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Americans at home: the 2021 MLS Superdraft was an exercise in unknowable possibility

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This won’t do much in terms of a hypetrain at this point

SOCCER: JAN 11 MLS SuperDraft Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the years one hallmark has determined the fate of teams in American sports: how well they draft. The New England Patriots built a dynasty off of drafting well, somehow the San Antonio Spurs managed to draft Tim Duncan while also having David Robinson and became a dominant NBA team, I’m sure there’s a hockey team that did something like that, and I think the Cubs drafted some good players that helped them win the World Series in 2016. The point is the draft is important.

Except in MLS where it’s a way for teams to fill out rosters with players that will make near the league minimum and who are probably too intellectual to be good at soccer anyway. A point illustrated in this part of a recent GQ profile of a USMNT player.

I’m not saying that college is bad, it just might not be the best way to combine soccer skills with academic achievement unless a player wants to be a doctor in Brazil one day.

Occasionally the MLS Superdraft does see lightning strike as it did last year with Daryl Dike, but those instances are rare and as MLS teams’ academies producing talent ready for first team soccer at a lower hit to the salary cap it doesn’t seem like college will suddenly be a significant pathway for Americans joining MLS and possibly the national team. To wit, of the 26 players taken in the first round of last year’s draft, six had 10 or more appearances for their clubs in 2020.

In short, the draft seems like a purely unknown way to possibly find a good player, though that’s not very likely. In any case, I you are wondering where Mitch Guitar went - here’s the answer:

Elsewhere there were a few relevant picks to some age group in the USMNT.

  • The 10th pick went to Miami with 20 year-old forward and former Indiana Hoosier Joshua Penn who has two appearances with the USMNT U-19 team. The draft secures Penn’s MLS rights, but he is under contract with IndyXI in the USL.
  • Aedan Stanley, a defender who played at Duke, as well as the St. Louis FC, Portland Timbers II, and SKC II prior to being drafted by Austin FC. Stanley also played for the USMNT U-18 team in 2017.
  • The 17th pick went to Minnesota United who took Justin McMaster. The forward attended a USMNT U-20 Men’s Youth National Team Summit Camp in 2017.

This isn’t a thrilling list but the two players who came out of the draft that seem poised to make some kind of contribution to the USMNT perhaps are Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller. Neither represented the US youth set up at any level and now both are at least on the radar of the national team. They got there by training hard, developing new skills against better competition than they faced as youth players, and eventually winning roster spots. This draft may very well have another player or two that starts pushing to be in the USMNT picture, but for now that’s an unknowable possibility.