The MLS Draft may have lost some of its luster over the last few years with the introduction of more Homegrown players, but it’s been an incredible resource for teams.
A slew of U.S. Men’s National Team players received their starts in MLS because of the draft, while in recent years young international stars have come to the forefront.
With the 2018 MLS Draft set to take place on Friday in Philadelphia, we decided to take a look back at the best draft selections made by each team in MLS.
We based our decision off the impact certain players have had on the club and what they’ve gone on to achieve elsewhere in MLS while also factoring in current star power.
Julian Gressel (2017, 8th overall)
Julian Gressel wasn’t Atlanta United’s first-ever draft pic. That honor belongs to Miles Robinson, but the German midfielder was the most effective in 2017 and ended up winning MLS Rookie of the Year.
In 32 games in 2017, Gressel contributed five goals and nine assists while playing alongside some of the best talent to ever grace an MLS roster in Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez.
Carlos Bocanegra (2000, 4th overall)
The Chicago Fire have experienced recent success in the draft by selecting Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster, and they even found a fourth-round gem in Sean Johnson, but one pick stands out among the rest.
Carlos Bocanegra was taken fourth overall in 2000 out of UCLA and spent four seasons with the club before achieving success overseas with Fulham, Rangers, Rennes, Saint Etienne and Racing Santander.
The former U.S. Men’s National Team center back won MLS Defender of the Year twice, the 2000 MLS Rookie of the Year and captured a pair of U.S. Open Cups in 2000 and 2003.
Omar Cummings (2007, 31st overall)
Colorado has found an incredible amount of success in recent years in the draft with Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers, Dominique Badji, Marlon Hairston, Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts all playing significant roles in the first team.
An argument can be made for a few of them to be their best draft pick, but that honor goes to forward Omar Cummings, who scored 39 goals in six seasons with the club, including 14 in 2010, when the Rapids won MLS Cup.
Cummings recently retired from professional soccer after spending a season-and-a-half with FC Cincinnati in the USL.
Chad Marshall (2004, 2nd overall)
Before he turned himself into one of the top iron men in MLS, Chad Marshall was a center back prospect coming out of Stanford in 2004.
Marshall was a perfect fit with the Columbus Crew after being selected second overall and helped lead them to the 2008 MLS Cup and a trio of Supporters’ Shields.
The three-time MLS Defender of the Year is entering his 15th season and fifth with the Seattle Sounders.
Eddie Pope (1996, 2nd overall)
D.C. United has drafted a long list of solid MLS players including Bobby Convey, Brian Carroll, Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen, Steve Birnbaum and, yes. the famed No. 1 overall pick of Freddy Adu in 2004, but none of them have been as impactful as Eddie Pope.
Pope, who played for the Black and Red from 1996-2002, was the second ever MLS draft pick out of North Carolina in 1996.
The owner of 82 appearances for the USMNT was a member of the MLS Best XI on four occasions and won MLS Defender of the Year in 1997.
Dax McCarty (2006, 6th overall)
Before he became a legend with the New York Red Bulls, Dax McCarty was the sixth-overall pick by FC Dallas in 2006.
McCarty, who is just one of many impressive selections by the franchise including Matt Hedges, Brek Shea and Walker Zimmerman, played 93 games over five seasons for FC Dallas before a move to D.C. United and then eventually the Red Bulls.
The 30-year-old midfielder turned himself into one of the league’s best central midfielders with the Red Bulls, where he racked up 169 of his 303 career MLS appearances. McCarty continued his trend of incredible midfield play in Chicago in 2017 next to German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Geoff Cameron (2008, 42nd overall)
No one would’ve ever expected a third-round draft pick in 2008 to turn into one of the most reliable USMNT players, but that’s what the Houston Dynamo got out of Geoff Cameron.
In his five seasons with the Dynamo out of Rhode Island, Cameron started 100 games and was named to the MLS Best XI in 2009 before leaving for Stoke City in the Premier League, where he’s been since 2012.
Since making his international debut in February 2010, Cameron has earned 53 caps at various positions.
Omar Gonzalez (2009, 3rd overall)
Back when the LA Galaxy actually cared about the draft, they put together one of the best classes in recent memory in 2009 headlined by Omar Gonzalez.
The center back was picked third overall and that was followed by A.J. DeLaGarza’s selection in the second round.
Gonzalez was a pillar of the Galaxy back line that won MLS Cup in 2011, 2013 and 2014, Personally, Gonzalez won the 2009 Rookie of the Year, 2011 Defender of the Year and was named to the MLS Best XI four times before leaving for Pachuca in Liga MX.
Abu Danladi (2017, 1st overall)
Forward Abu Danladi had one of the better rookie seasons in 2017, as he backed up his No. 1 pick status with eight goals and five assists over 27 games.
Danladi played a bigger role toward the back end of the regular season, as he scored five of his goals after August.
Look for last year’s top selection to have even more of an impact on the Loons in 2018.
Andrew Wenger (2012, 1st overall)
Montreal hasn’t had a wealth of success in the draft, with a few top picks fizzing out before making a mark on the first team.
In two full seasons with the Impact, 2012 No. 1 pick Andrew Wenger made 47 appearances, with just 15 of them being starts.
The 27-year-old midfielder left a bigger impact in Philadelphia as a starter in 2014 and 2015 before he was shipped off to Houston.
New England Revolution
Clint Dempsey (2004, 8th overall)
Freddy Adu, Chad Marshall, Joseph Ngwenya, Matt Taylor, Ryan Cochrane, Ramon Nunez and Clarence Goodson were all selected ahead of Clint Dempsey in 2004 before the New England Revolution chose him.
