While we may not know exactly when the MLS season will begin, the first major event of the league’s 2021 campaign will kick off the year on Thursday.
Also adding to this year’s event is the inclusion of Austin FC, the league’s newest franchise which will continue their roster-building process with the first overall selection. The club already has Paraguayan star Cecilio Dominguez as a Designated Player as well as MLS veterans like Matt Besler, Alex Ring, Nick Lima and Ben Sweat.
With the first overall pick, Austin will get the chance to add an up-and-coming prospect to their ranks and, even if the draft has taken on lesser importance due to the rise of homegrown signings, there still have been some top contributors selected in recent years. Daryl Dike, Chase Gasper, Miles Robinson and Chris Mueller are among the players to make the leap from college to the U.S. men’s national team in recent years, while international selections like Jack Harrison and Julian Gressel have become stars in their own rights.
This year’s class is headlined by a pair of Generation adidas players: Clemson’sPhilip Mayaka and Wake Forest’sCalvin Harris. As Generation adidas signings, Makaya and Harris, who are joined by Washington’s Ethan Bartlow, Virginia’s Brett Halsey and Virginia Tech’sDaniel Pereira,do not count against the MLS senior roster.
Makaya, projected to be the top overall pick by Austin FC, is a native of Kenya who moved to the U.S. as a teenager. The Clemson product was named the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2019 and would offer the expansion club a young, rangy midfielder that can cover plenty of ground in the center of the field.
Harris, meanwhile, is also widely projected to be selected very early on Thursday. The English-born, New Zealand-raised attacker scored10 goals during his time at Wake and has the ability to play either centrally or out wide.
Bartlow will likely be among the first defendersselected in the draft, while UC Davis’Nabi Kibunguchy and New Hampshire’sJosh Bauer are also candidates to be selected among the first few picks.
The 2021 draft will have three rounds, with Austin currently holding the first pick of each round with the ensuing selections determined by 2020 finishes. As always, teams are and have been able to trade their picks, with the Philadelphia Union opting to cash in on all of their picks in a trade with Nashville SC.
After Austin, FC Cincinnati will have the second overall pick, with the Houston Dynamo, D.C. United and Atlanta United rounding out the top five.Inter Miami CF,Nashville SC,Sporting Kansas CityandReal Salt Lake, meanwhile, will have compensatory picks at the end of the three rounds after trading for a fourth-round selection prior to the streamlining of the draft.
After the draft,pre-signed seniors, Generation adidas players and select otherswill be able to join up with their new teams for the 2021 preseason. Others, meanwhile, may continue to compete for their colleges before reporting to their MLS club in late May as several schools continue to eye Spring 2021 games following the upheaval of the Fall 2020 college soccer season.
The firstround of Thursday’s draft can be watched on MLSsoccer.com, theMLS App,Facebook,TwitterandYouTube while rounds two and three will not be streamed.
Source : goal.com