The Top 10 MLS SuperDraft Picks of All Time

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| January 12, 2021 11:36 am PDT
Top 10 SuperDraft Picks in MLS History

The SuperDraft is undoubtedly one of the standout occasions on the MLS calendar.

It gives clubs an opportunity to sign the best young players in the country, and it has produced many of the greatest stars in Major League Soccer history.

Over the years, MLS legends like Chris Wondolowski and Darlington Nagbe have been picked in the draft. But who are the best MLS SuperDraft picks of all time?

There are certainly plenty of contenders, but I discuss my top ten below.

Eddie Pope – DC United (1996)

Eddie Pope was the second pick in the inaugural MLS College Draft back in 1996.

Having made over 250 MLS appearances for three different clubs, there is no denying that he is one of the greatest draft picks that Major League Soccer has ever produced.

The center-back led DC United to three MLS Cups in his first four seasons with the club, winning the Defender of the Year award in 1997. He was also selected for the MLS Best XI on two occasions.

Not only was Pope an MLS star, but he also shone on the international stage. Between 1996 and 2006, he racked up 83 caps for the USMNT, scoring eight goals along the way.

We all know that DC has drafted some notable names over the years, with Freddy Adu and Santino Quaranta both bursting onto the scene before struggling to fulfill their potential.

In terms of success, Pope is undoubtedly the Black & Red’s top all-time draft pick.

Taylor Twellman – New England Revolution (2002)

The Revs have enjoyed plenty of draft success over the years, but it could be argued that Taylor Twellman is the club’s greatest-ever acquisition.

Drafted second overall in the 2002 SuperDraft, the striker wasted no time in establishing himself as one the most prolific goalscorers in Major League Soccer.

Twellman went on to net 91 goals in 175 appearances in all competitions for New England. In 2005, he produced one of the most efficient Golden Boot-winning seasons in MLS history, bagging 17 goals in 25 games.

Despite failing to win any silverware with the Revs, Twellman led the club to four MLS Cup finals. However, he did manage to claim a number of personal accolades, including the MVP in 2005.

MLS GOLDEN BOOT STANDINGS (2005)
Player Club Goals
Taylor Twellman New England Revolution 17
Jaime Moreno DC United 16
Jeff Cunningham Colorado Rapids 12
Landon Donovan LA Galaxy 12
Christian Gomez DC United 11

Clint Dempsey – New England Revolution (2004)

Two years after acquiring Twellman, the Revs made another famous signing.

Remarkably, Clint Dempsey was the eighth pick in the 2004 SuperDraft. If anyone could have predicted what he would go on to achieve, I’m sure that Dempsey would have been the first name out of the hat.

It wasn’t long before the versatile forward began to gain plenty of admirers. After winning Rookie of the Year and helping New England to reach back-to-back MLS Cup finals, Dempsey was snapped up by English side Fulham.

In a hugely successful six-year stint across the Atlantic, Dempsey notched up over 200 EPL appearances, contributing 57 goals and 21 assists in the process.

In 2013, he returned to America and went on to win the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, and US Open Cup with Seattle Sounders.

With 141 international caps under his belt, Dempsey sits fourth on the USMNT’s all-time appearance list. It cannot be denied that Dempsey is one of the best draft picks in MLS history.

Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes (2005)

Not only is Chris Wondolowski one of Major League Soccer’s greatest-ever draft picks, but he is also the competition’s all-time leading goalscorer.

That’s right – with 166 goals in 381 matches, no player has scored more MLS goals than Wondo.

Drafted by the Quakes in 2005, Wondolowski moved to Houston the following year. But after three seasons with the Dynamo, he returned to San Jose – and he’s been scoring goals ever since.

Along with two MLS Cup and two Supporters’ Shields, Wondolowski has two Golden Boots, one MVP award, and three Best XI selections to his name. He has also been an MLS All-Star on five occasions.

The veteran goal-machine will be 38 by the time the 2021 MLS season gets underway, yet he still has so much to offer. Wondo was supposed to retire at the end of the 2020 campaign, but he couldn’t resist the temptation of another year.

Jozy Altidore – New York Red Bulls (2006)

Believe it or not – Jozy Altidore was the seventeenth pick in the 2006 SuperDraft.

The striker was selected by the Red Bulls as an unknown 16-year-old, although it’s safe to say that he didn’t remain unknown for very long.

After making a name for himself in MLS, Altidore was signed by Villarreal in 2008. The Spanish club paid $10 million to acquire his services, smashing the Major League Soccer transfer record in the process.

Ultimately, Altidore struggled to make an impact in Europe. Following relatively fruitless spells in the Netherlands, England, and Turkey, he returned to America in 2015, teaming up with Toronto FC.

Since returning to Major League Soccer, the powerful forward has rediscovered his goalscoring form. Altidore has bagged 74 goals and 26 assists in 154 games for the Reds, firing the Canadian side to MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield triumphs in 2017.

