and Danny Califf by Octavio Zambrano and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. After appearing in 23 games during his rookie season, Shak lasted just two more seasons in MLS before embarking on a career in the lower leagues of American soccer.
2001 – Chris Carrieri (San Jose Earthquakes)
After being selected by the Earthquakes, Carrieri was sent to the Colorado Rapids in June of his rookie season. He made 69 appearances, scoring 19 goals, over two-and-a-half seasons with the club before leaving MLS and spending multiple seasons with the Richmond Kickers.
2002 – Chris Gbandi (Dallas Burn)
After a successful career at UConn, Gbandi missed out on his rookie season with the Dallas Burn due to an ACL injury. Following that the left back made 111 appearances over five seasons with the club before signing with FK Haugesund in Norway. He is currently the head coach of Northeastern University’s men’s soccer program.
2003 – Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United)
Eskandarian was an integral member of the 2004 D.C. United squad that took home MLS Cup, scoring 10 goals during the regular season. He was also named MVP of MLS Cup after scoring a brace against the Kansas City Wizards. He went on to have an eight-year MLS career, appearing in 125 games with United, Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA and LA Galaxy before injury cut short his career.
2004 – Freddy Adu (D.C. United)
Where to begin? Adu (pictured at the top) was selected No. 1 as a 14-year-old by his hometown club in one of the most famous moments in MLS history. He was a regular contributor with D.C. over his three seasons with the club, helping them capture the 2004 MLS Cup before being sent to Real Salt Lake. From there he was transferred to Portuguese club Benfica for a reported $2 million.
After several unsuccessful loan stints, he returned to MLS with the Philadelphia Union. In a season and a half with the club he made 35 appearances, scoring seven goals. He soon left Philly, however, and wandered across the world playing for several teams, most recently with USL Championship side Las Vegas Lights FC.
2005 – Nikolas Besagno (Real Salt Lake)
Besagno was just 16 when he became the first draft pick in the history of Real Salt Lake. He spent four seasons with the club but made just eight appearances before he was released. He spent time with a couple Seattle-area teams after that, including the Tacoma Tide and Kitsap Pumas. MLSsoccer.com caught up with Besagno in 2013.
2006 – Marvell Wynne (New York Red Bulls)
One of the more successful No. 1 overall picks, Wynne built a reputation for consistency over a decade-long pro career before the discovery of a heart abnormality cut it short in 2017. He appeared in at least 21 games in all 12 of his MLS seasons and in 2016 became the 36th outfield player to reach 300 games played. Wynne served the Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes. In 2010 he helped the Rapids capture their first MLS Cup, forming a formidable center-back tandem with Drew Moor.
2007 – Maurice Edu (Toronto FC)
The first No. 1 pick to be awarded the Rookie of the Year, Edu hit the MLS scene like a man on fire. His strong play as a defensive midfielder with Toronto led to a transfer to Scottish giants Rangers reportedly worth nearly $4 million. He won three SPL titles with the club before returning to MLS prior to the 2014 season.
He made 53 appearances with the Philadelphia Union two seasons with the club, before missing the entire 2016 season – and eventually calling time on his career – due to injury. Edu also was a regular member of the US national team, registering 46 caps and earning a spot on Bob Bradley’s 2010 World Cup squad.
2008 – Chance Myers (Kansas City Wizards)
Myers was an integral member of Sporting’s transformation into a perennial contender in MLS. He appeared in 147 games in his nine seasons in MLS and has helped the team capture the 2013 MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups (2012, 2015). He moved to the Portland Timbers in 2017 but played in just one match before chronic injury issues brought his career to a close; he now heads Nashville SC’s scouting department.
2009 – Steve Zakuani (Seattle Sounders)
One of the most promising young talents in MLS history, Zakuani was an immediate star for the expansion Seattle Sounders. He accrued 14 goals and 10 assists in his first two seasons in MLS and was off to a great start in his third before a crunching tackle left his leg badly injured. He stayed in MLS for three more seasons but never fully recovered his top form, and retired in 2014. Today he works on the Sounders’ broadcast team, hosts a podcast, coaches high-school soccer and runs Kingdom Hope, a charity he founded in 2010.
2010 – Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union)
Mwanga had his best MLS season in his rookie year, scoring seven goals and collecting four assists for the Philadelphia Union. He has scored just eight goals in his last five seasons in the league with the Portland Timbers, Colorado Rapids and Orlando City SC. He also played in the NASL for the New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury, most recently in 2016.
2011 – Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Salgado never really got his career started north of the border, making just 29 appearances in four seasons with the Whitecaps. He was transferred to Tigres in Liga MX following the 2014 season. Finding limited playing time in Mexico, he returned stateside and has spent the past two seasons in the USL Championship with El Paso Locomotive FC and Las Vegas Lights.
2012 – Andrew Wenger (Montreal Impact)
Wenger came into the 2012 SuperDraft as the obvious No. 1 choice, but without a true position. He has spent most of his career either as a striker or as a left winger, scoring 23 goals and 15 assists in career MLS appearances for the Impact, Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo before retiring after the 2018 campaign.
2013 – Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution)
Farrell has been a starter since Day 1 for the Revolution, spending time at both right back and center back. He started 32 games in each of first four MLS seasons and helped New England reach the MLS Cup final in 2014; he remains a Revs regular today.
2014 – Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
The Union traded up to get Blake in the 2014 SuperDraft, but for over a season the Jamaican international was relegated to the bench. After Brian Sylvestre went down with an injury in 2015, Blake finally got his shot. The UConn product started six games for the Union in 2015, collecting two clean sheets. He broke out this past season, starting 32 games and being named MLS Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year.
2015 – Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC)
Perhaps the best rookie season by a No. 1 pick belongs to Larin, who scored 17 goals in 2015 and ran away with the Rookie of the Year voting. He followed that up with 26 goals and six assists in league play over the following two seasons before moving to Turkish powers Besiktas in January 2018 in a transfer reportedly worth somewhere more than $2.3 million. He moved to Belgian club Zulte Waregem on loan in July 2019.
2016 - Jack Harrison (Chicago Fire)
After being selected No. 1 overall, Harrison was immediately traded to New York City FC. After scoring four goals and seven assists as a rookie in 2016 to help NYCFC reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time, he kicked on to bag 10g/6a the following season. He was transferred to Manchester City at the start of 2018 for a reported $6 million transfer fee and is currently in his second season on loan at English Championship club Leeds United.
2017 - Abu Danladi (Minnesota United)
One of several Ghanaian players to find soccer and educational opportunities in North America via the Right to Dream Academy, Danladi was a thrilling but injury-prone attacker at UCLA before signing a Generation adidas contract ahead of the '17 draft. His pro career has thus far unfolded in similar fashion; he scored 11 goals and six assists in 67 MLS appearances (24 starts) for the Loons before Nashville SC picked him up in the 2019 Expansion Draft.
2018 - Joao Moutinho (Los Angeles Football Club)
A product of Portuguese powers Sporting Lisbon, Moutinho moved stateside to play NCAA soccer for the University of Akron in 2017 and performed well enough to earn a Generation adidas contract that winter. LAFC took him with their first-ever draft pick and the left back started 10 league games (14 appearances) for the expansion side before moving to Orlando City via a trade in December of 2018; he played 16 MLS games for the Lions in 2019.
2019 – Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati)
Another GA signing who played just one season of college soccer (in his case UCLA) before going pro, the Amaya took time to find his feet in MLS amid a woeful expansion season for FCC. The technical center mid, a US U-20 international, played in 19 league games (15 starts) as a rookie, and quietly but significantly improved over the course of the year.