The 2020 MLS Draft kicks off on Thursday, and while it will have a different feel to past drafts because of the change in presentation, it will still be an event for teams to try and land some difference-making talent.
There are sure to be some trades made as some teams look to get out of the first-round, while some others look to rack up on bargain-priced draft picks.
Something else to consider is the harsh reality that some very talented international players will see their draft stock take major hits because MLS teams are growing more and more reluctant to select foreign players because of limited international roster slots and the increased resources available to sign better foreign players to fill those slots.
As a result, the early part of the draft is very likely to be dominated by American players, with some very good international players slipping lower in the draft than their talent would merit. You will notice that there isn’t an international player taken in the first 15 picks of our Mock Draft. There could certainly be a team that takes an earlier flier on a talented international, but the odds are against it happening very often in the early part of the draft.
The Generation adidas class is set with five players (Robbie Robinson, Jack Maher, Ryan Raposo, Henry Kessler and Daryl Dike) but sources tell SBI that if there is a late addition to the GA it would most likely be Akron forward David Egbo. Sources also tell SBI that Virginia midfielder Joe Bell turned down a GA offer and will be signing with a team in Europe.
With all that in mind, here is the first SBI MLS Mock Draft (Look for a final version on Wednesday):
($ = Generation adidas, @= International player)
1. Inter Miami – ROBBIE ROBINSON, Clemson, Forward/Winger $
The expansion side can go Robinson or Maher, and choose the versatile Robinson. Daryl Dike’s late inclusion should make Miami consider him, but Diego Alonso’s team has had plenty of time to line up Robinson as the pick.
2. Nashville SC – JACK MAHER, Indiana, Centerback $
Landing the best defensive prospect in the draft is a solid first step for the expansion side. Maher is a young 6-foot-2 central defender who isn’t ready to step in right away, but Nashville should give him the chance to develop.
3. Inter Miami – DYLAN NEALIS, Georgetown, Right Back
Things get tricky at this pick, where Miami can field offers from teams looking to move up. Dike would be good value, but having already picked Robinson, you have to think Miami will focus on a defensive option and Nealis is arguably the most pro-ready defender in the draft.
4. Vancouver Whitecaps – DARYL DIKE, Virginia, Striker $
The Whitecaps don’t have a big need for a striker like Dike, but his value is too high not to select him or trade the pick to a team that wants him. Vancouver will be hoping Maher or Nealis slide, but if they don’t, look for a deal here and move down where taking someone like Dayonn Harris would make sense.
5. Orlando City – HENRY KESSLER, Virginia, Centerback $
The Lions brought in young forwards last year in Benji Michel and Santiago Patino. This year adding some youth to the defense should be a priority and Kessler is a 6-foot-4 central defender who Oscar Pareja will look to mold into a starter.
6. New England Revolution – CAL JENNINGS, Central Florida, F
Bruce Arena has done well in the past at finding defensive draft gems, but with two-first round picks in hand and good, New England can grab a talented goal-scorer in Jennings. If the Revs go defense, then taking Stanford’s Tanner Beason here would make sense.
7. Columbus Crew – RYAN RAPOSO, Syracuse, Winger $
After revamping the roster with some major acquisitions, Caleb Porter’s side can afford to bring in a long-term prospect like Raposo, a skilled and dynamic midfield option who won’t count against the salary cap. His creativity and ability to score and set up goals could help him thrive in the Crew attack.
8. Houston Dynamo – GARRETT MCLOUGHLIN, SMU
With Mauro Manotas on the transfer block, some depth at forward wouldn’t be a bad move, and while the Dynamo could be a team tempted to move up for someone like Dike or Robinson, landing a forward like McLoughlin or Miguel Berry at this spot would fit in well with what Tab Ramos wants to do with his team.
9. Montreal Impact – DAYONN HARRIS, UConn, W
Thierry Henry is no stranger to knowing what speed can do for you in MLS, and Harris is a the best speed threat in this draft. He is also Canadian, and counts as a domestic player. If there’s a player who could lead a team to reach for as a surprise early pick, it’s Harris.
10. Chicago Fire – TANNER BEASON, Stanford, LB/CB
The Fire need a variety of things, and defensive depth is high on the list of needs. Academy product Mauricio Pineda isn’t guaranteed to sign with the Fire, which would make taking Beason an easier decision. The left-footed defender could provide some cover at left back and in central defense.
