What is the MLS SuperDraft?

Football players outside of North America may be unfamiliar with Major League Soccer’s unique (sometimes frustrating) ways of conducting business. One of the most unique aspects of the league is the MLS SuperDraft. It is a way in which clubs stock their teams with fresh talent coming out of the amateur NCAA soccer system. So, how does the MLS SuperDraft work?

How does the MLS SuperDraft work?

In the United States and Canada, a player draft is a process used to allocate amateur players to teams. Each team takes turns selecting from the pool of eligible amateur players. Players are scouted by the teams and selected on their performance at the amateur level.

The selecting team obtain exclusive rights to sign the player(s) to a contract. The MLS Draft continues until teams have completed each round and taken available players for each pick. One of the reasons the SuperDraft is employed in US and Canadian sports is due to a lack of professional teams having traditional European and South American-style academies. MLS academies are a recent concept and despite clubs signing players out of them nowadays, the MLS SuperDraft is still used every season.

When did it begin?

The SuperDraft was first used in 2000 when MLS merged its original College Draft and  Supplemental Draft. There are four rounds to the draft and each club’s pick is determined by their previous season final table position. Often times, clubs will stock up on draft picks to select young players by trading their draft picks for veteran players of equal value. Veterans may also be traded for a pick allowing the trading team to get their salary off the books.

Many of MLS’s intricacies get criticised by coaches who join the league from Europe. One ex-LA Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit struggled to get his head around the league’s rules and salary cap after coaching at Chelsea. In 2015, Gullit stated the salary cap made MLS difficult for foreign coaches to work in the league. He also lamented the lack of talent he saw in 2008 SuperDraft.

The MLS draft system makes for one of the unique aspects of the league that makes it difficult for foreign fans to truly comprehend the league.

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