The best player ever drafted by each MLS team

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Jonathan Daniel
Goal has a look at the best player ever drafted by every MLS club, even the ones that no longer exist

The 2018 MLS SuperDraft is upon us, and your favorite MLS team will have a chance to add the newest star to its roster on Friday. 

For some teams the draft has been a gold mine, while for others it's offered little in the way of star power. 

Goal has taken a look back at the best player drafted by each club over the years.

We gave no regard to how the player performed for the club that drafted him and focused instead on how their overall careers played out. 

Have a look at our selections below!

 

  1. Brett Davis

    Atlanta United - Julian Gressel

    The list for Atlanta is short and the options limited, but it may take some time before Gressel gives up this title. Taken with the eighth overall pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, the MLS Rookie of the Year looks to have a bright future with his versatility making him a good fit for any number of teams or leagues down the road. Atlanta will be hoping to keep him around for as long as possible. 

  2. Ronald Martinez

    New England Revolution - Clint Dempsey

    Drafted eighth overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Dempsey is arguably the best player ever taken in an MLS draft. He started his career by winning Rookie of the Year with the Revolution, helping the club to back-to-back MLS Cup finals in his time in New England. He went on to star in the Premier League, primarily for Fulham, while also playing and scoring in three World Cups with the United States, including captaining his country in Brazil in 2014. He returned to MLS with the Seattle Sounders and helped the club reach the MLS Cup finals in 2017. 

    While Dempsey is the best player on the Revolution's draft list, the club hit well on a number of picks. The Revs can also count Taylor Twellman (second overall in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft) who became the youngest and fastest player in league history to reach the 100-goal plateau, Shalrie Joseph, (14th overall, 2002 MLS SuperDraft) one of the top midfielders in MLS history and Michael Parkhurst (ninth overall 2005 MLS SuperDraft), who won the 2005 Rookie of the Year and MLS Defender of the Year in 2007, among their many successful draft choices.  

  3. Stephen Dunn

    Chicago Fire - Carlos Bocanegra

    Taken fourth overall by the Fire in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft, Bocanegra became a two-time MLS Defender of the Year before going on to have a solid career in Europe with Fulham in England, Rennes and Saint-Etienne in France, Rangers in Scotland and Racing Santander in Spain. He returned to MLS with Chivas USA before calling it a career, having made more than 100 appearances for the United States, playing in two World Cups and captaining his national side. 

    The Fire have a long history of success in the draft aside from Bocanegra, having found great value in former Costa Rican international Gonzalo Segares (third round, 55th overall in 2002) and taken the likes of Chad Barrett, Patrick Nyarko, Baggio Husidic, Bakary Soumare and Logan Pause over the years. While the Fire haven't found another star of Bocanegra's quality, the club has landed a number of solid MLS players through the draft. 

  4. Jonathan Daniel

    New York Red Bulls - Michael Bradley

    Bradley is one of the few players on this list who found limited success with the team that drafted him. Taken as a teenager as the 36th overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Bradley missed his entire rookie season with an injury. He earned a starting spot for the MetroStars, playing under his father Bob, in 2005, but left MLS for SC Heerenveen in January 2006. European stints with Borussia Monchengladbach, Aston Villa, Chievo and Roma followed before his return to MLS in 2014. Bradley won the 2017 MLS Cup title on a historically good Toronto FC team, is the current captain of the U.S. national team and is regarded as one of the best American players ever. 

    The Red Bulls also count Toronto FC and U.S. national team star Jozy Altidore, Fulham defender Tim Ream, former MLS MVP Mike Magee and many other solid players among their draft picks over the years, but none have been able to reach the heights that Bradley has. 
     

  5. Victor Decolongon

    Toronto FC - Maurice Edu

    The first pick ever made by Toronto FC in the MLS SuperDraft also happens to be the best player the club has ever drafted. Maurice Edu won MLS Rookie of the Year in 2007, went on to play significant minutes with the U.S. national team and made nearly 100 appearances for Rangers in Scotland. While Edu likely won't be remembered as one of TFC's all-time greats, he's a step above any of the club's other draft picks in their 10-year history. 

    The nearest rival for Edu is probably Stefan Frei, who was taken 13th overall in the 2009 SuperDraft. Unfortunately for Toronto, the best moment of Frei's career came from a stellar save against TFC in the 2016 MLS Cup final.

  6. Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Philadelphia Union - Andre Blake

    Another club with a limited draft history, the Union struck gold with Andre Blake. Recently signed to a new multi-year contract, Blake was the top pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Blake had a slow start to life with the Union but has become one of the top goalkeepers in Major League Soccer and all of CONCACAF. He's earned the number one job for Jamaica and at 27 looks set to be a factor for the next decade. 

    Blake wasn't the only solid Union pick though: 2016 Union draft pick Keegan Rosenberry has shown early signs of being an international quality player, and 2017 fourth-round draft pick Jack Elliott showed plenty of promise in his rookie season, showing that the Union have had an eye for talent in recent years. 