11. Colorado Rapids – JACK SKAHAN, North Carolina, W
The Rapids can use some depth on the wings, and Skahan is a versatile winger who can play in midfield, but could also develop into a fullback as a pro. The former Philadelphia Union academy product didn’t have the best senior season, but scouts love his ability.
12. San Jose Earthquakes – JEREMY KELLY, North Carolina, RB
Skahan’s teammate is a similar type player, who could develop into a quality fullback option. San Jose enjoyed some success with converting Tommy Thompson into a right back, so Kelly could be molded in similar fashion.
13. New England Revolution – ALISTAIR JOHNSTON, Wake Forest, RW/RB
The Revs could use some depth in central defense, but unless they are ready to take an international player like Patrick Nielson or Noah Billingsley, the better bet would be to take the dynamic Johnston. He’s Canadian, counts as a domestic player, and could be molded into a quality right back.
14. FC Dallas – ELLIOTT PANICCO, Charlotte, Goalkeeper
The academy pipeline has Luchi Gonzalez’s team well stocked with prospects all over the field, but adding a good goalkeeper prospect would make sense and Panicco is widely considered the top goalkeeper prospect.
15. New York Red Bulls – PATRICK SEAGRIST, Marquette, LB
The Red Bulls would love to be able to trade up and snag Dylan Nealis to challenge for a starting right back role, but with so many right backs already off the board, the Red Bulls can turn their attention to adding some left back depth. Kemar Lawrence’s unhappiness with his contract could create an opportunity and Seagrist has the defensive qualities to thrive in the Red Bulls system.
16. Portland Timbers – SIMON LEKRESSNER, California, RB
The Timbers lost versatile fullback Zarek Valentin in the expansion draft and will be looking to replenish some of that depth. The Red Bulls could grab Lekressner at 15, but if he slips to the Timbers he would make sense for Giovanni Savarese’s side.
17. FC Dallas – NEBOJSA POPOVIC, Michigan, F
Some forward depth wouldn’t be a bad move for FC Dallas, even with youngster Ricardo Pepi in the pipeline, and Popovic is a big forward with great feet who moves well and could fit in well in the FC Dallas attack.
18. Minnesota United – PATRICK NIELSON, Michigan State, CB (@)
This is the area in the draft when teams should start looking at the top international prospects and the Loons could use some depth at centerback and Nielson has Top 10 talent, but the international tag.
19. Toronto FC -AARON MOLLOY, Penn State, DM (@)
Molloy is one of the most highly-regarded internationals in the draft, and could push for a Top 10 spot if he weren’t an international, but TFC has the USL affiliate
20. Real Salt Lake – MIGUEL BERRY, SAN DIEGO, F
Berry was considered a sure-fire Top 10 pick at one point, but the skillful 6-foot-3 striker has begun to slide on some draft boards and could wind up being a steal for a team like RSL, which can have him develop with Monarchs if he’s not ready for first-team minutes.
21. Philadelphia Union – BRANDON WILLIAMSON, Duke, DM
It’s tough to see the Union going the international player rout, and Williamson helps provide some depth in central midfield.
22. New York City FC – JONATHAN JIMENEZ, Pacific, LB
After losing Ben Sweat in the offseason, NYCFC looks for some left back depth and finds a solid prospect in Jimenez.
23. Atlanta United – NOAH BILLINGSGLEY, UCSB, CB/LB (@)
The departure of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and retirement of Michael Parkhurst has Atlanta retooling its centerback depth. The bulk of that effort will come on the international market, but grabbing a quality draft prospect also helps, and while he is an international player, Atlanta has the luxury of having a USL team to stash him on to develop him and keep him out of an international slot.
24. Los Angeles FC – WALLIS LAPSLEY, UC-Davis, GK
There aren’t many needs on Bob Bradley’s laundry list, but some goalkeeper depth would surely help and Lapsley is a local product with good qualities.
25. Toronto FC – JONATHAN DEAN, Central Florida, RB
TFC can use some fullback depth, and even though the loaded right back pool has already been picked apart by this point, Dean is still very good value this late.
26. Chicago Fire – JACK HALLAHAN, Michigan, F
After taking a defender with their earlier pick, the Fire add some attacking depth in Hallahan, who is an excellent passer and creator.