Once upon a time, the MLS SuperDraft represented, for many teams, a critical means of revamping a roster. Allocations? Unless you were a lousy side (or New York or Los Angeles) they were about as liquid as a timeshare at the North Pole. Discovery players? Up until 2005, clubs were only allowed three such acquisitions. Trades? Important, but they carried considerable risk. The draft remained the foundation upon which most successful teams were built.
Some significant rule changes over the last few years may be changing that however. The Designated Player Rule, an increase in the number of discovery players, youth setups for MLS teams, as well as a bump in the salary cap could someday make the draft obsolete, but not quite yet. With expansion drafts chipping away at a team's depth, the MLS SuperDraft remains a vital way of acquiring young, cheap talent. Just ask Chivas USA where they would have been last year without the services of Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan.
With that in mind, here is a breakdown of what holes each team will look to fill in this Friday's draft. (Note: picks include a team's selections in the Supplemental Draft.)
Toronto (picks 1, 27, 40, 53, 66, 79, 92)
Given their expansion status, TFC need ... well, everything. However, head coach Mo Johnston finds himself with just three picks in the SuperDraft to go with his four supplemental selections. Fortunately, Johnston has been hoarding partial allocations like a couch potato does junk food, so a trade or two may yet land the Scot some additional picks. The roster that TFC has put together is deepest in midfield, so expect Johnston to put more focus on his forward line and his defense. That said, using his first pick on a midfielder is a distinct possibility.
Columbus (picks 2, 15, 41, 49, 93, 102)
Given last year's glut of injuries, head coach Sigi Schmid could be forgiven for wondering if any orthopedic surgeons will be available next Friday. He'll settle instead for either a forward to partner Jason Garey or a left back, especially since the acquisition of Danny O'Rourke appears to have satisfied Schmid's goal of adding some steel to his midfield. Schmid will have to look elsewhere for his biggest need, an attacking midfielder.
Kansas City (picks 3, 29, 42, 55, 68, 81, 82, 94, 100, 104)
Curt Onalfo's side is in dire need of a creative element in midfield, but asking a draftee to assume that role is asking too much. With the likes of Scott Sealy, Eddie Johnson, Ryan Pore and Yura Movsisyan, the Wizards have some depth at forward, so based purely on need, Kansas City will likely look to beef up the flanks, especially at right back.
Real Salt Lake (picks 4, 30, 54, 56, 69, 80, 95, 101)
There are few sure things in this world but RSL selecting a defender -- or at least a defensive midfielder -- with its first pick has got to be one of them. Tied with Colorado for the worst defense in the league, RSL have gone out and acquired attackers Freddy Adu and Panamanian international Luis Tejada. While opinions vary as to Eddie Pope's effectiveness last season, his advancing age and penchant for injury would make selecting a central defender the most logical option.
Los Angeles (picks 5, 10, 16, 20, 23, 44, 45, 57, 67, 70, 74, 96)
With five picks in the first two rounds, the Galaxy have the most to gain from this year's draft. LA's most pressing need is in midfield where Cobi Jones' advancing age and the career-long inconsistency displayed by Santino Quaranta and Kyle Martino make having some depth out wide a priority. Look for head coach Frank Yallop to add some players at the fullback positions as well. The drop-off is steep after Chris Albright and Ante Jazic, and this summer's Gold Cup may see the Galaxy without both players during that stretch.
Colorado (picks 6, 17, 18, 31, 35, 36, 62, 75, 88)
Unlike their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, the Rapids have moved quickly to shore up their league-worst defense, trading for Ugo Ihemelu and Brandon Prideaux. For that reason, head coach Fernando Clavijo may focus more on shoring up the wide midfield positions. The departure of goalkeeper Joe Cannon leaves the Rapids with only the relatively inexperienced Bouna Coundoul and the oft-injured Matt Jordan on the books. Don't be surprised if the Rapids use one of their top picks on a goalkeeper.
Chivas USA (picks 7, 46, 72, 83, 85, 98)
While fans and pundits alike marveled at Bornstein's versatility, it also illustrated the Goats' near total lack of depth. Now with the departures of defender Tim Regan, midfielder Juan Pablo Garcia and attacker Paco Palencia, Chivas find themselves needing help everywhere, yet they have only two picks in the first five rounds. The acquisition of Amado Guevara should shore up the midfield, making the forward line and the defense the primary targets.
Chicago (picks 8, 21, 34, 47, 59, 60, 73, 86, 99)
New England head coach Steve Nicol has been lauded for his golden touch in the draft, but it could be argued that Fire manager Dave Sarachan has been just as successful, especially with his later round selections of Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares and Dasan Robinson. For that reason, Chicago has perhaps the most depth in the league, especially in the back and up top. The midfield isn't bad either, but the loss of Nate Jaqua means that the right flank will be Sarachan's biggest priority.
Dallas (picks 9, 14, 22, 28, 43, 48, 61, 87)
With new head coach Steve Morrow now on board, it remains to be seen how his approach will differ from predecessor Colin Clarke, but what hasn't changed is the team's need for a right back. Nominal starter Bobby Rhine and backup Justin Moore were both waived although it's rumored that both will be brought back at reduced salaries. The trade of Ronnie O'Brien indicates a need for some help on the right side of the midfield as well.
D.C. United (picks 11, 24, 32, 37, 50, 63, 76, 89)
As United's 2006 season drew to a close, the Black-and-Red's lack of depth at forward became abundantly clear. With the exits of forward Alecko Eskandarian and attacker Freddy Adu, that need has been magnified. While it's likely that United will use their extensive overseas contacts to bring in reinforcements (Brazilian wide player Ruy is expected to sign soon), new head coach Tom Soehn will likely look to the draft to shore up this area. The departure of Brandon Prideaux to Colorado could make the defense a priority as well.
New England (picks 12, 25, 38, 51, 64, 77, 90, 103)
Clint Dempsey received his work permit to play for Fulham, but that's not the only reason that Steve Nicol will be looking to add to his midfield. Shalrie Joseph is still attracting interest from Celtic and winger Steve Ralston is getting up there in years. Forward could be an area that the Revs will look to beef up as well, although it appears that Willie Sims will be given more of an opportunity to shine this season.
Houston (picks 13, 26, 39, 52, 65, 78, 91)
As with most defending champions, the Dynamo don't need much, especially in the back where they appear to have cover at every position. The same can't be said for the center of midfield, where the departure of Adrian Serioux leaves head coach Dominic Kinnear with few options after Dwayne De Rosario and Ricardo Clark. The forward line could use some depth as well.
New York (picks 19, 33, 58, 71, 86, 97)
With only two selections in the first four rounds, head coach Bruce Arena could have it easy come draft day. While a few trades could change all that, the lack of picks could be keenly felt because the Red Bulls are one of those teams that could use some help everywhere. But with the retirements/departures of Youri Djorkaeff, Amado Guevara, Chris Henderson and Danny O'Rourke, it's the midfield that needs the most help.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.