Philadelphia will again play host to the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, but unless a deal is struck, the Philadelphia Union won't be grabbing too many headlines at the event in their backyard as they did last year trading up to make Andre Blake the first goalkeeper to go number one in the draft.
The boys in blue are slated to have just two picks on Thursday, both in the second round (picks 31 and 41), and two more in rounds three and four (picks 51 and 71) via conference call next Tuesday.
If the Union make a deal, which is always a possibility, they would have to move quite a few places to land one of the most coveted prospects in the draft. As usual, the Generation adidas class of underclassmen are among the most sought after, beginning with UConn forward Cyle Larin, the likely number one pick for Orlando City SC (if they don't trade the pick away), Washington sophomore midfielder Christian Roldan, Central Florida forward Romario Williams, NC State defender Conor Donovan and Syracuse junior goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Bono, who has spent time playing for the Union's PDL affiliate Reading AC, will be the first keeper taken in the draft and possibly only first round pick at the goalkeeper position, with reports that Northwestern keeper and Woodbury, N.J. native Tyler Miller will test the waters in Europe. The Syracuse star makes a lot of sense for Toronto FC at number nine, but a goalkeeping heavy draft could also see Toronto go for Penn State keeper Andrew Wolverton or Washington fifth-year senior Spencer Richey with a later pick.
Roldan will likely go top five, and United States Under-20 defender Donovan and Williams are expected to go somewhere in the top fifteen.
Hermann Trophy winner (for most outstanding college player) Leo Stolz is still one of the best senior prospects available, but remains a question mark after rejecting an MLS senior contract offer (if the Union are going to waste a pick on a guy they cut, why not waste it on a long-shot signing like Stolz if he's still left in the second round?). St. Louis senior forward Robert Kristo is even more out of the picture after reports that he has signed on with a Serie B club in.
The college seniors MLS was able to sign ahead of the SuperDraft include just one first-team All-Americans, North Carolina forward Andy Craven but does also include talented next-level potential players like Oregon State forward Khiry Shelton and Notre Dame midfielder Nick Besler. Maryland midfielder Dan Metzger spurned a potential homegrown contract with New York Red Bulls to enter the draft and should go first round while UC Riverside left back Otis Earle has been getting a lot of attention for his pro potential and relation to Premier League TV analyst Robbie Earle (his father). If the Union can manage a deal to get a top fifteen draft pick, Earle could be a left back target in a surprisingly left back rich draft that also includes senior signee Andy Thoma, Creighton's Jose Ribas, San Diego's Connor Brandt and Syracuse standout Jordan Murrell, whose draft stock has dropped with reports of interest from Europe.
Michigan State defensive midfielder Fatai Alashe, North Carolina's Boyd Okwuonu - who like Metzger wasn't interested via the Homegrown Player mechanism with FC Dallas - and UC Davis center back Ramon Martin del Campo are also among the senior signings. Craven, Cal midfielder Connor Hallisey, Akron defender Saad Abdul-Salaam and Tulsa forward Akeil Barrett all signed contracts earlier this week.
Beyond Generation adidas and senior signings, the draft crystal ball gets even murkier.
The "best of the rest" so to speak include UMBC left-footed center back Oumar Ballo, Marquette's 6-foot-7 Swedish center back Axel Sjoberg, Virginia midfielder Eric Bird and St. John's centerback Tim Parker.
NAIA and PDL Player of the Year Dzenan Catic is the best of the non-Division I prospects and the most likely to follow in Tesho Akindele's footsteps as a non-Division I draft deal. Mid- to late-first round or early second round is a likely destination for the Bosnia native who played professionally inbefore joining Davenport University, where he scored 63 goals in 47 matches.
Like Catic, San Francisco forward Miguel Aguilar has seen his stock rise at the MLS Combine and is said to be a first-round caliber player, particularly in a draft that is somewhat weak at the forward position and Butler forward Zach Steinberger has been projected as a Union pick in at least one mock draft I've seen.
The Union's later picks and likely first cuts from the roster before the season starts depend on who is still left and how highly they rate them. Reading AC and Clemson wide midfielder Manolo Sanchez is a pick that makes sense for the Union. So too does Alex Shinsky, a Maryland attacking mid whose two goal and two assist scoreline didn't really do justice to how dangerous of an attacking player he was for the Terps this year. Shinsky played a couple games for the Union youth setup before the full-time academy was established, so he's not homegrown eligible but would be worth giving a look in preseason.
Providence forward Fabio Machado might be available in the later rounds as well and Penn forward/winger Duke Lacroix would be another player with local ties worth giving a look. Former Pedro Ribeiro teammate at Coastal Carolina Ricky Garbanzo, who scored 40 goals and had 19 assists in his Chants career, is another possible later round player who stands out, as does technically gifted UConn midfielder Adria Beso Marco and his center back teammate Sergio Campbell. Newteammates James Rogers (midfielder) and Oneil Fisher (right back) are players who both impressed at last year's College Cup at PPL Park.
But really, I don't have a clue. One thing I can say with confidence is that whomever the Union draft, the lineup won't look that much different as a result of this anything-but-super draft.
After all, the Union had picks it could have done some damage with last year and ended up with a back-up goalkeeper (Andre Blake), a midfielder Union staff insisting on playing out of position (Ribeiro) that was left unprotected in the expansion draft and a center back (Richie Marquez) diehard fans of the club may not even realize is still on the roster.