The Philadelphia Union won’t be doing any business at the 2019 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
On Wednesday, the club sent all five of its picks in Friday’s draft to FC Cincinnati for up to $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 club release. “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.”
The Union’s top selection was the No. 13 pick in the first round. Now FC Cincinnati owns the pick, as well as the No. 29, No. 37, No. 61 and No. 85 selections.
Philadelphia is guaranteed to receive $150,000 in General Allocation Money for the 2019 season, and it’ll receive an extra $50,000 if certain performance metrics are met by the players drafted by FC Cincinnati.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday night, Tanner said most of the talent he saw at the MLS combine was not up to snuff with the rising level of play in MLS.
“The level of MLS has increased a lot and I think that the level at the universities has been more or less the same. There’s quite a big gap,” Tanner said. “Out of what I’ve seen, there are a lot of players who are quite okay for the USL level, but it doesn’t make us better in MLS.”
Tanner and the Union coaching staff were intrigued by a few players in the draft class, but they knew the prospects were too coveted to fall all the way down to No. 13.
“Considering the quality we’ve seen, there were quite a few good players, but regarding the fact that we have the 13th pick and the best players are already gone,” Tanner said. “We decided to trade our draft rights to Cincinnati, who are in a better position for them.”
The allocation money added to the Union’s budget will help the club wrap up its offseason spending. Tanner said earlier in the week the club is in negotiations with a few players.
“We are always a little bit tight with our flexibility,” Tanner said. “Competition rises, it doesn’t get lower. We increased our possibilities, but I’m not saying we have unlimited possibilities.”
Wednesday’s trade marks a distinct turn in how clubs approach the draft, but it’s not a move that was entirely surprising given the influx of talented Homegrown players at clubs like Philadelphia.
The Union are going to develop better players in their academy similar to Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson, and the continued production of Homegrown players will likely make the draft less attractive in coming years.
“If you see how the development was going in the past, you reckon the best players are more or less in our academies and the Homegrown rights are already with MLS teams,” Tanner said.