The 2021 MLS Draft is two weeks away, and while this may go down as the most difficult draft to ever project, SBI will make an effort to provide a potential scenario of what to expect on draft day.
We recently released the first edition of the SBI MLS Draft Big Board, ranking the talent in the upcoming draft, and as we noted then, MLS teams are faced with the challenge of trying to evaluate draft talent after a 2020 that saw very limited college soccer action and no Premier Development League, the summer league often used to scout college talent.
The SBI MLS Mock Draft should be seen as a layout of the general area where players will be selected, and not necessarily a case of these being the players that these specific teams are coveting. We have been made aware of some specific preferences, but for the most part this mock draft is based more on player ratings and how players fit into certain teams’ setups.
Regarding the Generation Adidas class, MLS has yet to announce any signings, but as SBI recently reported, Philip Mayaka, Calvin Harris and Daniel Pereira are set to sign deals, while Washington defender Ethan Bartlow is a leading candidate for a fourth GA spot. We have projected all four in this mock draft, and will adjust our big boards/mock drafts as signings become official or prospects drop out of consideration.
We will publish an updated Mock Draft on Friday, with more detail, and revisions, and will publish a final two-round mock draft on January 20, the day before the 2021 MLS Draft.
Here is the SBI 2021 MLS Mock Draft:
SBI 2021 MLS Mock Draft
1- Austin FC – Philip Mayaka, CM, Clemson
Austin has a decision to make between Mayaka and Harris. The expansion side is believed to be very high on Mayaka, but Harris is the most coveted attacking prospect in the field.
2- FC Cincinnati- Calvin Harris, F, Wake Forest
Cincinnati is overflowing with needs, but as much as drafting a centerback would be understandable for a team that badly needs some, passing on a talent like Harris would be difficult.
3- Houston Dynamo – Ethan Bartlow, CB, Washington
The Dynamo are in dire need of defensive reinforcements and Bartlow is regarded as the best defender in the draft. He may not be as fast or athletic as the Dynamo may be after, so Nabi Kibunguchy would make more sense as a fit, but Bartlow’s Generation adidas status and techical quality make him a good option.
4- D.C. United – Daniel Pereira, CM, Virginia Tech
Attacking depth is an area of need for D.C. United and Pereira is the best available prospect, though the big question is where does he best fit positionally? Clemson’s Kimarni Smith is also high on D.C. United’s radar, while Ed Kizza is an appealing striker option.
5- Atlanta United- Josh Bauer, CB, New Hampshire
Atlanta United is high on Bauer and will jump at the chance to take him if he is available. If someone else snatches him up, then Nabi Kibunguchy would make sense to help provide some depth in central defense.
6- Colorado Rapids- Ed Kizza, F, Pittsburgh
The Rapids could use some striker depth and Kizza is a top talent who would arguably have been a top 2-3 pick before missing the 2020 season for Pittsburgh due to undisclosed reasons.
7- Real Salt Lake – David Egbo, F, Akron
RSL could go for some defensive depth, but the trade of Corey Baird to LAFC makes adding more attacking depth even more of a priority and Egbo should provide some striker depth. Egbo has good size and on-the-ball quality to fit in well at RSL.
8- LA Galaxy – Nabi Kibunguchy, CB, UC-Davis
The Galaxy’s defensive woes are well-documented and while it is a safe bet they will look to address those on the international market, snagging a defensive talent like Kibunguchy would be a major boost for Greg Vanney’s side.
9- Vancouver Whitecaps – Kimarni Smith, F/W, Clemson
The Whitecaps could go for a centerback, but Smith is an appealing attacking prospect who can give Marc Dos Santos some depth on the wing.
10- Inter Miami – Aime Mabika, CB, Kentucky
Central defense needs some depth and Mabika is an athletic 6-foot-6 force who also happens to be American, which is something Inter Miami will focus on in order to avoid having to use an international slot on a draft pick.
11- Austin FC – Talen Maples, CB, SMU
Austin will want to add at least one defender with its first-round picks and who better than a skilled central defender with ties to the Austin area in Maples?
12- San Jose – Josh Drack, LB, Denver
The Earthquakes can use some depth at fullback and Drack is the best left back prospect in the pool. Originally an attacking player, Drack turned heads at the Sporting Kansas City Combine as a talented fullback. He could definitely go earlier, but after trading Nick Lima, Matias Almeyda will be looking for some fullback depth.
