Give the Super Draft to USL

 

Give the Super Draft to USL
Kevin Wallace

That draft was fun huh? Let’s never do it again. 

Look, there is something to be said for having a national soccer convention that gets all of the league officials and team leaders in one place. That’s fine.  Now in 2019 it was again piggy-backing off of the established United Soccer Coaches Convention, but hey, everyone got together.  And that’s great, that’s fine.  It gives MLS fans something to look forward to in the off-season.

But the draft?  That has to go.

Now I get it, for the college kids getting drafted, this is a big deal to them.  But did anyone stop and think why it’s a big deal?  It’s a big deal because they’re going pro, they’re getting paid to play soccer for the first time in their lives, the draft has nothing to do with it. You think Frankie Amaya, a kid who has seen snow once in his life, was dying to play for Cincinnati? Hell naw. But the draft is how he goes pro so here we are.

Look how much fun one of these people is having

Look how much fun one of these people is having

MLS wants to be a top league in the world, that’s a goal of this league and of the commissioner. In order to become a top league, you need to develop your own talent.  MLS teams are just starting to see the fruits of their labor with more and more home grown players starting in MLS. And transfers like Alphonso Davies, $15 million or so to Bayern Munich, proves it can be a worthwhile investment on and off the field. And the draft? Well the draft runs counter to that goal.

See if bad teams are able to have their pick of the best young talent, why should they develop their own? It’s much cheaper to fly a team executive to the draft and grab a few promising players than it is to train, teach, house, feed, and train again young players. So if the league wants to be developing its own talent, we should remove shortcuts to teams to get young talent.

Now I know what you’re going to say, “but there isn’t enough young talent in college soccer to replace a youth academy”, and you’re right, which is why the draft is extra useless.  Look, at its best, the draft is a replacement to an academy pipeline. But it isn’t that.  In fact Philadelphia Union opted to sell all of their picks instead of bother drafting someone. And a huge number of teams straight up passed on all of their picks after the second round. Because it isn’t worth it. Philadelphia, which has an impressive youth setup, looked around all of college soccer and said “literally none of these guys are good enough to play for Bethlehem* Steel”. MLS caliber players aren’t playing college soccer anymore. That’s a good thing, the league is better than it was before.

The more teeth you see, the more secure their jobs are

The more teeth you see, the more secure their jobs are

So what we have now is a weird relic of old 1.0 MLS still hanging around like an unwelcome hard hat crest.  MLS Super Draft, to give it its full dumb name, is not working how it was supposed to. And if it was working like it was supposed to, it would be undermining MLS’s attempts to become a better league.

So what to do?

Give it to USL.  That’s right you heard me, give it to USL. And I mean all of USL, the Championship and League One.  Look, most of these guys drafted by MLS teams are going to end up playing in the Championship anyway, so why not cut out the middle man? Rather than letting Orlando City B and LA Galaxy II get all of the young talent, let San Antonio and Tampa Bay have picks as well.  And I mean as well.

This is how I would set it up.

All Championship and League One teams would be able to draft in order of their league table.  That means the best teams get the best players.  This would be the first time USL offered a reward for doing well in a USL league.  Alternate Eastern Conference and Western Conference but let the winning conference pick first. So for this year, the draft order would have been Louisville, Orange County, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, etc.  all the way down through League One. But this also includes MLS2 teams, they still get to draft.  This rewards MLS teams for investing in themselves by giving them college players if they would like them. 

Then, all of the players who are drafted sign a minimum of a two year deal, valued somewhere around $80-$90k for the first pick overall and decreasing after that. This starts the creation of a domestic player market.  Imagine a college prospect going to Pittsburgh and tearing it up, crushing the league.  That player might be on a two or three year contract meaning if the Colorado Rapids want them, they’ll have to pay a transfer fee to the USL team. Or they won’t and USL gets a marketable star in their ranks.

And suddenly we have MLS teams buying USL players, for cheap mind you, which have been tested in a professional league.  This is a win for USL as they get new talent in the league that they could potentially sell on. USL teams would need to invest in scouting and it would give GMs a new thing to trade around to acquire new players.  And it’s a win for MLS teams because their USL teams are the ones getting the players anyway, it cuts down on the nonsense around the draft.

Which brings me to my final point: MLS Off Season Convention.  Let’s do this right.  Bring together supporters, officials, former and current players, sponsors, PRO, everyone with a stake in MLS to one big convention.  MLS has a geographic issue that very few leagues have to deal with, making away travel difficult for most fans. But if there was a single moment where all fans knew they could get together and celebrate their league? That could be fun.  Let the bigwigs take their cheesy photos, maybe announce who hosts the lame all-star game, let people pose with MLS cup, all that good cheesy stuff.  You could even have a Home Grown player showcase, the kids that come up through the academies who don’t get their moment in the spotlight at the draft.  The commissioner could have a state of the league address and we call it a weekend.

It would get more interest than a 1pm livestream on Twitter.

Moments like this are the best part of the draft, so lets have more of them

Moments like this are the best part of the draft, so lets have more of them

Regardless, MLS Super Draft is a pointless relic that even if it was working properly would be undermining the league.  It is a terrible marketing vehicle and doesn’t even stand on its own which is why it needs to be added to someone else’s convention. Let’s not do this again, and make it something better.  Give the draft to USL and let MLS have its own moment in the off-season.

 
Kevin Wallace