The 2021 MLS Draft is going to be a very challenging one for the 27 teams taking part. It comes after a college season that only saw the ACC play games, and it comes after a 2020 that saw the Premier Development League — a league that is traditionally key for helping scout college prospects — didn’t play any matches.
MLS teams will head into this year’s draft leaning heavily on 2019 college performances along with the sprinkling of 2020 matches, as well as the impressions made at a special player combine hosted by Sporting Kansas City late in 2020.
This year’s draft pool is once again stocked with international players, a tricky proposition for teams that are only allowed a limited number of international slots. That will put a premium on the American prospects available, but that could also present bargains for those teams that might have an available international roster lot to use on a draft pick.
Last year’s draft showed once again that there is top talent available, with Daryl Dike and Henry Kessler turning in outstanding performances that helped them both earn U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups. Alistair Johnson also performed well for Nashville SC, providing a great value as the 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Toronto FC’s Achara also showed impressive ability before suffering a torn ACL that cut short his rookie season.
Four starting caliber players out of an entire draft isn’t a great return, but drafts can sometime take a few years for prospects to fully emerge. You can look at the 2019 MLS Draft for an example of a class that has produced a good number of contributors.
As is our tradition, SBI will be running a regular MLS Draft Big Board, ranking the top prospects available in the draft. The Big Board is based on input provided by wide range of contributors, ranking from team officials, scouts, college coaches and other talent evaluators.
The Big Board consists of all the top senior prospects available in the draft, as well as the players expected to sign Generation adidas deal. We have included four Generation adidas players in this initial Big Board, a number that could change if the league signs more than that foursome.
The Big Board also lists some players who were products of MLS academies, but who are not expected to sign homegrown player deals. If any of those players wind up being offered homegrown contracts, then we would remove them from the Big Board (Indiana University’s Spencer Glass (Chicago Fire) and Georgetown’s Jacob Montes (Portland Timbers) are having their Homegrown rights retained).
The Big Board will be updated each week as we continue to gather information and receive input on how teams are valuing players as we draw closer to the MLS Draft, on January 21. The next edition will be published on Thursday.
The Big Board is the ranking of talent, and not based on the actual order players will be drafted. The first SBI MLS Mock Draft will drop over the weekend, as we project the first round.
Now, without further ado, here is the first edition of the SBI 2021 MLS Draft Big Board:
SBI 2021 MLS Draft Big Board
@- Generation adidas player
1. @ Philip Mayaka, Clemson, CM (BIO)
2. @ Calvin Harris, Wake Forest, F (BIO)
3. @ Daniel Pereira, Virginia Tech, CM (Bio)
4. Ed Kizza, Pittsburgh, F (BIO)
5. @ Ethan Bartlow, Washington, CB (BIO)
6. Nabi Kibunguchy, UC-Davis, CB (BIO)
7. Josh Bauer, New Hampshire, CB (BIO)
8. David Egbo, Akron, F (BIO)
9. Kimarni Smith, Clemson, F (BIO)
10. Aime Mabika, Kentucky, CB (BIO)
11. Danny Trejo, CSU-Northridge, F (BIO)
12. Kalil Elmedkhar, Kentucky, M (BIO)
13. Talen Maples, SMU, CB (BIO)
14. Josh Drack, Denver, LB (BIO)
15. Justin McMaster, Wake Forest, F/M (BIO)
16. Giuseppe Barone, Michigan State, CM (BIO)
17. Louis Perez, Central florida, CM (BIO)
18. Matt Di Rosa, Maryland, LB (BIO)
19. Logan Panchot, Stanford, RB (BIO)
20. Rodney Michael, UCSB, F (BIO)
21. Brandon Hackenberg, Penn State, CB (BIO)
22. Justin Malou, Clemson, CB (BIO)
23. Colin Shutler, Virginia, GK (BIO)
24. Derek Dodson, Georgetown, F (BIO)
25. A.J. Marcucci, Connecticut College, GK (BIO)
26. Irakoze Donasiyano, Virginia, CM (BIO)
27. Michael DeShields, Wake Forest, CB (BIO)
28. CC Uche Centerback Ohio State (BIO)
29. Haji Abdikadir, Louisville, CM (BIO)
30. Jasper Loeffelsend, Pittsburgh, CB (BIO)
31. Yoni Sorokin, Central Florida, CM (BIO)
32. Jackson Ragen, Michigan, CB (BIO)
33. Andrew Pannenberg, Wake Forest, GK (BIO)
34. Alexander Dexter, Pittsburgh, W (BIO)
35. Robin Lapert, UConn, CB (BIO)
36. Ben DiRosa, Maryland, RB (BIO)
37. Matt Constant, North Carolina, CB (BIO)
38. LAMINE CONTE, LOUISVILLE, W (BIO)
39. JAMIL ROBERTS, MARSHALL, CM (BIO)
40. Raheem Taylor-Parkes, Virginia, W (BIO)