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What is the MLS SuperDraft?

LAFC will fill out more of their roster via the MLS SuperDraft. So what exactly is it?

SOCCER: JAN 13 2017 MLS SuperDraft
You can find an MLS Rookie of the Year at the SuperDraft, like Atlanta did last year with Julian Gressel.
Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On January 19th, Major League Soccer will host the latest edition of the MLS SuperDraft, in Philadelphia alongside the United Soccer Coaches Convention. It is here that Los Angeles Football Club will get the chance to add to their growing roster.

So, you may ask, what exactly is the MLS SuperDraft?

The SuperDraft is four rounds where each Major League Soccer team has a pick to use on an available player to add to their roster. These players primarily come from colleges in the United States, but a team can also trade a pick to another team for a package that could include picks in later years, a player, or cash.

As an expansion team, this year LAFC gets to pick first overall in the SuperDraft, so they get to pick essentially any player they want to join the team. While many of the top picks already have signed contracts with MLS (either as seniors or as underclassmen who belong to the “Generation adidas” class), there is a chance they’ll pick a player who is unsigned, although taking him is basically saying “he’s mine“ to the rest of the league.

The rest of the order for the SuperDraft is decided by how a club performed in the prior season. Teams that did not make the playoffs have their picks assigned with the worst teams going first, and then playoff teams pick starting with whoever got eliminated first, just like most college drafts in American pro sports. As such, the LA Galaxy and D.C. United have the second and third picks, respectively, and the final pick belong to the MLS Cup champions Toronto FC.

The SuperDraft is pretty much the same as all the other American sports leagues, except for a major exception. Major League Soccer has a program called the Homegrown Player Rule, where a club gets to promote players from its own development academy directly to the first team. This rule bypasses the MLS SuperDraft. If a player is registered as a homegrown player for a club (meaning they resided in the club’s “territory“ and played in the youth system there for at least a year, and then trained there a certain period over time), the player can still go to college and be promoted to the club’s first team after, meaning he can’t be taken by another team.

As one example, last season, Ian Harkes (son of John Harkes) won the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the best collegiate soccer player, playing for Wake Forest. He had played high school soccer in Washington, D.C., and played for the D.C. United youth academy for years. When he left Wake Forest, he went to D.C. United. He could not be drafted by another team, as he had signed a homegrown player contract with D.C.

This is a bit of a disadvantage right now for LAFC, as they do not have any homegrown players at this time. The good news is, all the newer teams have one (although Minnesota’s came to them via trade), so LAFC will be fine going forward, but that takes down the player pool just a bit for the black and gold.

It is also worth nothing for LAFC that they have just three picks in the SuperDraft (first pick in each of the first three rounds), as they traded their fourth-round pick to Atlanta United for an international roster spot for the 2018 season. While fourth-round picks can always possibly blossom if the right player is picked, on balance this was a good deal.

The first and second round of the SuperDraft will be held on January 19, with the third and fourth rounds taking place via conference call on January 21.

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