Chicago, Il. – The appellation Super, as it applies to Major League Soccer Player Draft, has never seemed less credible than this year in Chicago, especially in light of Philadelphia’s decision to trade their entire draft, five picks in all, to FC Cincinnati. The Union’s new boss, Ernst Tanner, who replaced US Soccer GM Earnie Stewart, reasoned that with the $200,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) he could do more to improve his team than he could by holding onto the 13th pick in the first round, plus the fur additional picks.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber heard the talk suggesting that it might be time that the draft, Super or otherwise, was shelved, and the Commissioner met the issue straight on in his address to the media during the latter stages of the annual player auction’s first round.
“As I listen to some of these young men talking about growing up and wanting to play in our league and dreaming of that as a young player,” the Commissioner began, “and whether they are kids growing up in our country or kids from other parts of the world, it makes me feel that much stronger that there is an important role for this draft, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out where these players can get the right opportunity and how we evolve as a league so that those players can build their careers in Major League Soccer.”
Before opening the floor to the assembled media, Garber concluded his draft comments asking the question on everyone’s lips, “What’s the future of the draft?” “In my view,” Garber stated, “I’m a big believer in it. I did speak to one of our owners and his view is similar to mine. There always will be a role for young players that are not developed through academies, are not purchased from abroad, to have an opportunity to play in Major League Soccer and that is what today is all about.”
There were a few talking points to the draft itself, beginning with expansion side FC Cincinnati, who dominated the draft by making five selections, albeit after mysteriously calling a timeout prior to making Frankie Amaya the first choice of the SuperDraft.
Why FCC needed additional time to select the UCLA and US U20 midfielder was a bit of a headscratcher, especially with Amaya’s near-unanimous standing as the best player available.
Several trades were completed as the 24 MLS teams selected 48 players over two rounds, from the 50 on hand in Chicago but the most poignant moment of the long day was Garber’s tribute to the recently deceased Sigi Schmidt and the announcement that the league’s Coach of the Year award would henceforth be known as the Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year Award.
In his glittering career, Schmid won more games than any other MLS coach, managing the L.A. Galaxy to the 2002 title and raising the MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew in 2008. Schmidt was also the first coach of the Seattle Sounders in MLS, leading the expansion side to four US Open Cup Championships and helping to establish the Sounders as a league power both on the field and at the box office.
But to people around the league that knew Schmid, the former UCLA coach was more than just a coach which Garber captured well in his remarks, saying,
“while he will be remembered by many in the soccer community for his success on the field, it was his kindness and his great qualities as a father, husband, and mentor that made him such a special person.”
Other highlights of the day included the support from colorful and boisterous fans of the “saved” Columbus Crew and the fledgling FC Cincinnati, who each filled the auditorium with chants and songs, waving their banners all the while.
So, well done and as the commissioner confirmed- see you next year!