Nashville SC NCAA

MLS SuperDraft format set, college action to watch

Daryl Dike photo courtesy University of Virginia Athletics

Major League Soccer this morning announced the format for the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Aside from the – long-reported – move away from an in-person event at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, there’s not a ton of significant change to previous years. The important points:

The 2020 SuperDraft, scheduled for Jan. 9 at 12 pm ET, will be conducted during a jointly produced MLS and ESPN show streamed live on Twitter, with a Twitter event card that includes the draft livestream and real-time highlights from the event all in one comprehensive experience.

The SuperDraft will be conducted in four rounds with 26 players selected in each round. The first two rounds will take place during the stream, while Rounds 3 and 4 will take place on Jan. 13.

Nashville SC management has consistently mentioned wanting a fan event held in conjunction with the team’s SuperDraft selections – noon on a Thursday might make it tough to get a big crowd out, of course – but at the very least I’d expect a stream of their War Room beyond just the one that MLS/ESPN+host.

Coincidentally, college soccer’s Division I championship – The College Cup – is this weekend. The top players in college soccer are naturally participating, yes? Top Drawer Soccer the nation’s leader in youth/college soccer coverage (think a Rivals.com for soccer, all my football/basketball-oriented folks). TDS Director of Content Travis Clark knows better than anyone who the top pro prospects may be.

With semifinals tonight at 5 p.m. CDT (Georgetown v. Stanford) and 7:30 p.m. CDT (Virginia v. Wake Forest) on ESPNU, there’s some chance you could be watching a Nashville Draft pick in action. However, there’s no guarantee of that.

I don’t necessarily think the No. 2 overall pick comes from these four teams,” Clark told me. “Players like midfielder Joe Bell and striker Daryl Dike from Virginia, or perhaps midfielder/fullback Dylan Nealis  from Georgetown could be in contention. A lot depends on which players the teams in MLS are interested in and how that comes together.”

Nashville SC holds the No. 2 overall pick, as well as the second pick in each of the subsequent three rounds (Nos. 28, 54, and 80 overall), and while there’s a chance GM Mike Jacobs deals some of those picks – or perhaps acquires more, if the price isn’t steep – the Boys in Gold have at least one lofty pick, and could find solid depth in later rounds, as well.

Regardless, the likelihood of any pick becoming a contributor in year one – the Julian Gressel pathway – is slim. Players like Gressel are the exception, rather than the rule.

It’s rare for players to make a big impact in their first year out from college,” Clark said. “Perhaps someone like Nealis could step in as a right back or UCF forward Cal Jennings could have an impact like [Colorado Rapids winger] Andre Shinyashiki, at least in the right system. The opportunity could be there at an expansion franchise like Nashville, however, although there wasn’t a huge difference-maker from the college ranks at FC Cincinnati this year.”

It won’t just be players from the final four teams on display in Cary, N.C. this weekend. A college combine of sorts will see MLS personnel descend on Central North Carolina to see others as well, including Jennings and a number of other top professional prospects. While the event is help behind closed doors (with no public viewing available), it’s safe to say that MLS sees the players on that list as the likely draftees, along with those still playing for the chance to win a title with the final four teams.

Keep an eye on that group as the SuperDraft appears, with a few players pushing for the positions right near the top of the draft board.

It’s much more likely for a player to come from outside the [College Cup] teams and get picked up in the first round,” Clark explained. “There are a number of senior options, including Nealis, SMU forward Garrett McLaughlin, and Cal Jennings that could be available.

“Robbie Robinson is a forward that bagged a bunch of goals at Clemson this past season and could be in demand. Jack Maher, a centerback at Indiana, is a strong candidate and looks like he could be a good option as a domestic, up-and-coming talent to grab.”

The final week of the 2019 NCAA Division I soccer season may not seem like a massively impactful one when it comes to Nashville SC. In a lot of ways, it’s not: prospects coming out of college tend to be role players, rather than key contributors, early in their professional careers. With smart scouting, though, Nashville SC has a chance to get some quality talent. It’s possible you can see some of that talent on the pitch (and through your television screen) this weekend.

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