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MLS announces major changes for 2020 SuperDraft

The draft is still around, but it’s been decentralized

MLS: SuperDraft Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer today confirmed long-standing rumors of a significantly changed MLS SuperDraft. The new draft, set to take place Thursday, January 9 at 12:00pm Eastern, will be decentralized, with clubs free to make their selections from their home markets rather than gathering in one venue. Accordingly, the long-standing tradition of holding the draft at the United Soccer Coaches convention has been scrapped.

While the event is no longer going to serve as a communal gathering for coaches, technical staffs, and fans, the procedure will remain intact. No team has lost picks they previously held. There will be 26 picks per round, meaning that the full draft will include 104 picks. As has been the custom in the past, the SuperDraft will actually consist of two events: the first two rounds will be part of a show that will be widely streamed, while rounds three and four will take place on January 13, presumably via conference call.

MLS has moved to shorten the process, with teams being given less time to make their picks (three minutes, down from four). Intermissions between rounds have been removed as well. The league’s release does not address time outs, however, and it’s safe to assume that the draft show will run well over three hours.

In an effort to drive increased engagement for fans, MLS is partnering with Twitter, who will stream a draft show that includes “cameras embedded with players and club decision-makers for real-time draftee reactions, live look-ins on club draft rooms, and instant engagement from fans on Twitter during the first round.” The stream will also be available on Youtube, the ESPN mobile app, and Facebook.

MLS has also opted to go away from the old “combine” format for pre-draft scouting, and will instead hold what’s being called the 2019 adidas MLS College Showcase in Raleigh, North Carolina this weekend. With the men’s Division 1 College Cup taking place in Cary, it seems like a sensible way to get everyone in the same place while college players are still reasonably close to being in-season, rather than waiting another month and then scouting them just before the draft.

The College Showcase has been officially sanctioned by the notoriously touchy NCAA, will include players with remaining NCAA eligibility. That said, the showcase will not include players who are eligible for homegrown contracts.

D.C. United currently has 5 picks: 42nd, 65th, 69th, 91st, and 95th. The convoluted deal that brought Marquinhos Pedroso here from FC Dallas also saw United’s 2020 1st round pick go to Texas in exchange for $100,000 in General Allocation Money. Unless they make a deal between now and then, that 42nd pick is the only pick that will take place during the streaming draft show.