Let’s not forget that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are the only players with more USMNT goals to their name. Indeed, Altidore has netted 42 times in 115 games for his country.

Geoff Cameron – Houston Dynamo (2008)

There really isn’t any argument against Geoff Cameron being Houston’s most successful draft pick of all time, so it only makes sense that he makes it onto my list.

A third-round pick in 2008 (42nd overall), the Dynamo took a chance on Cameron. Looking back on it, he more than repaid the club’s faith.

Houston had just clinched back-to-back MLS Cups before drafting Cameron. Although the versatile utility player failed to add to the Texans’ trophy cabinet, he still managed to lead them to another MLS Cup final in 2011.

The following year, Cameron joined English club Stoke City, going on to make over 150 EPL appearances. Now 35, the experienced campaigner is the captain of Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

Very few Americans have been able to establish themselves across the pond, yet Cameron has now played in England for the best part of a decade. In my opinion, that is what makes him one of the best MLS draft picks of all time.

Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy (2009)

Greg Vanney, Chris Armas, Brian Ching, Ante Razov, Dannu Califf, and AJ DeLaGarza are just some of the notable players that the Galaxy has drafted over the years. But it is arguable that Omar Gonzalez is the club’s most successful draft pick.

The Dallas-born center-back was drafted third overall in 2009. Five years later, he had three MLS Cups to his name.

After winning Rookie of the Year, Gonzalez was named Defender of the Year in 2009. As if that wasn’t enough, he also featured in the MLS Best XI four times in five seasons between 2010 and 2014.

In 2015, Gonzalez was sold to Liga MX side Pachuca. He quickly became a key part of Pachuca’s defense, guiding the team to the Mexican tile and CONCACAF Champions League in consecutive seasons.

Gonzalez returned to Major League Soccer in 2019, joining Toronto. But he will always be remembered for his glittering seven-season spell with the Galaxy.

OMAR GONZALEZ’S CLUB CAREER IN NUMBERS (2009-2020)
Club Appearances Goals Assists
LA Galaxy 223 17 13
Pachuca 88 3 4
Toronto FC 41 1 1
Atlas 36 2

Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers (2011)

Darlington Nagbe was the Timbers’ first-ever draft pick after they joined MLS. Needless to say, he is now recognized as one of the best picks in SuperDraft history.

Taken second overall in 2011, Nagbe was instrumental to Portland’s 2015 MLS Cup win. He notched up 31 goals and 24 assists in 239 appearances for the Timbers, before switching to Atlanta United in 2018 and helping the Five Stripes to secure an MLS Cup triumph of their own.

Last year, the midfielder got his hands on the MLS Cup with a third team, this time leading Columbus Crew to glory.

Nagbe produced one of the standout moments from the 2020 MLS season, with his strike against Chicago Fire winning the MLS Goal of the Year award.

Matt Hedges – FC Dallas (2012)

In my eyes, Matt Hedges has been one of the most consistent players in MLS in recent times.

FC Dallas selected Hedges in the first round of the 2012 SuperDraft. Since then, the New York giant center-back has gained a reputation as one of the best defenders in the league.

In fact, Hedges was named Defender of the Year in 2016. He also guided the Toros to the Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield that season.

The 30-year-old now finds himself just one appearance shy of 300 games for Dallas, with over 250 MLS matches under his belt. It is also worth noting that the Texans have qualified for the playoffs in six of Hedges’ nine seasons in the Lone Star State.

Eddie Johnson, Walker Zimmerman, and Tesho Akindele have all been drafted by Dallas over the years, but Hedges definitely stands out.

Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union (2014)

Eyebrows were raised when the Union selected Andre Blake as their number one pick in 2014. After all, Philly already had two top-quality goalkeepers in their ranks – Zac MacMath and Rais M’bolhi.

But after biding his time, there is no denying that Blake is now Philadelphia’s main man between the sticks.

The Jamaican international became a first-team regular for the Union in 2016, claiming his first Goalkeeper of the Year award that season, along with a place in the MLS All-Star team.

Following another All-Star appearance in 2019, Blake was named 2020 Goalkeeper of the Year after leading Philly their maiden Supporters’ Shield.

Overall, the shot-stopper has achieved 38 shutouts in 142 regular-season outings for Philadelphia. You can’t talk about the best MLS draft picks of all time without mentioning Blake.

Closing Thoughts

There have been countless memorable SuperDraft picks overs the years.

Legends like Carlos Bocanegra (Chicago Fire), Michael Bradley (New York Red Bulls), and Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew) all deserve mention, while Julian Gressel (Atlanta United), Tristan Blackmon (LAFC), and Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati) have all been drafted in recent years.

But at the end of the day, I’m definitely satisfied with my top 10.

There have also been plenty of notable Major League Soccer imports throughout the seasons. If you’re looking for more content like this, why not check out my take on the best overseas players in MLS history?

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