Since being instituted in 2000, the MLS SuperDraft has welcomed an expansion team to the league on nine different occasions. Last draft, the inclusion of Minnesota and Atlanta added to the picks of the 20 other teams in the League. This year, LAFC will make its first MLS SuperDraft selections in Club history.
Per League rules, expansion teams are granted the first pick of their inaugural SuperDraft. In the instance of two teams joining the league, as was the case last season, a coin toss is used to settle the draft order.
As the only newcomers this season, LAFC hold the No. 1 pick in the 2018 SuperDraft - barring a trade. Could past expansion selections being any indication of LAFC's intentions for 2018? Here’s a look at how expansion teams in the past chose to use the inaugural SuperDraft pick in their history.
2005: Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA
With the first pick in the 2005 SuperDraft, Real Salt Lake made a splash selecting 16-year-old midfielder Nikolas Besagno. At the time, Besagno was the second-youngest player ever drafted by an MLS team. Then RSL head coach John Ellinger was familiar with Besagno from his time with the U-17 National Team. Despite the familiarity, the pick didn’t pan out very well for either. Ellinger was let go in the beginning of the 2007 season, while Besagno made just eight appearances before being let go in 2008.
Picking after RSL, Chivas USA went with Brad Guzan out of the University of South Carolina. Guzan would go on to lead the team to two playoff appearances, winning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2007 and receiving his first international call-up in 2006. After stints in England with Aston Villa, Hull City, and Middlesbrough, Guzan came full circle returning to MLS with expansion team in Atlanta United in 2017.
2007: Toronto FC
In 2007, MLS added its first team north of the border. With the first pick in team history, Toronto FC selected Maurice Edu from the University of Maryland. Edu would go on to win the MLS Rookie of the Year award that season and earn his first senior U.S. National Team cap. His time in Toronto would be short though. Midway through the following season Rangers of Scotland swooped for the midfielder.
2008: San Jose Earthquakes
Following a two-year hiatus, the Earthquakes returned to San Jose in 2008. That year’s SuperDraft also saw the first trade of a No. 1 pick by an expansion team in MLS. The Quakes received defender Nick Garcia in a trade with Kansas City Wizards for the first overall pick. The Wizards would select Chance Myers, and Garcia would go on to play 36 times for San Jose before being traded to Toronto.
2009: Seattle Sounders
The Seattle Sounders roots date back to the NASL days of American soccer, but it was in 2009 that they officially joined MLS. With their inaugural pick, the Sounders selected former Arsenal academy player and University of Akron forward Steve Zakuani. Zakuani made an impact in his first season scoring four goals and playing a big role in the Sounders run to the 2009 U.S. Open Cup. His career was cut short by a horrific leg injury, but he remains a favorite of the Sounders’ supporters to this day.
2010: Philadelphia Union
The SuperDraft headed to Philadelphia in 2010 to welcome MLS’ newest team, the Philadelphia Union. With its inaugural pick, the expansion side selected forward Danny Mwanga. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year scored seven goals in his first professional season. Mwanga would help the Union to its first playoff appearance in 2011 before being traded to Portland early in the 2012 season.
2011: Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers
Expansion into the Pacific Northwest continued with the addition of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers to MLS in 2011. While Vancouver won the coin toss for the right to pick first, it was Portland that landed the better player on the day, selecting future USMNT midfielder and MLS All-Star Darlington Nagbe. Vancouver selected U.S. U-20 talent Omar Salgado with its first pick. While Nagbe went on to lead the Timbers to a 2015 MLS Cup, Salgado would play just 26 times over four seasons with the Whitecaps.
2012: Montreal Impact
In 2012, MLS welcomed an expansion team to its ranks for the sixth straight season. The third Canadian side to join the League, the Montreal Impact selected forward Andrew Wenger with the first pick of the draft. A Hermann Trophy winner in his final season at Duke, Wenger contributed four goals in his rookie season. The forward never really settled into a starting role for the Impact and would eventually be sent to the Union in exchange for Jack McInerney in 2013.
2015: Orlando City and NYCFC
The SuperDraft returned to Philadelphia in 2015 with two new MLS teams in tow. Orlando City made the first selection of the draft taking forward Cyle Larin, followed by NYCFC’s inaugural selection of Khiry Shelton. Larin would go on to win the MLS Rookie of the Year that season, scoring a rookie record 17 goals. Shelton showed promise early with NYCFC but was sent to Sporting KC in a trade for Saad Abdul-Salaam this offseason.
2017: Minnesota United and Atlanta United
Two more new teams joined MLS for the 2017 season. Minnesota United was allocated the first overall pick of the SuperDraft in Los Angeles and opted for a local talent in UCLA’s Abu Danladi. The forward would score eight goals in Minnesota’s inaugural MLS campaign. Fellow debutants Atlanta United followed with the selection of defender Miles Robinson. Robinson failed to make the impact that fellow Atlanta 2017 draftee Julian Gressel had on United’s season, making zero appearances before being loaned to the Charleston Battery of the USL.