Major League Soccer (MLS) is unique in world football in that it incorporates a draft (styled SuperDraft) as a means of player recruitment ahead of each season.
Widely used in other American sports, such as American Football, hockey and basketball, it has been a flagship event for teams competing in MLS for almost two decades.
However, for those outside of the United States and Canada, the practice is relatively alien.
Ahead of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Goal brings you everything you need to know, including when it is, how to watch and players to look out for.
What is the MLS SuperDraft?
The MLS SuperDraft is an event which is held each year in which teams select players who have graduated from college or university, or who have been signed by the league.
Similar in format to the NFL draft, it was first introduced to MLS in 1996 and has become a mainstay of the game in North America ahead of the season.
The idea behind the process is to encourage parity in the league by allowing weaker teams a better chance to improve their rosters.
You can see the basic rules of the draft below.
MLS SuperDraft rules
- Expansion teams get the first pick.
- Non-play-off teams receive the next picks, ordered in reverse of their season finish.
- Play-off teams are next, ordered by the round in which they were eliminated.
- MLS Cup winners get the last pick.
It should be noted that in the event that there are two expansion teams the first pick will be determined by a coin toss.
As with its NFL counterpart, draft picks are sometimes traded between teams as part of wider deals involving the exchange of players.
When is the 2019 MLS SuperDraft?
The 2019 MLS SuperDraft will take place on January 11 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.
Events are scheduled to get started at 1pm ET / 12pm CT (6pm GMT) and it forms part of the United Soccer Coaches Convention.
There are four rounds to the SuperDraft, with the first two taking place on January 11. Rounds three and four of the SuperDraft will be held via conference call at a later date.
The SuperDraft comes just a few days after the MLS Player Combine, which was held at Orlando City Stadium from January 3 to 9.
Who has the first pick at the 2019 MLS SuperDraft?
MLS confirmed that Ohio's FC Cincinnati will receive the first pick in the 2019 SuperDraft as they join the league this year as an expansion team.
Cincinnati already selected five players from other MLS clubs in December 2018 as part of the expansion draft. Those players were Darren Mattocks (D.C. United), Kei Kamara (Vancouver Whitecaps - later traded to Colorado Rapids for an International Roster Slot), Roland Lamah (FC Dallas), Eric Alexander (Houston Dynamo) and Hassan Ndam (New York Red Bulls).
A total of 24 teams will participate in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.
Players to watch in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft
There is plenty of talent on offer in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft and teams will be eager to get their hands on the best.
There are a number stars from the 'Generation adidas' programme (more on that below) to keep an eye on, and those players should headline the top of the draft.
UNC Charlotte 49ers defender Callum Montgomery is widely considered to be one of the best defenders available in the draft, having been crowned the Conference USA 2018 Defender of the Year.
Striker Santiago Patino of the FIU Panthers is highly rated, as is Michigan State winger DeJuan Jones.
Among the midfield players to look out for are Seattle's Sergio Rivas and Air Force product Tucker Bone.
What is 'Generation adidas'?
Generation adidas is a joint venture between MLS and sportswear manufacturer adidas whereby a number of collegiate underclassmen and youth national team stars are signed to deals, then made available to teams in the SuperDraft.
Among those to have graduated from the Generation adidas programme are Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Kyle Beckermann and DaMarcus Beasley.
As reported by Goal, the 2019 Generation adidas class includes Frankie Amaya (UCLA), Tajon Buchanan (Syracuse), Griffin Dorsey (Indiana), Siad Haji (Virginia Commonwealth), John Nelson (UNC), Dayne St Clair (Maryland) and JJ Williams (Kentucky).
U.S. U-20 central midfielder Amaya is widely seen as the best midfield prospect in the draft while Williams, Buchanan and Haji are also expected to be among the first players chosen.
Watch & stream 2019 MLS SuperDraft live
You can also stay tuned to Goal for all the latest from the SuperDraft.
MLS SuperDraft first picks
Generally speaking, the first pick of the draft tends to be the player who is deemed to be the most talented or valuable.
Freddy Adu was famously chosen as first overall pick by D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft at the age of 14, which made him the youngest American to sign a professional league contract.
Brian McBride was the first player taken in the league's inaugural player draft, in 1996, by the Columbus Crew.