  7. Getty Images

    Montreal Impact - Calum Mallace

    This was a tough one. The Impact have only been around since 2012 and their drafts have not been the best. The club's first two draft picks have been the most productive MLS players to date, with 2012 second-round pick Calum Mallace, recently signed by expansion side LAFC, arguably the better of the two. 

    The top overall pick in that draft, Andrew Wenger, has turned into a solid MLS player, but the club has yet to draft a real star. 

  8. Kim Klement

    Orlando City - Cyle Larin

    Having just come into MLS in 2015, Orlando has already drafted one star. Taken as the first pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Larin has not disappointed, having hit double-digit goals in each of his three seasons with the club. At 22, Larin still has plenty of time to develop and a move to Europe seems to be on the cards, even if Orlando doesn't want to let him leave.

  9. Jed Jacobsohn

    D.C. United - Eddie Pope

    Ben Olsen would be the choice here, but he was allocated to D.C. United rather than being selected in the MLS draft, so Pope, taken second overall in the 1996 MLS College Draft, gets the nod instead. Having played nearly 150 matches for United and 82 for the USA, Pope is one of the best defenders in U.S. history. Pope played in three World Cups and was part of the U.S. team that topped Mexico in the round of 16 in 2002. 

    Alecko Eskandarian and Perry Kitchen are also notable United draft picks who found varying levels of success as professionals, while the club is also notable for having drafted Freddy Adu and Santino Quaranta, two of the most promising young players in American history who both struggled as professionals in various ways. 

  10. Mark Lyons

    Columbus Crew - Jeff Cunningham

    Taken with the ninth pick of the 1998 MLS Draft, Cunningham scored 134 goals in 365 MLS matches, hitting the 20-goal mark in four different seasons with three different teams and twice winning the MLS Golden Boot. He is tied for second in the MLS all-time scoring charts. Though he never made a big impact on the international level, Cunningham is an all-time great in MLS. 

    Brian McBride, the first pick in the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft would deserve this spot were he taken in a college draft, and Columbus has had as much success in selecting players in the draft as just about any team. Edson Buddle, Kyle Martino, Chad Marshall, Kei Kamara, Brad Evans and Ethan Finlay were all drafted by the Crew, with Finlay making his first national team appearance in 2016. 

  11. Vincent Carchietta

    New York City FC - Jack Harrison

    Another team with a limited history, so we bent the rules just a bit here. New York City FC tried to land Jack Harrison as a homegrown prospect, but the club failed and Harrison was taken with the top overall pick of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. In fairness to NYCFC, the club traded its first-round pick - number four overall - and allocation money for the player they coveted, thus essentially making him a NYCFC draft pick. It's worked out incredibly well for both player and club, with Harrison now being linked with multiple clubs in Europe after two stellar MLS seasons. 
  12. Portland Timbers - Darlington Nagbe

    There really no doubt as to the identity of the best player ever drafted by the Portland Timbers. The club's limited history and the rise of Nagbe to MLS superstar status make him a pretty easy choice. Taken second overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Nagbe helped the Timbers to an MLS Cup title in 2015 and became a regular with the U.S. national team in 2017, earning a Best XI nod at the 2017 Gold Cup. His trade to Atlanta United was a blockbuster by MLS standards and he'll go down as one of the top players in Timbers history. 
  13. Troy Taormina

    Seattle Sounders - Cristian Roldan

    Steve Zakuani might have ended up as the choice here were it not for an injury that cut short the promising career of the Sounders' first MLS draft pick. But as it stands, Roldan gets the nod. The Sounders are of the new school in MLS, having built through free agency, trades, homegrown players and big-money signings, limiting the opportunities for drafted rookies in the team. Roldan is proof that valuable players can still be found in the draft, even for teams like the Sounders who have plenty of other resources to turn to. The midfielder has become one of the best box-to-box players in MLS and seems to be on the verge of getting a real look with the U.S. national team. 

  14. Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Vancouver Whitecaps - Tim Parker

    Taken with the 13th pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Parker seems to be on the verge of becoming a full-blown star defender in MLS. The Whitecaps began play in 2011, so their history in drafts is limited in comparison to the founding MLS clubs, but Parker's upside makes him look like the best of the bunch. 

    The most accomplished pick in Whitecaps history is Darren Mattocks, taken with the second selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Mattocks has racked up 39 caps for Jamaica and proven to be a solid goal threat in MLS, but has never reached the heights expected of him coming out of Akron University. 

  15. John Hefti

    San Jose Earthquakes - Chris Wondolowski

    The only player on our list taken in the MLS Supplemental Draft, consisting of the players that were all passed on in the SuperDraft, Wondolowski proved to be an absolute steal for the San Jose Earthquakes back in 2005. Tied for second all time in MLS goals, a U.S. national team member, World Cup veteran and one of the best forwards in MLS history, no other Earthquakes draft pick comes close to Wondolowski in terms of accomplishments on the field. 
  16. Peter Aiken

    Sporting Kansas City - Roger Espinoza

    Sporting Kansas City has a strong history in the draft, but 2007 first-round pick Espinoza is the best of a deep group. Espinoza was actually the club's second pick in 2007, with Kansas City having also drafted Chance Myers - a decent player in his own right - with the first overall pick. With the 11th overall pick the club took Espinoza, who went on to become one of the best holding midfielders in MLS, play in two World Cups with Honduras and have a successful stint in the Premier League with Wigan. Espinoza returned to Sporting Kansas City ahead of the 2015 season as a seasoned veteran and has continued to pay off the club's faith in him. 

