While MLS gave the Philadelphia Union a B+ for not even participating in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft before the draft was even completed, the final grade on their decision to opt out of the draft remains an open-ended question.
Yes, the deal made sense for the Union because of their strategy to stock their Bethlehem Steel roster with mostly younger players from their academy and scouting networks around the world.
But looking strictly at the draft, the final dollar amount in allocation money they receive — and how the move will be viewed with the benefit of hindsight — will partly depend on what happens with Logan Gdula, Tommy McCabe and Ben Lundt, the three players Cincinnati selected with picks they received from the Union in a draft trade that even has Deadspin nodding its approval.
If you don’t feel a little torn about this, you should be.
Union fans need to root for Gdula, McCabe and Lundt (this shouldn’t be too hard for those who follow Reading United as well) so the undisclosed performance metrics kick in that give the Union an additional $50,000 in allocation money in 2020. (This is a similar scenario for Keegan Rosenberry, who has an additional $100,000 in allocation money connected to him meeting certain performance metrics this season in Colorado).
To a much lesser extent the final grade for the Union’s 2019 draft will also factor in what happens with Fabian Herbers in Chicago this season since one of the picks Cincinnati used from the Union was acquired from the Fire in exchange for the former sixth overall SuperDraft pick the Union weren’t planning on bringing back anyway. (How good will the Union look if Herbers barely plays and they get additional allocation money for McCabe, who Cincinnati drafted with the Fire’s original pick?).
Interestingly enough, the Fire ended up trading away three additional picks in the first two rounds of the draft with much less fanfare in exchange for $150,000 in general allocation money, Herbers and the rights to Amando Moreno from the New York Red Bulls. They also ended up drafting three players on Monday — defenders Ebenezor Ackon from Bowling Green and Grant Stoneman from Loyola Chicago and forward Mark Forrest from Lehigh University.
From a financial standpoint, the Fire are in a similar spot as the Union for trading what on the surface look like better picks: the 5th, 15th, 29th and 32nd picks. Considering that the Union traded the 13th, 29th and 37th picks for the same amount of guaranteed money and a chance to add as much as $50,000 to the deal in 2020, it looks like the blue and gold are ahead of the game. This isn’t even considering the message it sent to their current and future academy players, the attention and the earned media that came with being the first team to trade all of their MLS draft picks at once.
Both Chicago and Philadelphia’s draft performance will ultimately be judged by what they do with the additional allocation money.
For now, both teams deserve credit for trading what essentially amounts to lottery tickets for the right to draft players who may or may not pan out for Garber bucks they can use on a more proven player to strengthen their team in 2019.