13- LAFC – Danny Trejo, F/W, CSU- Northridge
LAFC has the luxury of targeting talent rather than need or positions, and Trejo is a skilled attacking threat with ties to the Los Angeles area.
14- Colorado Rapids – Louis Perez, CM, Central Florida
With Cole Bassett drawing transfer interest and Kellyn Acosta working his way back into the USMNT picture, adding some depth in central midfield would make sense and Perez is one of the most skilled midfielders in the pool.
15- New York Red Bulls – Matt Di Rosa, LB, Maryland
The Red Bulls tried to address their need at left back in last year’s draft and Patrick Seagrist never quite made the cut before being traded. Enter Di Rosa, the left back in a twin brother fullback tandem from Maryland. Di Rosa brings good attacking quality to the position, having played in midfield in his career.
16- NYCFC -Kalil Elmedkhar, W/F, Kentucky
Some depth in midfield is an area NYCFC can address in the draft and Elmedkar is a skilled winger who combines quickness and excellent tough. The former Philadelphia Union academy product could wind up having his homegrown player rights traded, which would rule him out of the draft.
17- Portland Timbers – Colin Shutler, GK, Virginia
The Timbers are believed to be looking for some goalkeeper depth and Shutler is considered the best goalkeeper prospect in this draft.
18 – Toronto FC – Giuseppe Barone, CM, Michigan State
Central midfield depth is something TFC could use, and after having some success with another Michigan State central midfielder in Jay Chapman, Barone could be a real steal. A standout in 2018, Barone missed the 2019 college season due to injury, so he won’t be on every team’s radar, but for those teams that scouted him before 2019, Barone is an excellent prospect.
19 – Orlando City – Justin McMaster, W/F, Wake Forest
Another player who endured an injury in 2019, McMaster suffered a torn ACL in November of 2019, and while he did return to action in 2020, he was clearly limited. When healthy, McMaster boasts strength on the ball, good passing range and finishing ability.
20 – Nashville SC – Brandon Hackenberg, CB, Michigan State
Strong defense was the name of the game in helping Nashville enjoy a successful debut season, and adding more depth at centerback is a good move for Gary Smith’s side. Hackenberg was an All-Big Ten selection in 2019 and boasts the strength and athleticism to develop into a solid defender, especially if he gets a chance to develop alongside someone like Walker Zimmerman.
21 – FC Dallas – Logan Panchot, RB, Stanford
FC Dallas doesn’t have much need for young talent considering all the quality emerging from its academy, but some depth at right back wouldn’t hurt if Bryan Reynolds leaves via transfer as expected. Enter Panchot, a very skilled right back who isn’t quite as athletic as the right backs FC Dallas has had in recent years, but who has the technical quality to fit into Luchi Gonzalez’s system.
22 – Orlando City – Justin Malou, RB, Clemson
Some fullback depth wouldn’t hurt Orlando City and Malou is an athletic right back who could provide some cover behind Ruan for the Lions.
23 – Vancouver Whitecaps – C.C. Uche, CB, Ohio State
After going for an attacking player with its earlier first-round pick, the Whitecaps add some depth at centerback in Uche. The Ohio State defender reads the game well, is a tough one-on-one defender and has the kind of poise you like to see in central defense. He missed most of the 2019 college season due to injury, otherwise he would very likely be much higher on this list.
24 – N.E. Revolution – Derek Dodson, F/W, Georgetown
The Revolution are a team that doesn’t have a ton of glaring needs, so grabbing good value this late allows them to take Dodson, a big forward with good feet and speed in the Teal Bunbury mold.
25 – Minnesota United – Jackson Ragen, CB, Michigan
The Loons aren’t going to find a Kevin Molino in the draft, certainly not this late, but some central defense depth is available and the 6-foot-6 Ragen is a good value this late. An All-Big Ten selection in 2019, he moves well for his size and would be a good for in the Loons system.
26 – Inter Miami – Alexander Dexter, LW/LB, Pittsburgh
Dexter is a dynamic left-footed wing threat who projects as a potential left back/left wingback on the pro level.
27 – Columbus Crew – Matt Constant, CB, North Carolina
The defending champions are stacked, and have only gotten stronger this winter with the additions of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kevin Molino. Some centerback depth wouldn’t hurt through and the Crew will be familiar with Constant as a former college teammate of Sebastian Berhalter.