    Two players from the 2009 MLS SuperDraft are also worth mentioning. Matt Besler, the club's first round pick that year, and Graham Zusi, taken in the second round, are both among the all-time greats for SKC. Both will also be remembered as long-time U.S. national team members, though neither really took on star status in the U.S. In fairness to Zusi, he's a saint in Mexico after helping El Tri qualify for the 2014 World Cup. 

  17. Jim McIsaac

    Houston Dynamo - Geoff Cameron

    Not only is Cameron one of the greatest value picks in MLS history, he happens to also be the best player the Houston Dynamo have ever landed. Taken in the third round (42nd overall) in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, Cameron's versatility helped him earn playing time with the Dynamo early on, but he settled in at center back during his second season in the league and really made a name for himself. A transfer to Stoke City in July 2012 got the defender to the Premier League, where his ability to play multiple positions once again proved valuable. Still one of the most physically talented players in the U.S. player pool, there really isn't much argument against Cameron as the best player the Dynamo have ever drafted. 
  18. G. N. Lowrance

    FC Dallas - Eddie Johnson

    This is a case where the best player ever drafted by a team didn't really work out for club that selected him. A well-regarded youth international, Johnson had more success early in his career with the U.S. youth national teams than he did with Dallas. A move to Kansas City - where he also had something of a rough start - helped bring out the best in the forward. In 2007 he opened the season with 12 goals in 11 games and became the first MLS player to score hat tricks in back-to-back matches. In January 2008 he made a move to Fulham in the Premier League. Despite never finding a firm home in Europe, Johnson put together a strong career that was cut short by health troubles. He remains the only U.S. player to have won a golden shoe at a youth World Cup and played in the 2006 World Cup with the U.S. senior team. 

    While Johnson looks like the best player Dallas has ever drafted, there are others who had a much bigger impact on the club. Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman and George John are among the list of defenders the club has found through the draft, and Tesho Akindele may still become a top-quality striker for Canada and in MLS.

  19. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Minnesota United FC - Abu Danladi

    The top selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft looks like he'll be far from a bust as a professional. Minnesota United's draft history consists of just one draft so far, but the decision to take Abu Danladi first overall looks set to pay off. The UCLA product scored eight goals in his rookie campaign and added three assists in his 27 appearances. 
  20. Joe Camporeale

    Real Salt Lake - Tony Beltran

    Real Salt Lake started play in 2005 and built largely through means other than the draft, but the club struck MLS gold in 2008 when it took Tony Beltran third overall in the SuperDraft. The fullback has made nearly 250 appearances for the club and has been a big part of the team for the better part of a decade. 

  21. Kyle Terada

    LA Galaxy - Omar Gonzalez

    The LA Galaxy have a long history of drafting top players, but Gonzalez stands out as the best of the bunch. The defender, taken third overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, helped the club to three MLS Cup titles between 2009 and 2015. He's been a regular for the U.S. national team, playing in the 2014 World Cup, and now is a regular starter for Pachuca in Liga MX. 

    The Galaxy can also claim the likes of Chris Armas, Brian Ching, A. J. DeLaGarza, Greg Vanney, Danny Califf and Ante Razov among their many draft picks, so the competition for the top spot in LA was as deep as any team in MLS. 

  22. Victor Decolongon

    Chivas USA - Brad Guzan

    The draft history of teams that no longer exists is actually pretty strong, starting with Chivas USA, who took Guzan with the second overall pick of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. Guzan played well enough with the MLS side to earn a move to the Premier League, where he became a star for Aston Villa. He spent the majority of his international career backing up Tim Howard, and is back in MLS now with Atlanta United, but will go down as part of a long line of great American goalkeepers. 

    Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein, both taken the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, also helped form the core of a young Chivas USA side and both went on to be members of the U.S. national team and earn moves abroad. 

  23. Scott Halleran

    Miami Fusion - Nick Rimando

    The Miami Fusion are another club that drafted some pretty good players. Rimando, one of the all-time greats in MLS, was taken 35th overall by the Fusion in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft, though his career will be largely remembered for his greatness with Real Salt Lake in his later years. 

    Pablo Mastroeni was taken by the Fusion in the second round of the 1998 MLS College Draft and went on to U.S. national team stardom along with a long career with the Colorado Rapids, and the club also drafted former New England Revolution star Jay Heaps in the 1999 MLS College Draft. 

    Jay Heaps

  24. Al Bello

    Tampa Bay Mutiny - Steve Ralston

    The Mutiny did not draft many future stars but Steve Ralston, taken 18th overall in the 1996 MLS College Draft, is one of the best players in MLS history. Ralston played over 175 times for the Mutiny before going on to make just over 200 appearances for the New England Revolution in a stunning career. The 1996 MLS Rookie of the Year was a three-time MLS Best XI selection and a stalwart in great Revolution teams of the mid 2000s.