Each year the MLS draft gets a little more super. Yes, obviously I am talking about the league's interest in drafting goalkeepers. Last year we saw a record high nine goalkeepers drafted over four rounds. Everyone was cheering and strangers on the street were kissing one another. It was a great time. But before we get into this year's crop, let's look at last year's seniors and where they ended up.
1. Adam Grinwis (Michigan) - 22 - USL
2. Patrick Wall (Notre Dame) - 23 - retired
3. Alex Bono (Syracuse) - 20 - drafted, loaned to USL
4. Spencer Richey (Washington) - 22 - drafted, signed with respective USL club
5. Andrew Wolverton (Penn State) - 21 - drafted, MLS
6. Tyler Miller (Northwestern) - 21 - drafted, opted for Germany.4, returned to USL
7. Charlie Lyon (Marquette) - 22 - drafted, loaned to USL, some backup in MLS
8. Ben Lockler (Virginia Tech) - 21 - unknown
9. Brendan Moore (North Carolina) - 22 - signed with England.2
10. Earl Edwards (UCLA) - 23 - drafted, MLS
11. Oliver Brown (Denver) - 22 - unknown
12. Travis Worra (New Hampshire) - 21 - undrafted, signed MLS, loaned to USL
13. Greg Ranjitsingh (Mercer, Canadian) - 21 - USL
14. Tomas Gomez (Georgetown) - 21 - drafted, MLS
15. Nathan Dean (Elon, English) - 23 - unknown
16. Waleed Cassis (Buffalo, Canadian) - 22 - NASL
17. Winston Boldt (Army) - 22 - military commitment
18. Wilson Fisher (Duke) - 23 - unknown
19. Andre Rawls (Saint Mary's) - 23 - drafted, loaned to USL
20. Justin Taillole (California) - 23 - unknown
I haven't been shy about MLS's laughable track record when it comes to drafting goalkeepers. (To be fair, it doesn't seem like MLS is alone in struggling to recognize goalkeeping talent.) However, I think they got it right in 2015. Of the nine drafted goalkeepers, eight were in my top 20 and the only one who wasn't eventually got cut by their MLS team. And fourteen of the twenty goalkeepers listed above ended up with a club. So all-in-all, the draft was a success.
Oddly enough, we had a variety of goalkeepers go undrafted last year as well. From Travis Worra, who ended up getting first team minutes with DC United, to Tyler Miller, who was technically drafted but snubbed Seattle for fourth division Germany, last year's goalkeeper class turned out to be a hard act to follow.
Based off this year's combine list, there is still a gap between MLS and college scouting. Perhaps the organizers of the MLS combine are not on the same page as MLS scouts. Or perhaps last year was just a fluke. Either way, the selection of goalkeepers consistently seems to parallel superficial awards or team accomplishments, not actual quality of the goalkeepers. Hopefully last year was a turning point for MLS but the proof will be in MLS's next combine and draft selections.
Here are the top twenty goalkeepers heading into the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. Players in bold are eligible to be drafted.
1. Zach Bennett (Michigan State) - 22 *
2. Paul Blanchette (Loyola Marymount) - 21
3. Matt Bersano (Penn State) - 23 *
4. Ashkan Khosravi (UC Riverside) - 22
5. Wade Hamilton (Cal Poly) - 21 #*
6. Michael Breslin (UC Irvine) - 22
7. Nathan Ingham (Canadian, Florida Gulf Coast) - 22
8. Lucas Champenois (Saint Mary's) - 21
9. Connor Sparrow (Creighton) - 21 #*
10. Chris Froschauer (Ohio State) - 22
11. Callum Irving (Canadian, Kentucky) - 22 #*
12. Sven Lissek (German, Furman) - 22 #*
13. Mike Kirk (La Salle) - 22
14. Jackson Morgan (Navy) - 22
15. Austin Pack (Charlotte) - 21
16. Shane Haworth (Seattle) - 23
17. Brenden Alfery (Robert Morris) - 21
18. Dan Lynd (Pittsburgh) - 21
19. Mike Lansing (Bucknell) - 21
20. Matt Turner (Fairfield) - 22
xx. Ryan Herman (Seattle) - 22 #*
# - invited to MLS combine
* - top seven most likely to be drafted
Like last year, teams are looking to fill USL slots again. I don't think we'll hit nine again but seven seems a strong possibility. I've marked the seven most likely to be drafted with an asterisk. Clearly the five combine goalkeepers are in the running and Bersano and Bennett have the pedigree to earn a draft spot. Where can we expect these goalkeepers to land?
- Houston Dynamo - Have added a USL squad for 2016
- Sporting Kansas City - Have added a USL squad for 2016
- Chicago Fire - Only one goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, on the roster.
- Orlando City - Have added a USL squad for 2016
- Philadelphia Union - Have added a USL squad for 2016
- DC United - Recently didn't re-sign Dykstra and USL affiliate Richmond Kickers have one goalkeeper on the roster
- Toronto FC - Only two goalkeepers on the MLS/USL squads but they need veterans, not more youth
If a goalkeeper isn't selected, he can surely find a roster spot somewhere with recent NASL and USL expansion. However, like we saw with National Champion Pat Wall, the Notre Dame goalkeeper struggled to find any serious offers and decided to pursue other options. American soccer is growing but the bottom feeders are still fighting to survive.
Update December 24th: Andrew Tarbell, Clemson's junior goalkeeper, has signed a Generation Adidas contract. Barring some unforeseen event, Tarbell will be selected in the 2016 draft.