It’s draft week! Did you know the draft was tomorrow afternoon? Maybe not, because the MLS SuperDraft gets less and less important as the seasons pass. With the increase of academies and the U-22 initiative, the draft has become an afterthought in parts of the league.
Orlando City has long been an exception to that. Since year one in MLS, Orlando has found value in the draft, especially in attack, drafting Cyle Larin, Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike. Outside of its own selections, the club has found other key pieces from college soccer, including Joao Moutinho, a former top overall pick by LAFC and Kyle Smith, who played division three soccer before his USL days. There are countless other examples throughout MLS of draft-eligible players finding success, but Orlando has been one of the top drafting teams in recent years, and I hope that’s something this club always values.
There is an important caveat to Orlando’s draft success in its MLS history: there’s been a lot of top picks. All three of Larin, Mueller and Dike were selected with early in the first round, the rare benefit of being a losing club for so long. This year, Orlando will draft 18th. But even if a Daryl Dike-esque player isn’t always available, the draft is always an excellent and efficient way to find depth pieces at almost no cost.
Unless things change dramatically with the academy, which may well be happening, Orlando needs to be a good drafting team. This is not a Dallas, Philadelphia or even Salt Lake situation where the roster can be pumped full of homegrown prospects. To fill out those roster spots and find depth, and hopefully find quality depth, Orlando needs to scout the college ranks.
Even if/when the academy increases its output, I hope Orlando never abandons the draft. Even if it doesn’t produce many stars, there will always be hidden gems at the college level, and as more teams look away from the draft, snagging those players becomes an advantage. I love the MLS SuperDraft, even if it’s outdated or largely unimportant, and I hope there’s a place for it in Orlando City’s plans every offseason.