Major League Soccer's marquee offseason event will kick off Thursday, Jan. 16 from Philadelphia as the league's 19 franchises look to rebuild and retool for the 2014 season.
There are a handful of stellar prospects available this winter capable of turning teams around, but where they'll wind up remains a mystery. Keep in mind that Thursday's event will feature the first two rounds (38 picks total) of the four-round draft, which will conclude on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of Thursday's MLS SuperDraft.
Date: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Start Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Philadelphia Convention Center, Philadelphia
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Breaking Down Draft Order
Top Prospects to Know
Patrick Mullins, F, Maryland
A 21-year-old striker with an incredible nose for goal, Maryland's Patrick Mullins has been one of the most productive and dynamic strikers at the college level in recent years.
Mullins has racked up 36 goals and 18 assists over his past two seasons with the Terrapins, catching the attention of professional scouts, per MLSSoccer.com's Matthew Doyle and Simon Borg:
The two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner has been scouted so thoroughly that teams have maybe lost sight of how much he does well. He’s always in motion, he’s a predator in the box, and while he’s not a great playmaker from the center forward spot, he’s still pretty good.
While not everyone is sold on his ability to thrive at the next level as an MLS striker, there's no doubt Mullins will have his name called very early on. As the back-to-back Hermann Trophy winner (Best Player in Division I), Mullins has proven to be one of the most promising young talents available this winter.
Andre Blake, GK, Connecticut
You won't find many experts overlooking Connecticut's Andre Blake this January.
Andre Blake carries himself like a professional. Total control of his area and his defenders. #mls— Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) January 12, 2014
After all, the 23-year-old Jamaica native has displayed tremendous talent and consistency over the past few seasons with the Huskies. In addition to his abilities, Blake appears to have the ideal mindset to make an immediate impact at the next level, per MLSSoccer.com's Simon Borg:
One of my main goals is to start [in MLS]. My first challenge is to try to get on a team, win the No. 1 spot. Play some very good soccer. Make my name in MLS and take it from there.
Borg adds that Blake had an impressive outing at the MLS Player Combine on Jan. 10 and could be one of the rare goalkeepers to be selected in the first round of the SuperDraft.
Steve Birnbaum, D, California
Oddly enough, the two top defensive prospects available this winter were college teammates at Cal. Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean teamed up in central defense for the Golden Bears and are now set to have their names called in the MLS SuperDraft.
But while both players clearly bring a lot to the table, Birnbaum is no doubt the better prospect of the two right now.
Still don't see how Steve Birnbaum isn't the 1st CB selected. Best 1 v 1 defender/passer/organizer out of all the center backs.— Charlie Nobile (@mlsdraftscout) January 8, 2014
The 22-year-old defender scored 10 goals in 19 starts last season at Cal and has invaluable experience having starred for the Under-18 and Under-20 United States national squads.
In addition to his presence in central defense, Birnbaum's comfort level on the ball as a former midfielder makes him that much more valuable to an MLS franchise looking to bolster its back line.
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