Orlando City is signing of 2023 Major League Soccer SuperDraft selection Abdi Salim to a contract through the 2023 season, the club announced Tuesday. The contract includes three club-option years as well.
"We see certain raw qualities within his game that we think fit well with us here," Orlando City general manager Luiz Muzzi said in the club statement. "We think he’ll really be able to develop those within our system and take himself to the next level.”
Salim was taken with the No. 17 overall selection in the most recent SuperDraft. He was Orlando's third first-round pick of the draft alongside winger Shakur Mohammed and striker Duncan McGuire. Salim helped Syracuse to a College Cup championship in this past fall season.
Orlando now have five center backs on the first team roster. Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos are the penned-in starters, while Rodrigo Schlegel is the top reserve. Salim joins Homegrown Thomas Williams as additional depth in central defense.
Salim has been playing for Orlando throughout preseason alongside Mohammed and McGuire. While MLS playing time may be hard to come by, the trio could also see playing time with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro. The US Open Cup and Leagues Cup --- as well as the Champions League to start the year --- will also provide opportunities for the rookies to see playing time.
This isn't the first time Orlando's picked a Syracuse defender later in the SuperDraft. The Lions selected Canadian defender Kamal Miller in the second round of the 2019 draft. Miller became a solid rotation piece for Orlando before moving to CF Montreal during Austin FC's expansion draft.
Miller became one of the best center backs in MLS during his time in Montreal. The Canadian international became an MLS All-Star and a full-time starter for the Canadian Men's National Team.