The Major League Soccer SuperDraft has taken on less significance in the past few years with the growth of homegrown talent through the league's academies.
Despite the increased focus on developing players internally at most clubs, there have been some gems to come out of the collegiate ranks in recent years.
The 2020 draft class produced an eight-goal scorer in Daryl Dike and a few other first-team regulars, like Henry Kessler of the New England Revolution and Nashville SC's Alistair Johnston.
Clemson's Philip Mayaka and Wake Forest's Calvin Harris are the front-runners to be the first-ever draft pick of expansion side Austin FC.
Austin will lead off the 27-pick first round Thursday, and it will be followed by FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo.
2021 MLS 1st-Round Mock Draft
1. Austin FC: Philip Mayaka, M, Clemson
2. FC Cincinnati: Calvin Harris, F, Wake Forest
3. Houston Dynamo: Daniel Pereira, M, Virginia Tech
4. D.C. United: Nabi Kibunguchy, D, UC Davis
5. Atlanta United: Ethan Bartlow, D, Washington
6. Colorado Rapids: Josh Bauer, D, New Hampshire
7. Real Salt Lake: David Egbo, F, Akron
8. Portland Timbers: Aime Mabika, D, Kentucky
9. Vancouver Whitecaps: Ed Kizza, F, Pittsburgh
10. Inter Miami: Bret Halsey, M/D, Virginia
11. Austin FC: Kimarni Smith, F, Clemson
12. San Jose Earthquakes: Josh Penn, M/F, Indiana
13. New York Red Bulls: Matt Di Rosa, D, Maryland
14. Los Angeles FC: Josh Drack, D, Denver
15. FC Dallas: Aeden Stanley, D, Duke
16. LA Galaxy: Louis Perez, M, UCF
17. New York City FC: Justin McMaster, M/F, Wake Forest
18. Toronto FC: Justin Malou, D, Clemson
19. Orlando City: Talen Maples, D, SMU
20. Nashville SC: Logan Panchot, D, Stanford
21. Colorado Rapids: Derek Dodson, F, Georgetown
22. Orlando City: Danny Trejo, F, CSU-Northridge
23. Vancouver Whitecaps: Michael DeShields, D, Wake Forest
24. New England Revolution: C.C. Uche, D, Ohio State
25. Minnesota United: Colin Shutler, GK, Virginia
26. Inter Miami: Rio Hope-Gund, D, Georgetown
27. Columbus Crew: Avionne Flanagan, D, South Florida
Philip Mayaka, M, Clemson
Mayaka is one of three underclassmen who fall under the Generation Adidas category.
Most of the top selections in the past decade have had the Generation Adidas designation. MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake, Leeds United loanee Jack Harrison and Cyle Larin, who is now at Besiktas, were among the recent No. 1 overall picks.
Mayaka, a native of Kenya, is viewed as a box-to-box midfielder and as one of the class' top contenders for immediate playing time at the professional level.
In his two years at Clemson, Mayaka earned a plethora of honors, including the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year and a second-team All America selection.
Austin FC started to build its midfield around experienced MLS players. The expansion side's most notable acquisitions were Alexander Ring from New York City FC and former New England player Diego Fagundez. Mayaka would add more depth, and the club would provide the player with a great opportunity to learn under Ring, who has been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS over the past few years.
If Josh Wolff and the Austin coaching staff believe Mayaka can play right away, he could be a vital asset for the team during what is typically a congested league schedule.
To have success in MLS, most teams need to be two-deep at every position. Mayaka's selection would allow him to grow into a starting role while learning from Ring and others on how to mold his game to the MLS style of play.
Prediction: No. 1 overall to Austin FC.
Calvin Harris, F, Wake Forest
FC Cincinnati's forward group carries an interesting mix of experienced internationals and young guys looking for their break in MLS.
Although Harris would join a crowded offense, he would have the chance to make an impact for the third-year side.
Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo top the depth chart as Designated Players, but none of the strikers made a lasting impact in front of goal in 2020.
Kubo was FC Cincinnati's top scorer last season, but he only managed to find the back of the net on three occasions. Harris recorded four goals and two assists in his sophomore season at Wake Forest. He produced six goals and two assists as a freshman.
Since there is some uncertainty about which forwards will step up in 2021, FC Cincinnati could grab the best attacking talent in the draft and let him compete for minutes.
Prediction: No. 2 overall to FC Cincinnati.
Statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com.