Everything you need to know about the MLS SuperDraft

BALTIMORE —

MLS kicks off the 2016 campaign in earnest with the SuperDraft on Thursday. It is a high-profile showcase for the league and its clubs as the New Year opens and a fresh crop of college standouts ready to take their talents to the pros.

Why is it called the SuperDraft? MLS merged the College Draft with the Supplemental Draft in 2000. The league settled on SuperDraft as the new moniker. Somehow, it stuck.

How many rounds are there? Four, but only two of them take place on the first day. The other two rounds are carried out by teleconference on Jan. 19.

I’m assuming there is one pick per round for each of the 20 teams in the two rounds on Thursday, right? Surprisingly not. There are 41 picks in total. Why? Columbus Crew SC holds the rights to a pick once held by defunct Chivas USA. It is the 41st pick in the second round.

Is the draft really, really long like the NFL Draft? Not so much. Each team has four minutes to pick. They can take one five-minute timeout if they are stumped or if they want to make a trade. It usually lasts a few hours. Some teams even fly home that night.

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Do people show up and boo? Yes! It’s one of the better parts of the entire SuperDraft experience.

Tell me about the eligible players. The 20 teams make their picks from the league’s draft-eligible list of 249 players. Most of them are college seniors with no eligibility remaining, but there are a few international players in the pool and a few underclassmen signed to Generation adidas contracts.

Wait a second. Underclassmen can’t declare for the draft? Correct. They have to sign a contract with the league first. There are seven of them in this draft. They also receive roster protections to encourage teams to take them.

Please tell me one of them is Jordan Morris. Nope. United States forward (and former Stanford star) Morris is on trial with Werder Bremen this week. He is picking between Bremen and his hometown Seattle Sounders after turning pro. If Seattle signs him, he’ll be a Homegrown player because he spent time in the Sounders Academy.

OK, are there other players we should know instead? There are three players expected to go at the top of the SuperDraft: Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison, Georgetown defender Joshua Yaro and Stanford fullback Brandon Vincent. And there are a few more names to monitor, too.

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Who will Chicago pick first? The real question is whether the Fire will actually use the pick. Either way, it’s likely one of the three guys just mentioned. A trade could create all sorts of chaos as teams jostle for position.

If everything goes well for my team, what can I expect? It is fair to hope for a contributor at the MLS level, not the next Messi or Ronaldo. A handful of players — including Larin and recent U.S. callups Fatai Alashe (San Jose) and Matt Polster (Chicago) — picked up a lot of starts in league and cup matches last year. Others filled holes as they arose. Many players either toiled in USL or washed out completely. All things considered, most teams would be happy with someone capable of stepping on the field every so often. Anything more — especially as the draft progresses — is a bonus.

Is it worth it in the end? That discussion continues to simmer among MLS coaches and technical directors as the Homegrown program continues to grow. For now, the SuperDraft remains an important way to patch the holes in player development, procure potential contributors and shepherd worthy college players into the league. That’s enough to keep it going for the near future.