The importance of the MLS Draft has changed considerably over the years, and with Major League Soccer spending more and more money on international signings, we are seeing fewer draft picks making major impacts on a consistent basis.
That doesn’t mean there still aren’t impact players to be found on draft day. As much as most of the biggest names in draft history were selected in drafts a decade or more ago, a closer look shows that there are still players emerging from the draft to make a difference.
Last year alone, you saw Minnesota United benefit from the contributions of rookie draft picks Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper, while the Colorado Rapids added MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki.
It may be getting tougher for draft picks to break through, but for those teams that draft well, the right pick can be a welcome addition.
Here is a look at the Best XI from the five most recent MLS Drafts, from 2015 to 2019:
The Toronto FC goalkeeper may have lost his starting job to Quentin Westberg in 2019, but that doesn’t change the impact he has made since being selected sixth overall in the 2015 MLS Draft. He has made 79 starts for TFC, and was in goal for TFC’s MLS Cup run in 2017.
Drafted by the Philadelphia Union, Rosenberry has developed into a steady and reliable right back. The third overall pick in the 2016 MLS Draft, Rosenberry moved to the Colorado Rapids last season and played well, and along the way he has earned some looks from the U.S. Men’s National Team.
The St. John’s product came into the league without much fanfare when he was chosen 13th overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps, but he has developed into one of the better central defenders in MLS. It isn’t a coincidence that two of his centerback partners (Kendall Waston, Aaron Long) have both won MLS Defender of the Year with Parker by their side.
The second overall pick in the 2017 MLS Draft, Robinson didn’t see much time as a rookie, but broke out in 2019 as one of the best defenders in MLS, earning MLS Best XI honors and a call-up to the USMNT.
The 77th pick in the 2017 MLS Draft, Elliot has been the definition of a draft-day steal. He has played 81 matches in his three seasons with the Philadelphia Union, emerging in 2019 as a quality starter good enough to lead the Union to trade away highly-regarded young defender Auston Trusty.
No draft pick in MLS has made a bigger impact in the past five years than Roldan, who has been a regular starter and key contributor for the Sounders for five straight seasons. He has made 151 regular season starts, and started on two MLS Cup-winning teams, earning a regular USMNT place in the process. Not bad for the 16th overall pick in the 2015 MLS Draft.
It took him some time to break through as a regular for the San Jose Earthquakes, but the sixth overall pick in the 2017 MLS Draft had a breakthrough 2019, becoming an impact starter for Matias Almeyda. In the process, Yueill caught the eye of Gregg Berhalter, and is now pushing his way up the USMNT depth chart as a rising defensive midfield option.
The eighth pick in the 2017 MLS Draft, Gressel paired with Miles Robinson to give Atlanta United one of the best draft-day hauls in league history. The German-born winger played a vital role in Atlanta’s run to the 2018 MLS Cup, and has established himself as one of the best wingers in the league.
The first pick in the 2016 MLS Draft, Harrison was traded to New York City FC on draft day and proceeded to make NYCFC look like geniuses. The English-born winger thrived at NYCFC, earning a $6 million transfer to Manchester City. He is currently a regular on League Championship leaders Leeds United.
The first pick in the 2015 MLS Draft, Larin had a monster rookie season for Orlando City, and gave the Lions three solid seasons, scoring 43 goals before forcing a transfer to Turkish side Besiktas. The move to Turkey had mixed results, but he is currently enjoying a good run on loan to Belgian side Zulte Waregem.
There hasn’t been a more productive late-round draft pick in recent years than Badji, the only non-first round pick on this list. The Boston University forward was the 67th overall pick in the 2015 MLS Draft, and only Larin has scored more goals than Badji among those 67 players. Badji has delivered 32 goals and 16 assists in five seasons with the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas, and will look to add to that total with expansion side Nashville SC in 2020.
Tyler Miller, Tristan Blackmon, Matt Polster, Chase Gasper, Hassani Dotson, Tsubasa Endoh, Khiry Shelton, Jonathan Lewis, Jeremy Ebobisse, Mason Toye, Andre Shinyashiki.