With the 2019 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Chicago, NashvilleSC.com sat down with Nashville MLS General manager Mike Jacobs, who will be in attendance at the draft, for a Q&A about what the SuperDraft is, and how it will affect Nashville MLS next season.
NashvilleSC.com: What is the MLS SuperDraft?
Mike Jacobs: “Similar to the other major sports in the United States, Major League Soccer has an annual draft event. There are four total rounds in the draft. Teams can use their selection to draft a player, as an asset and trade it to another club, or pass on using their selection.”
Is the MLS SuperDraft a draft like the NFL or NBA draft where potential picks show up to be selected?
“This Friday afternoon you will have a table for each of the 24 teams with their technical staffs in the draft room. There will be a green room area where draftees can watch and wait to be selected. It is also open to public, and when it is held in an MLS city, that club will typically have a big contingent of fans in attendance.”
Can a team trade its SuperDraft picks?
“It can. You find that your picks are assets depending on where you are selecting and what round that pick is in. The higher the pick, the more valuable the asset. In 2016, NYCFC traded allocation money and its No. 3 overall pick to Chicago Fire for the Fire’s No. 1 overall pick, which ended up being Jack Harrison. It was one of the biggest draft trades made in MLS. Harrison now is under contract for Premier League side Manchester City and plays on loan for Championship side Leeds United.”
What players are eligible for the SuperDraft?
“Graduating seniors who have been added to MLS Draft Eligible player list by MLS coaching staffs. If a team wants to draft a player, it informs the league of its interest in the player, and then he is added to the list. There are also a handful of elite underclassmen, designated as ‘Generation Adidas’ players, who are already signed to play for MLS early and are available to be picked. Generation Adidas players are highly coveted by all teams in MLS and usually are picked early in the Super Draft.”
Where will Nashville pick in the Super Draft next year?
“Nashville will pick either first or second in the 2020 SuperDraft. Between Nashville and Miami as expansion teams, there will likely be a coin toss to decide who picks first. There is a romanticism with having the first pick, you can pick any player you want and don’t have any one picking before you. We feel fortunate to have the chance to pick first or second, but we woud love to have the No. 1 overall pick.
What type of players do most GMs target in the SuperDraft?
“Since 2015, only 30% of selections of from the MLS SuperDraft actually step foot onto an MLS field. The gap between the college game and the pro game in USL or MLS has gotten vast in the last five years. The biggest challenge to the draft is the development of the MLS youth academies which are already attached to MLS clubs. Those academies are producing some of the best young players that teams have on their rosters. Every club and GM is different in what he looks for in the MLS SuperDraft. Certain roles on the field translate better to MLS. There are very few American “No. 10s” (Central attacking midfielders) that we see in the MLS. Many teams look for that position outside the U.S. Our country does have the reputation for developing outstanding goalkeepers, of which a lot come out of the U.S. university system.”
Who are some of the best players to come out of the MLS SuperDraft?
“Just looking at the 2017 U.S. SuperDraft the No. 3 and No. 4 picks have been called in to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January training camp, Jonathan Lewis and Jeremy Ebobisse. Then, there is the No. 8 pick Julian Gressel, who played a key role in Atlanta United’s in MLS Cup victory. The top 5-10 picks have the highest success rate in MLS. In 2016, the No. 3 pick Keegan Roseberry, was also called into that U.S. January camp. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller was a second round selection by Seattle Sounders, and he was called into camp. You can find value later in the draft, but you have to have a really sharp eye.”
What do you hope to gain by being at the MLS SuperDraft this season?
“For us, we are one year away from being on that stage ourselves. To get a chance to pick the brain of expansion teams previously, LAFC, Atlanta United, Minnesota United, helps us get perspective of what this process is like. The hope is to arm our staff with as much info as possible heading into our picks a year from now. We know there is the potential of landing a key building block for this club’s future in the MLS SuperDraft. Nashville soccer fans will want to pay close attention to college soccer next year as we get ready for our first SuperDraft.”