Charlotte FC select Maryland's Bender first overall to headline MLS SuperDraft

Comments (0)
Bender Maryland MLS Draft 2021
The young midfielder heads to the MLS expansion side after earning honors as a First Team All-American last season

Charlotte FC selected Maryland midfielder Benjamin Bender with the first pick of Tuesday's MLS SuperDraft as the expansion club prepares for its debut season.

Bender will head to Charlotte after playing two seasons at Maryland, having earned honors as a first team All-American and unanimous Big Ten Midfielder of the Year selection after scoring seven goals and providing five assists in 18 games.

Charlotte's pick was followed up by four more Generation Adidas selections, with those players not counting against teams' salary budgets while they retain GA status.

Article continues below

What happened?

After Charlotte chose Bender, FC Cincinnati selected goalkeeper Roman Celentano from Indiana with FC Dallas adding St. Louis forward Isaiah Parker.

Houston Dynamo selected Thorleifur Ulfarsson, an Icelandic forward out of Duke, with St. Louis defender Kipp Keller rounding out the top five.

San Jose Earthquakes perhaps got the steal of the draft, with forward Ousseni Bouda falling to them at 8.

Seen as one of this class' most talented players, Bouda, who comes from Burkina Faso, starred for Stanford last season, leading them in goals and assists.

Bender's big day

Selected first overall, Bender will now head to a Charlotte FC team very much still under construction.

The squad is still very much being built out, with the club yet to sign a Designated Player, although there are some familiar faces in former Leicester star Christian Fuchs and MLS veterans Harrison Afful, Chrsitian Makoun and Antone Walkes.

"Every time there's a new team that enters the league I think that the whole city is just super excited and ready to go," Bender said.

"I know the fans of Charlotte are going to be itching to see the team win and win right away and I think that coming into an expansion club is a good scenario for me. I think I have the ability to make an impact, so I'm just really excited to hit the ground running."

First round in full

Pick

Player

Position

School

1.Charlotte FC

Benjamin Bender

Midfielder

Maryland

2. FC Cincinnati

Roman Celentano

Goalkeeper

Indiana

3. FC Dallas

Isaiah Parker

Forward

St. Louis

4. Houston Dynamo

Thorleifur Ulfarsson

Forward

Duke

5. Austin FC

Kipp Keller

Defender

St. Louis

6. FC Dallas

Lucas Batlett

Defender

St. John's

7. New York Red Bulls

Matthew Nocita

Defender

Navy

8. San Jose Earthquakes

Ousseni Bouda

Forward

Stanford

9. Inter Miami

Ryan Sailor

Defender

Washington

10. Nashville SC

Ahmed Longmire

Defender

UCLA

11. Chicago Fire

Kendall Burks

Defender

Washington

12. Columbus Crew

Patrick Schulte

Goalkeeper

St. Louis

13. San Jose Earthquakes

Oskar Agren

Defender

Cemson

14. FC Cincinnati

Ian Murphy

Defender

Duke

15. San Jose Earthqyakes

Jojea Kwizera

Forward

Utah Valley

16. Vancouver Whitecaps

Simon Becher

Forward

St. Louis

17. Minnesota United

Tani Oluwaseyi

Forward

St. John's

18. Orlando City

Jack Lynn

Forward

Notre Dame

19. Atlanta United

Erik Centeno

Forward

Pacific

20. New York Red Bulls

O'Vonte Mullings

Forward

Florida Gulf Coast

21. LA Galaxy

Farai Mutatu

Forward

Michigan State

22. Sporting KC

Esai Easley

Defender

Grand Canyon

23. Colorado Rapids

Mohamed Omar

Midfielder

Notre Dame

24. Chicago Fire

Jacob Jackson

Goalkeeper

Loyola Marymount

25. Columbus Crew

Philip Quinton

Defender

Notre Dame

26. Colorado Rapids

Anthony Markanich

Defender

Northern Illinois

27. Portland Timbers

Justin Rasumussen

Defender

Grand Canyon

28. FC Dallas

Tsiki Ntsalbeleng

Forward

Oregon State

The big picture

The MLS Draft has taken on less importance over the years for a variety of reasons.

The rise of MLS academies has seen most of the top American and Canadian players signed up at an earlier age, foregoing the college process altogether or signing with clubs after previously featuring for them at the youth level.

Additionally, the league has signed a significant amount of young foreign players in recent years, with several South American stars opting to continue their careers in MLS.

However, several MLS Draft picks have gone on to star in the league and beyond in recent years, including Leeds' Jack Harrison, Club Brugge's Tajon Buchanan and West Brom's Daryl Dike, all of whom came through the draft process.

U.S. men's national team stars Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman have also broken out after being selected in the MLS Draft.

Further reading

Close