For the past decade, the MLS SuperDrafts have supplied Sporting Kansas City with the core of its roster. The club has utilized college drafts to add Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Dom Dwyer, who emerged as the four highest-paid players on the team.
A change of course came Thursday.
Sporting KC left the 2016 draft in Baltimore without a selection after it traded the No. 11 overall pick — its lone choice in the first two rounds — to D.C. United for targeted allocation money.
“There were a couple of players that we were interested in, and they went early,” Sporting KC coach and technical director Peter Vermes said. “Once they did, we got a pretty darn good offer for our pick, so it made sense to go the direction we did.”
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Vermes declined to name the players Sporting KC sought in the draft. Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said in a Twitter message that the club was targeting Clemson goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell, who went to San Jose at No. 8.
Instead, the club left with targeted allocation money (TAM), which can be used to sign new players or extend the contract of current players, but it can only be used on players who earn more than the maximum salary-cap charge, which was $436,250 in 2015. The use of TAM would prevent the player from counting toward one of three allowed designated players on the roster. Besler and Zusi are currently the only two designated players on Sporting KC’s roster.
“It definitely has its usage. It has value,” Vermes said. “There are some things coming down the pike, and because of that, we have the ability to use (this) money to help bring other players in.”
Sporting KC traded its second-round pick to Columbus in December 2013 for goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who now serves as the color commentator for Sporting KC broadcasts.
Sporting KC led the league in rookie appearances last season with 57. Those were shared among defenders Saad Abdul-Salaam and Amadou Dia and midfielder Connor Hallisey.
A year later, it could be primed to become only the third team since 2000 to not select a player in the top 50 picks. The third and fourth rounds of the draft will be conducted via conference call Tuesday. Sporting KC owns one pick in each of those rounds.
In a trade-filled draft day Thursday, Chicago chose Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison with the first overall selection before trading him to New York City FC.
“I know it sounds corny, but they say America is the land of the opportunity, and for me, it’s been nothing but that,” Harrison said at the draft dais.
Harrison, 19, the youngest player in the draft, was born in England.