David Beckham's expansion Inter Miami CF selected Clemson forward Robbie Robinson with the first overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday.
Robinson, 21, won this year's MAC Hermann award as the top male collegiate player in the country. The Camden, South Carolina, native is a versatile, mobile forward who can play multiple positions.
"We're very excited for you to bring your skills to our city and it's an exciting time for us," Beckham told Robinson after making him the franchise's first-ever draft pick. "We're excited about you being able to contribute to the team and develop as a player and we're excited to have you in our club."
After suffering through an injury-riddled sophomore season, Robinson scored 18 goals in 2019. Now the challenge will be to crack a Miami lineup that already has South American products Julian Carranza and designated player Matias Pellegrini.
"He's the most talented attacking player in the draft," one MLS executive said prior to the draft. "He's very dynamic in his ability. He can create chances for himself and others."
Fellow expansion side Nashville SC chose Indiana University defender Jack Maher with the second overall pick. Miami, who had two of the top three selections, took Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis third.
Originally, Nashville had just the one first round pick, but maneuvered to acquire two additional selections via the trade route. They obtained the 11th overall pick from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for $75,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), and used it to select Wake Forest defender Alistair Johnson. Nashville then acquired the No. 13 pick from the New England Revolution to select UNC-Charlotte goalkeeper Elliot Panicco. The Revs acquired $50,000 in allocation money with another $50,000 possible if performance incentives reached.
Maher, 20, was in the running to be the first overall selection. He spent two seasons at Indiana, where he emerged as the top center-back in the country and was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. He made a total of 46 appearances with the Hoosiers, scoring four goals. He is a product of St. Louis-based youth club St. Louis Scott Gallagher, the same club that produced current Fulham and U.S. international defender Tim Ream.
Some observers around the league feel Maher still needs to grow into his body and fill out physically in order to cope with MLS forwards, but has the technical ability needed to play in the league.
"He's a two-year project, and he has to get stronger," one MLS coach said prior to the draft. "But he's a good, good soccer player."
The rest of the first round largely played out as expected. Vancouver selected Syracuse winger Ryan Raposo with the No. 4 pick. A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Raposo is part of the Generation adidas class, meaning he won't count against the salary budget. But his Canadian citizenship means he'll count as a domestic player.
Daryl Dike was among those players tabbed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, especially given his ability in box. So when the Virginia forward slid just a bit to No. 5, Orlando City snapped him up. He should provide a depth piece up top for Oscar Pareja's side.
Nashville wasn't the only team that maneuvered to get players. The New York Red Bulls obtained the No. 10 pick from the Chicago Fire in exchange for $100,000 in GAM. New York used the pick to select Marquette University defender Patrick Seagrist.
A minor bit of drama in the first round came at pick No. 9, when it was reported that the Montreal Impact were in talks to trade the slot to Minnesota United. But talks broke down between the two sides and the Impact ended up selecting North Carolina winger Jeremy Kelly. Kelly was immediately traded to the Colorado Rapids for what the Denver Post reported was the $75,000 in GAM that the acquired from Nashville.
The 2020 SuperDraft will encompass four rounds and 104 selections. Rounds 3 and 4 will take place beginning on Monday, Jan. 13 via conference call.
Top 10 picks
*- draft-day trade
1. Inter Miami CF: Robbie Robinson, forward, Clemson
2. Nashville SC: Jack Maher, defender, Indiana
3. Inter Miami CF: Dylan Nealis, defender, Georgetown
4. Vancouver Whitecaps: Ryan Raposo, midfielder, Syracuse
5. Orlando City: Daryl Dike, forward, Virginia
6. New England Revolution: Henry Kessler, defender, Virginia
7. Columbus Crew SC: Miguel Berry, forward, San Diego
8. Houston Dynamo: Garrett McLaughlin, forward, SMU
9. Montreal Impact: Jeremy Kelly, defender, North Carolina
10. *New York Red Bulls: Patrick Seagrist, defender, Marquette