Getting drafted to a professional soccer team is a dream come true for many players. But I’ve wondered, how does the soccer draft work, and which league even has a draft. After some research, I was able to put everything you’ll need to know about a soccer draft into this article.
In the United States and Canada the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft is held every January and replaced the MLS College Draft and MLS Supplemental Draft by combining the two. The MLS SuperDraft is when teams will select new players that have been signed by the league or have graduated college.
The MLS SuperDraft is usually conducted in four rounds and has some strict rules the teams and clubs must adhere to. There are also standards for who can be entered into a draft to even have a spot at being picked up.
Does Soccer Have A Draft?
Only America uses the draft system in soccer, for example, the MLS (Major League Soccer) uses the SuperDraft to select players out of college. The UK uses a ‘transfer window’ system that lasts for a month where teams can buy or sell players. Soccer does have a draft, but only in the MLS covering the US and Canada.
Without having a draft, soccer teams and clubs rely on mostly scouting to find new talent, or trading with other teams for players known to perform. Some have complained about the fairness of this type of model, and the fact that it’s very easy to miss out on talented soccer players.
Without a draft, it’s almost like the ‘luck of the draw’ if you get seen and picked up by a scout.
Unfortunately, there is no event where you can play in front of scouts for the chance at a contract. Instead, without a draft, players are watched for sometimes months before being approached by a club or scout. Teams will typically target players they want to recruit, then monitor the player for some time before approaching them with an offer.
Here’s a quick video explaining a bit about the premiere league and why it’s so hard to get into.
How Does A Soccer Draft Work
The MLS SuperDraft operating for teams in the United States and Canada, is an annual draft for soccer teams to recruit college players onto a professional soccer team. Players that have not graduated college could still have been signed by the league and can take part in the SuperDraft.
The only players permitted into the draft are from American college sports teams. The American college sports system includes the NCAA and the NAIA of which students are eligible to be drafted. The first SuperDraft was held in 2000 as a combination of the previously used, college draft and supplemental draft.
Players who have already graduated from college can now take part in the SuperDraft, where as before they were in the supplemental draft.
Draft Selection Rules
- Any expansion club automatically gets the first pick; should there be two expansion teams, a coin toss determines who picks first in the SuperDraft and who picks first in the expansion draft.
- Teams that did not make the playoffs are ordered by their regular-season record.
- Teams that made the MLS Cup Playoffs are then ordered by which round of the playoffs they are eliminated.
- The winners of the MLS Cup are given the last selection, and the losers the penultimate selection.
- Remaining ties are broken by the goal differential, goals scored, goals conceded, and then the flip of a coin.
Here are the official MLS SuperDraft Rules and Regulations (source)
Here’s an informative video explaining more about the MLS SuperDraft and how it works.
How To Get Drafted In Soccer
To get drafted onto a professional soccer team you will need to play college soccer first. College soccer has, for a long time, been the route to playing profession soccer in the United States. It is possible to be scouted and signed from another team, but college soccer holds some of the best talent in the country.
It’s no big surprise that the clubs, teams, and scouts spend a majority of their time selecting from college teams. The college teams have some of the best new talent in the country, and that’s the whole point of the MLS SuperDraft, to get that new talent in front of the professional teams.
You need to be an excellent player, athletic, fast, have a proven track record, and show your skill on a college soccer team. Otherwise, you’re going to have a very tough time getting in the draft. That’s not to say it’s impossible, plenty of homegrown players have done very well for themselves in the MLS.
Here’s a revealing video explaining the reality of getting drafted to the MLS.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Enter The MLS Draft?
There is no age limit to enter the MLS draft, but typically, most drafted players are around 20 years old. The majority of players drafted in to the MLS have played soccer on a college team, and there may be age requirements for joining a college team depending on which college you’re looking into.
Teenagers as young as 14 have been drafted into the MLS before. Mostly homegrown players that have not attended college will be drafted at younger ages, but it’s definitely possible.
At age 14, Freddy Adu became the youngest American ever to sign a major league pro contract in any team sport, drafted first overall by DC United back in 2004.ussoccerplayers.com (source)
Here’s a video that will inspire the younger players looking into the MLS draft.
The Average Salary In MLS Soccer
The average salary of an MLS soccer player is around $412,000. However, this number is larger than a most MLS soccer players will make. Some players make well over a million a year, which throws the average off. A third of the MLS players make less than 100k, with most players making somewhere between 100k to 200k.
Salary caps have been implemented to reduce some of the average skewing numbers, but great players are always going to be worth more money. The salary cap was meant to prevent super teams that just win every year without competition.
Here’s a helpful video to explain salary caps used in the MLS.
Are There MLS Open Tryouts?
There are MLS teams that hold open tryouts in an effort to scout and sign new talent. The tryouts are typically aimed at younger players, and they can be very difficult to stand out in. With some tryouts having over 250 attendees, getting signed at a tryout is very hard to do.
Here’s a good place to start looking if you’re interested in finding a soccer tryout: https://ussoccertalent.com/soccer-tryouts-calendar/
I hope I was able to cover everything you ever wondered about soccer drafts and how they work. This was enough to answer my questions, I hope it was enough for you too.