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Major League Soccer announces “streamlined” college SuperDraft

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Four rounds over two days, with the first two streamed on ESPN and Twitter.

SOCCER: JAN 11 MLS SuperDraft Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Major League Soccer made official today what had been rumored for months—a scaled back college SuperDraft.

In a nod to the decreasing relevance of the college draft, MLS will no longer host the event alongside the college coaches convention, opting for a stand-alone event which will be produced in conjunction with ESPN and Twitter, and streamed live on several platforms.

“The SuperDraft will be conducted in four rounds with 26 players selected in each round. The first two rounds will take place during the stream, while Rounds 3 and 4 will take place on Jan. 13.” according to a release from MLS. “To streamline the process, clubs now will be permitted three minutes — down from four previously — to make their selections, and there will be no intermission between rounds.”

Changes to the Draft were all but assured for 2020, given that MLS had not made public the details prior to today’s announcement. The SuperDraft’s importance has waned over the years as teams have increased investment in their academies, and MLS rules allowed teams to sign their key prospects as homegrown players, thereby bypassing the draft altogether. Even players who graduate from MLS academies and decide to go to college can later be signed as homegrown talents.

As an consequence of the academy/homegrown program, the league has found it difficult to maintain the relevance of the SuperDraft as an “event,” given the lack of high-profile players available for selection. The draft itself has not been broadcast on television since 2015, having since been relegated to online streaming platforms. Additionally, the cost of producing the event is significant, given the need to have all technical staffs and potential draftees in one location.

“The live stream will feature 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.” according to a release from MLS. “Additional content and analysis will be provided across MLS league and club digital and social channels.”

In another cost-cutting move, MLS previously announced the cancellation of the college combine, instead opting for a “college showcase,” where technical staffs can evaluate potential college prospects. That event begins today and runs through December 15.

The Seattle Sounders will not have a selection in the first round, having traded the 26th pick to the Chicago Fire for goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland.