As Major League Soccer has evolved since its inception in 1996, so has its club's mode of player acquisition. The Desgnated Player rule, where only a portion of a marquee player's salary counts against the salary cap; Homegrown signings of players that develop in a club's academy program and Discovery signings are just a few of the ways a team can acquire talent.
Despite these advancements, the MLS SuperDraft (formerly known as the College Draft) has remained an important tool in building an MLS roster. For players who qualify for Homegrown status by training enough hours in an MLS academy system and those who hail from outside an MLS market alike, collegiate soccer plays an integral part in their development before making the leap to MLS.
"The SuperDraft is still very important," Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers said. "There are still a lot of quality players out there that are not playing in MLS academies that are eligible for the Draft. It still plays an important role. I think collegiate soccer still plays an important role."
"I still think it's very important," Technical Director Brian Bliss agreed, "A lot of people will say college soccer is not what it used to be. They might be correct. But you know what? There's no other solution to develop players and get them games, training and also personal development that a club sometimes can't give them."
Each MLS team can have eight foreign players on its roster and can trade these player slots with other clubs to build a more internationally diverse roster. Domestic players from the United States and Canada form the core of each squad, most of whom are products of the MLS SuperDraft.
"The SuperDraft is still very important because you can only have eight foreign players," Bliss explained. "You can't have a roster of 20 foreigners, so you've got to make use of young players, you've got to make use of college players and if you're developing players, you've got to make use of your Homegrowns. You can't discount the Draft."
Of the current 22 players on the Crew roster, which includes five Homegrown products and one Designated Player, 11 players began their MLS careers as SuperDraft or Supplemental Draft picks. The Black & Gold's technical staff will work dilligently ahead of Thursday to further improve their roster via the 2013 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis.
"We take the SuperDraft very seriously," McCullers said. "We put a lot of time, energy and resources into it. Our staff works very, very hard in making sure that we have all the information to make the best decision we can for the team and finding out who is going to be a good fit on the field and in the clubhouse."