Dempsey scored seven goals on his way to winning Rookie of the Year in 2004 and he recorded his first-ever double-digit goal season in 2005.
The USMNT star played 71 games for the Revs before he left for a seven-year stint in England with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur.
New York City FC
Khiry Shelton (2015, 2nd overall)
Jack Harrison may be the best New York City FC player to come from the draft, but he was originally selected by the Chicago Fire with the first-overall pick in 2016.
NYCFC’s first-round selection from the year before, Khiry Shelton, has turned into the best pro of all the club’s original selections.
After providing six goals and 10 assists in 54 games over three seasons, Shelton was dealt to Sporting Kansas City earlier in the offseason.
New York Red Bulls
Mike Petke (1998, 8th overall)
Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Tim Ream are among the USMNT players selected by the New York Red Bulls/MetroStars franchise, but few draft picks even stand a chance at being compared to club legend Mike Petke.
Altidore, Bradley and Ream all had short careers with the club before making the move to Europe, while Petke made a name for himself at the back over five seasons with the Metrostars.
Petke also came back to the club in its Red Bulls iteration for the final two years of his career and for two seasons as head coach, a stint in which he helped the franchise win the Supporters’ Shield in 2013.
Cyle Larin (2015, 1st overall)
Few expansion teams in recent memory have been able to take full advantage of the draft like Orlando City.
The Lions chose Cyle Larin with the top pick in 2015, and the Canadian forward went on to score 43 goals in his first three seasons in MLS.
Regardless of what happens with Larin’s transfer status, he’ll go down as the first great Orlando player.
Andre Blake (2014, 1st overall)
Andre Blake may have been drafted into a goalkeeping catastrophe in 2014 by the Philadelphia Union, but he arose as the last man standing and the starter in between the pipes for years to come.
The 27-year-old, who just signed a new contract with the club, recorded nine clean sheets in his best campaign yet in 2017.
Blake has totaled 220 saves in 65 starts, and put together a record of 21-27-17.
Darlington Nagbe (2011, 2nd overall)
There isn’t a debate regarding the best Portland Timbers draft pick of all time.
Darlington Nagbe has performed head and shoulders above the rest of the selections combined in franchise history.
Nagbe was an instant contributor in his rookie season and he ended his Timbers career with 214 appearances, with 27 goals and 30 assists to boast.
Real Salt Lake
Tony Beltran (2008, 3rd overall)
Real Salt Lake hasn’t experienced as much success in the draft as it has with its Homegrown players in recent years.
However, the Claret and Cobalt benefited from the draft in 2008 with the selection of Tony Beltran, who has been a stalwart at right back, a position few teams have been able to find consistent success at.
In 10 seasons with RSL, Beltran has appeared in 245 games and has been reliable by only committing 41 bookable offenses, with just three of them resulting in red cards.
San Jose Earthquakes
Richard Mulrooney (1999, 3rd overall)
San Jose has had a knack for drafting important members of winning sides, including Wade Barrett, Justin Morrow, Eddie Lewis and Steven Beitashour, all of whom deserved consideration for this honor.
However, we’re going with a player that may have flown under the radar in Richard Mulrooney, who helped the Quakes win MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003.
The defender played over 20 games in each of his six seasons for the San Jose Clash and Earthquakes. In San Jose’s pair of postseason title runs in the early 2000s, Mulrooney recorded one goal and six assists in 10 starts.
Cristian Roldan (2015, 16th overall)
Cristian Roldan’s slide down the draft board in 2015 was one of the best things to happen to the midfielder’s career.
Roldan was selected by the Seattle Sounders with the 16th overall pick, and in the time since, he’s turned into the club’s midfield ace and successor to Osvaldo Alonso.
Only five or six players chosen above Roldan can brag about achieving a similar level of success, with Larin and Chicago’s Matt Polster being two of that group.
Sporting Kansas City
Matt Besler (2009, 8th overall)
The 2009 MLS Draft was a franchise-changing process for Sporting Kansas City, as it selected Matt Besler in the first round and Graham Zusi in the second round.
Besler and Zusi are a part of a collection including Dom Dywer, C.J. Sapong and Roger Espinoza that have benefited the club out of the draft.
Besler, who has started 220 of the 226 games he’s played in for Sporting KC, has turned into the face of the franchise and one of the most reliable defenders in MLS. He was valued so much by the club that earned a designated player contract in 2014.
Stefan Frei (2009, 13th overall)
Stefan Frei was one of three players we could’ve chosen here for Toronto FC. However, Maurice Edu only spent a year-and-a-half with the Reds and current goalkeeper Alex Bono is still on the upswing of his career.
For all he’s accomplished in Toronto and elsewhere, Stefan Frei is worthy of this honor.
The winner of four Canadian Championships with the Reds started three of his five seasons in Toronto before he left for Seattle and became its No. 1 man in between the pipes. Frei is set to record his 700th save and 60th shutout during the 2018 campaign with the Sounders.
Kekuta Manneh (2013, 4th overall)
Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks are the two most successful Vancouver Whitecaps picks since the club came into existence in 2011, with Tim Parker being a close third.
However, there’s a bit of a difference when you compare the careers of the two pacey players. Manneh has has scored 26 goals in 120 matches, while Mattocks has found the back of the net 24 times in 136 games. Manneh also has more assists in less MLS games, with 15 compared to 11 from Mattocks.
Manneh has also been able to secure a move away from MLS because of his talents, as he now plays for Pachuca, while Mattocks will be relied upon as one of D.C. United’s scorers by committee in 2018.