How Does the MLS Draft Work? (Explained)

In the last 15 years or so, Major League Soccer (more commonly known as MLS) has been making leaps and bounds in terms of popularity and quality.

But although MLS clubs have been trying to poach some of the finest stars in Europe in the hopes of boosting the competition, the league remains true to American traditions. Unlike domestic European leagues, the MLS still adopts a playoff system, plus an annual draft, reminiscent of all other major sports in the USA.

So what is the MLS SuperDraft? How does it work? And what’s the point of it?

Let’s dig in.

What is the MLS SuperDraft?

The MLS SuperDraft is annual event held in the off-season (usually in January) where clubs pick top collegiate players to join their ranks by offering them professional contracts.

This draft is eligible for players who are in the American college sports system, including the likes of NCAA and NAIA. Although the MLS features clubs from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, players from Canadian colleges cannot be drafted.

How Does the US Soccer Draft Work?

In the MLS SuperDraft, a certain pick order is determined before the start of the event based on the club’s ranking from the previous campaign.

Before the draft, MLS compiles a list of draft-eligible players in consultation with the league’s clubs, scouts, and college coaches. Most players on the draft list will be College seniors who are no longer eligible to play collegiate soccer.

So who gets the first pick? and how many rounds are there?

How Many Draft Rounds Are There in MLS?

The MLS SuperDraft consists of three rounds, with each club getting to pick one player per round. It’s worth mentioning that the order remains the same in every round, but clubs are allowed to trade their draft orders if their wish.

This is a common practice in American sports, as clubs are allowed to give away one or more draft picks, usually in exchange for senior players.

Who Gets First Pick in MLS Draft?

The MLS club with the worst record from the previous season gets the first pick in the SuperDraft, unless there’s a new team in the league. In this case, the expansion club would be granted the primary pick.

As for the rest of the pick order, it’s also determined based on the clubs’ results from the previous campaign, beginning with those who finished with the worst records. Therefore, the MLS Cup winner will get the last pick, with the runner-up earning the penultimate spot.

What is the Point of the MLS Draft?

The MLS SuperDraft aims to restore some balance in the league by allowing the weaker clubs (based on the previous season record) the opportunity to secure the most promising collegiate talents.

But in reality, the draft hasn’t truly accomplished its mission. Nowadays, most MLS clubs primarily rely on their own academies to strengthen their ranks (while remaining within the parameters of the Salary Cap) with young talent rather than American colleges. Therefore, the SuperDraft’s importance has dwindled recently, but it remains an interesting event nonetheless.

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Michel Sakr

A freelance sports writer from Beirut, Lebanon. A football fanatic and a Juventus supporter since childhood, but also keeps an eye on various sports around the globe. Currently contributes at and You can follow Michel on Twitter or Facebook.

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