Time for MLS to Open Up the Draft

The MLS policy regarding college players dropping out of school unbidden and "declaring for the draft" has always been, despite some controversy, well founded.

It kept a lot of kids who were not going to be drafted from leaving school and ending up with nothing.

It's always been the case that if there is MLS interest in a player, to the extent that it makes sense for him to leave college, then he will be included in the GenA list and the league will be calling.

You get onto the GenA list because a team requests you. If no team requests you then you probably weren't going to get drafted and even if you were it would have been very low, probably as a supplemental draft pick or more likely a free agent and you'll come into camp with very little chance of making the roster.

So the league made the judgment that marginal candidates should stay in school until they graduated, a call which was unquestionably justified.

Until this year.

The policy is predicated on circumstances which no longer apply Or, at the least, they perhaps don't apply nearly as much as they did prior to the new CBA going into effect.

Previously, with severely limited rosters, developmental salaries averaging the mid-teens per year, only 12-15 teams in the league and no reserve division it made little sense to allow a college student that no team had asked for to quit school and try his luck in MLS.

In the unlikely event that one or two guys actually made a roster they'd make very little money and have no opportunity to play in anything like a real game. They'd quite literally be nothing more than cheap practice players for a year or two until they either got sick of it and quit or the team found someone they liked marginally better.

In short, it was actually doing most underclassmen a favor.

Now, however, with 18 teams (soon to be 19), 30 man rosters, developmental salaries in the $30k range and a real, live reserve league, most of the reasons for the policy no longer obtain.

There are lots of college players out there who don't qualify for Homegrown status with anyone, aren't going to get a GenA offer and who are, to be charitable, not getting the kind of coaching they need to develop into potential pros.

Not everybody plays for Caleb Porter or Sasho Cirovski or one of the other painfully small handful of NCAA coaches who know how to move a kid along, and actually have an interest in doing so. The vast majority of them play for barely functional kick-it-and-run clowns like - well, I'm not going to name any names.

(Although God knows I'd love to. Go ask Sandon Mibut, or start a thread in the College Forum entitled "Which NCAA Div I Coaches Would You Not Allow to Run Your Daughters' U11 Side?".)

Maybe it's not yet time to open the floodgates and make this a "come one come all" draft. There will always be a long line of players whose opinion of their talents and potential do not, shall we say, match up well with reality.

Perhaps the league could do something along the lines of what the NFL now does with underclassmen: a player can submit a letter, without jeopardizing his eligibility, asking for an evaluation. The league then responds with a realistic assessment of the players' chances, and I understand they can be quite blunt.

If a few MLS technical types think a kid may have an outside shot, then why not let him? It's not like a lot of NCAA players are awash in scholarship money anyway. Most of them wouldn't be giving up a whole lot.

(And not to get into the whole "education bubble" discussion, but it's entirely possible that by sparing a kid the chance to go another $50,000 in debt so he can get a worthless BA in Communications or Film, you're doing him a favor anyway)

It might also mean that MLS staffs would have to do a lot more than simply sitting along the touchlines at the combine, nursing hangovers and seeing who runs really fast.

They might actually have to do some scouting. Perish the thought.

And with the increase in roster spots, teams and available players maybe would mean going back to an eight round draft. Four plus four isn't that different from three plus three.

Point is, the time may have finally come when, if a college player really wants out and has a desire to take a shot at making an MLS reserve side, then a way ought to be found to let him.

It's still a helluva crap shoot, to be sure, but it's no longer the utterly hopeless quest that it used to be.