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D.C. United Tweet Appropriately Summed Up How We Feel About The MLS SuperDraft

D.C. United traded the third overall pick for sweet, sweet cash.

For most sports in the U.S., the draft is a big deal. The NFL overblows the whole ordeal and American hand-egg fans eat that shit up like fried food at a state fair. The MLB draft is an exercise in endurance and patience but those who do it right can gain huge advantages. And no sport allows a team to change its direction through the draft more than the NBA. But the MLS SuperDraft is neither compelling nor necessary. 

The first two rounds (of four) of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft came and went Friday without much worth writing home about. The most noteworthy moment of the day came when Atlanta United finally finalized the signing of Ezequiel Barco and when Chicago shipped David Accam to Philadelphia, but neither deal involved any draft picks. 

Akron defender Joao Moutinho (not that Joao Moutinho) went No. 1 to LAFC, which also traded for the No. 3 pick to take Pacific defender Tristan Blackmon, but unless you’re an ardent follower of NCAA soccer, neither of those picks means too much to you. 

MLS SuperDraft

The first pick in the MLS SuperDraft Joao Moutinho with commissioner Don Garber. Photo: @thesoccerdon | Twitter

The No. 3 pick did lead to some tweets from D.C. United that pretty much summed up how we feel about the latest MLS SuperDraft. D.C. United traded that third pick to LAFC for $200,000 in allocation money (half GAM, half TAM). The @dcunited Twitter feed couldn’t help but make a joke about selling the team’s draft pick for cash. 

These days, many MLS teams are more interested in building through youth development and scouting than the draft. Players coming out of college are often older than players developed at academies or even the string of South American players clubs can’t stop signing this offseason, so many just don’t put too much stock into the draft. 

In American football and to a lesser extent the NBA and MLB, the draft is the primary way to add players to a team. There are still trades and free agents and the like, but when a new athlete enters the league, it is almost always through the draft. 

In MLS, there are plenty of other avenues to find players. Because soccer is a global game, buying players from abroad is an enticing option. It’s a free for all, but it’s a system that rewards hard work, scouting and, most of all, money. 

That’s not to say MLS teams don’t take the draft seriously at all. An expansion team like LAFC can’t afford to let the opportunity to add players pass by, so it wasn’t a surprise the club did everything it could to take advantage early in the first round. Minnesota United similarly stocked up with three first-round picks. 

But for many clubs, money is more important than draft picks. Allocation money can be spent to bring in players superior to college kids, who if they were better might have skipped college ball altogether. Christian Pulisic would be a freshman in college if he had gone the NCAA route.  

Atlanta United completed the signing of Argentine playmaker Ezequiel Barco on Friday for an MLS-record $15 million transfer fee. The 18-year-old already has more professional experience than any of the 20ish-year-olds in the MLS SuperDraft and he’s much more likely to be a success than anyone in this year’s draft. His signing far overshadowed anything that might have happened at Friday’s draft in Philadelphia. 

There have been some stellar signings to come through the draft like Eddie Pope, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Taylor Twellman, Jack Harrison, Jozy Altidore, Cyle Larin, Darlington Nagbe, Matt Besler and Maurice Edu. There are even more MLS greats who didn’t go through the draft. 

MLS clubs know this. They know they can find a decent player or two in every draft class, but if someone is willing to pony up a considerable chunk of change for a question mark of a pick, most MLS clubs will jump at the opportunity. 

D.C. United’s tweets may have been in jest, a light-hearted way to explain what the club was doing in the draft, but it was indicative of how many general managers view the MLS SuperDraft. Sometimes, money is more important than college players. 

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