The 2015 MLS SuperDraft class is one of the thinnest in recent memory, with most highly touted players signing Homegrown Player deals with their parent clubs. However, several talented players remain available, despite the league’s development initiatives taking away from the draft pool.
Five college players signed Generation adidas contracts, while another dozen seniors have also signed with the league. The Generation adidas signings – players whose salary figures do not count against the cap – came down to the wire, with the handful of signees only announced a week prior to the draft.
As MLS franchises identify their players younger and the draft decreases in relevance, a discerning eye for talent among the available players becomes even more important.
USL Pro partnerships ensure even late bloomers will have a better chance to advance their careers, so the draft will likely always serve some purpose.
Still, the top picks should at least compete for regular playing time in their first professional seasons. Here are five players whose draft stock is high and will likely go in the top 10 heading into the event on Thursday in Philadelphia:
Cyle Larin (F, UConn, Generation adidas)
MLS pushed hard for Larin’s signature as part of this Generation adidas class. He will miss the draft, as he’s currently in Jamaica for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship with Canada, and he has three caps with the senior national team already. He’s a definite candidate to go with the first overall pick to Orlando City.
Cristian Roldan (M, Washington, Generation adidas)
A hard-nosed central midfielder who was overlooked by academy teams, Roldan made waves as the 2012 NSCAA High School Player of the Year before joining the University of Washington.
He beat out U.S. national team and Stanford forward Jordan Morris for the 2013 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and received an offer from MLS after both of his first two seasons, signing this time.
Roldan is the type of player on which Jason Kreis built his Real Salt Lake teams, making New York City FC seem like a good fit — although he might have to battle Mix Diskerud for playing time at his preferred position.
Alex Bono (GK, Syracuse, Generation adidas)
It’s been quite a week for Bono, who finished as a runner-up for the MAC Hermann Trophy before getting a surprise call-up to the U.S.’s January camp. (The Hermann winner, UCLA senior Leo Stolz, skipped the MLS Combine and looks set to sign in Europe, though he could still be drafted for a team to retain his rights.)
Bono is an example of a goalkeeper getting better with age, as his recent college play has put him on the radar for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
Conor Donovan (D, NC State, Generation adidas)
Donovan needed just one season in college before turning pro, and he’s already a well-known quantity among national team staff. Along with Larin, he’s in Jamaica for the CONCACAF U-20 tournament, playing for the U.S. as the only collegiate field player selected to the team. The Portland Timbers have the No. 5 pick on Thursday, and their 2014 record showed a serious need for reinforcements on the back line.
With coach Caleb Porter’s background in developing college-aged players, it could be the right circumstances for both sides.
Nick Besler (M, Notre Dame, senior signing)
The younger brother of U.S. men's national team and Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler has more going for him than just his last name. Nick helped Notre Dame to its first national championship in 2013 as its holding-midfield engine. He’s a tireless worker whose statistics don’t accurately reflect his contributions on the field. He should be the first defensive midfielder selected in the draft.