Successful picks in the MLS Superdraft can alter the future of a franchise. Get it wrong, though, and it’s a missed opportunity, leaving the front office scrambling. The MLS Draft can make or break a team’s entire campaign.
We’re taking a dive into the three most recent MLS drafts. It’s early to evaluate all of these picks, but some have already proven to be a swing and a miss. Others have started strongly, elevating their franchise.
Here are the top five picks from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 MLS drafts.
2019 MLS Superdraft top five picks
Playing college soccer with UCLA, Frankie Amaya became the sixth former Bruin to go first overall in the MLS Draft.
Amaya, a talented midfielder, went to FC Cincinnati, who were an expansion team in the 2019 draft.
He scored his first professional goal during the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020, but after two seasons in Ohio, he was traded to the New York Red Bulls for a healthy chunk of allocation money.
Unable to play in NCAA Division I, Siad Haji took an unconventional route to MLS.
He put in a couple of strong seasons in USL League Two, becoming eligible for the 2019 MLS Superdraft after signing a Generation Adidas deal.
Taken second by the San Jose Earthquakes, Haji spent time on loan in Reno and has been called up to Somalia’s senior team.
Controversially blocked as a signing by MLS, Orlando City eventually got their man when they landed Santiago Patino with the third overall pick of the 2019 MLS Draft.
Patino had been plying his trade with the Seattle Sounders’ Under-23 team after spending three years with the Florida International University Panthers.
Orlando declined a team option on Patino’s contract in 2020, ending his stay in MLS. He has since played in Mexico and with San Antonio in the USL.
FC Dallas traded up to get Callum Montgomery in the 2019 Superdraft.
The defender was released by the Texas-based franchise just a year later, however, and he has since joined Minnesota United.
Montgomery has yet to establish himself as an MLS-level player. He was sent on loan by The Loons in 2021.
Winner of the 2019 MLS Rookie of the Year award, the Colorado Rapids struck gold with Andre Shinyashiki in the 2019 Superdraft.
Shinyashiki was a college star with the Denver Pioneers and has translated those performances to the professional game.
He’s become an integral member of this Rapids squad.
2020 MLS Superdraft top five picks
Clemson’s first ever top pick in the MLS Draft, Robbie Robinson packed his bags and headed to Florida to represent then-expansion team Inter Miami.
Robinson was MLS-ready from the moment he was drafted. He’s made 24 MLS starts and 36 total appearances across his first two seasons in the league, scoring four goals.
Only time will tell if David Beckham’s franchise nailed this pick.
While he was impressive for the Indiana Hoosiers in college, Jack Maher has endured a mixed time since going second overall in the 2019 Superdraft.
Two loan spells have proved to be brief, and he has been in and out of the starting lineup when with Nashville.
Recognised as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in college, Dylan Nealis was always destined to be selected in the top few picks in 2019.
That’s exactly what happened with Inter Miami taking the plunge.
The Herons didn’t exercise much patience with the former Georgetown prospect, though. He was dealt to Nashville in 2021 for just $175,000 in allocation money.
While mainly limited to substitute minutes, the Vancouver Whitecaps landed a solid squad player in Ryan Raposo with the fourth pick in 2019.
Raposo penned a Generation Adidas contract with the Canadian franchise after scoring 19 times for Syracuse in college.
Followers of the English Championship will be familiar with Daryl Dike, who starred on loan for Barnsley in 2020-21.
Dike scored nine goals in a short spell with the Tykes, building on an impressive start to his MLS career with Orlando.
His 11 goals in 16 starts in 2021 gives Orlando plenty of reason for optimism in the short and long-term.
2021 MLS Superdraft top five picks
The first South American to be selected first overall, Daniel Pereira was drafted by expansion team Austin FC in 2021.
He’d opted out of the final two years of college to enter the draft, and was widely considered a top two or three prospect.
Making 25 appearances as a rookie, Austin is looking to build around Pereira through the 2020s after the franchise picked up just 31 points from their first 34 MLS matches.
No, not that Calvin Harris. This Calvin Harris was selected second overall in 2021 by FC Cincinnati.
He had clearly caught the eye while playing at Wake Forest in the ACC, but the young striker has endured a slow start to life in the pros.
Getting off just 1.2 shots per 90 minutes as a rookie, Cincy will be hoping for more from Harris in 2022 and beyond.
Colorado moved up three spots in the 2021 MLS Superdraft to select Philip Mayaka. Long considered the consensus first overall pick, the Rapids looked to have got a steal with Mayaka at third overall.
He spent his first year in the pros with Colorado’s affiliate team, the Colorado Spring Switchbacks.
A versatile midfielder, world football will watch Mayaka’s development with interest.
Born in Nottingham and previously on the books of Sheffield United, Kimarni Smith flew across the Atlantic to represent the Clemson Tigers in college soccer.
He earned numerous honours, including Second-team All-America, while at Clemson, and was taken fourth overall in the 2021 MLS Draft by D.C. United.
Like Mayaka, he spent most of his rookie year with the franchise’s affiliate team.
D.C. United picked Michael DeShields with their second top-five pick.
Again, it was a season on loan for DeShields, and it’s safe to say he didn’t prove himself with Loudoun United.
The franchise from the capital released the fifth overall pick after the 2021 season after just 10 starts in the USL.