The 2016 MLS SuperDraft is almost here, and though most teams have turned to other methods to bring in Day 1 starters, the draft still has traction when it comes to acquiring and building new talent within the league. And before player acquisition mechanisms such as Homegrown Players were introduced, the SuperDraft had an even bigger hold on MLS.
But regardless of the SuperDraft’s changing role in the league over the years, Sporting KC has harnessed its potential to sign major talent that has helped carry the club on to win major titles like the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup championships. Here are the players the team has signed in the past who continue to represent KC on the pitch.
2015 draft picks
Paralleling the decline of the draft’s influence in the league, minutes played by SuperDraft picks in their rookie seasons have dropped off every year since 2011. The draft is increasingly seen as a key vehicle for teams to sign new players who can be molded and developed, with fewer and fewer teams expecting immediate impact from their picks.
That said, not all rookies spend their first season watching their team from the sidelines. In fact, last season, SKC’s three picks from the 2015 SuperDraft had the most rookie regular season appearances (57), starts (29) and minutes played (2,907) in MLS.
The team drafted Connor Hallisey, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Amadou Dia with the 10th, 12th and 20th overall picks, respectively. Dia was the first of the three to appear on the pitch, as the only Sporting KC rookie to start on opening day since 2011. He also went on to record assists in the regular season, postseason and U.S. Open Cup.
Abdul-Salaam soon joined Dia as a regular fixture in SKC’s back line, with the two defenders making appearances in almost every U.S. Open Cup game. And despite Dia’s early start with the team, Abdul-Salaam surpassed Dia’s 27 appearances with his own 28 in all competitions. Hallisey also made an impact in the team’s USOC run, appearing in four matches. By the end of the season, he had played in 17 matches and recorded a 7-0-1 record as a starter.
So despite the SuperDraft’s decreasing role in the league, Sporting KC’s 2015 rookie performances prove the team is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to using its draft picks to acquiring and developing new talent that can truly make a difference on the field.
There’s no denying that Sporting KC made out like a bandit in the 2008 and 2009 SuperDrafts. Four of the team’s now most decorated veterans were signed those years, with Chance Myers and Roger Espinoza drafted in the first and 11th overall picks in 2008, and Matt Besler and Graham Zusi drafted in the eighth and 23rd overall picks in ‘09. The KC team also picked up Dom Dwyer as its No. 16 pick in the 2012 SuperDraft.
Since the addition of these five players via the SuperDraft, Sporting KC has gone on to win three trophies — two U.S. Open Cups and one MLS Cup. Along with their success at the club level, several players have carried their talents onto the international stage. Zusi and Besler were called up to the US Men's National Team in the 2014 World Cup, while Espinoza represented Honduras in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as well as the 2012 London Olympics, earning 45 caps and 4 goals internationally.
Collectively, Myers, Espinoza, Besler, Zusi and Dwyer boast 67 goals, 89 assists and 10 All-Star game appearances in their regular season careers. Their accomplishments at home and abroad reinforce Manager Peter Vermes’ ability to select players from the SuperDraft who will not only provide raw talent to the team’s roster, but who will also be a good fit and can be developed to fit the team’s style of play.
Tune in to this year’s MLS SuperDraft live this Thursday at 12 p.m. CT to track the latest additions to the Sporting KC roster.