Major League Soccer is shutting down its annual SuperDraft spectacular, according to the Athletic. While the league will continue to hold an amateur draft, starting in 2020, the event will reportedly be toned down and executed “via conference call and streamed on the league website in a similar fashion to [MLS’] Matchday Central broadcasts.”
MLS has held a live SuperDraft — with selected players walking across a stage and shaking hands with the league’s commissioner — since its first season in 1996. The events have mirrored drafts for other North American professional sports leagues, particularly the National Football League and National Basketball Association. The SuperDraft is, however, a foreign idea in the global soccer community. College athletics is not a typical pipeline to professional rosters in leagues outside the United States.
The necessity of the SuperDraft came into question last year when the Philadelphia Union traded all five of their available selections to FC Cincinnati for $200,000 in general allocation money.
“When evaluating how we want to build our roster for the 2019 season and beyond, we decided that acquiring this money is the best use of our SuperDraft resources,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a statement at the time. “Not only will we look to continue both signing Union Academy products for the first team and Bethlehem Steel FC, as well as attracting young talent from abroad, we believe that this sum of money will help us complete crucial signings ahead of the upcoming campaign.”
With MLS still holding a draft in 2020 — just without the pomp — some feel the new class of draftees will miss out on an experience.
“For the players, I’m a bit disappointed for them because it was a really cool experience,” Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel, the No. 8 selection in the 2017 SuperDraft, said last month when asked about potentially losing the event. “It was a fun week. It was like your first real [professional experience in soccer]. Obviously draft night and whatever happened at draft night was very special.
“Those moments are ones I’ll look back to forever. For some guys to not have that now, I’m a bit disappointed for them.”