Ben Bender is the latest No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft. The Maryland Terrapin will turn 21 in March and already has an impressive soccer resume in the collegiate game. Now, he will join Charlotte FC, the newest team to grace the league.
Bender, in 2021, made 16 starts in 18 matches. The midfielder scored seven goals and provided five assists for the Terrapins, including a streak of five straight games with a goal against teams like Delaware, Pacific, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bender, who was unanimously named the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year, said during the broadcast. “I just can’t wait to get started. I know that the football down there is a good brand, and I just want to be a part of that.”
The rest of the top five was rounded out by Isaiah Parker from Saint Louis, Thorleifur Ulfarsson from Duke and Kipp Keller from Saint Louis.
MLS NEXT alums are out here making their names known during the first round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. pic.twitter.com/SxYwx5PAAC
— MLS NEXT (@MLSNEXT) January 11, 2022
Generation Adidas well represented
Generation Adidas was well represented at the MLS SuperDraft. According to the league, “The program, sponsored by Adidas, offers professional-ready players in the U.S. developmental system not yet eligible for the MLS SuperDraft early entry, allowing MLS to compete with foreign professional clubs without comparable restrictions on player signing.”
The following Generation Adidas players were drafted.
- No. 1: Ben Bender (Charlotte FC)
- No. 2: Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati)
- No. 3: Isaiah Parker (FC Dallas)
- No. 4: Thorleifur Ulfarsson (Houston Dynamo)
- No. 5: Kipp Keller (Austin FC)
- No. 8: Ousseni Bouda (San Jose Earthquakes)
- No. 12: Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew SC)
- No. 19: Erik Centeno (Atlanta United FC)
Ben Bender reacts to going No. 1 overall to @CharlotteFC. 😂 pic.twitter.com/O5exVDeEyo
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) January 11, 2022
Three Takeaways from the MLS SuperDraft
- FC Dallas with strong picks: FC Dallas has had a lot of movement this offseason. Losing Ricardo Pepi was always inevitable, and the loss is going to hurt the team in the attack. However, FC Dallas was busy in the draft and made some solid selections. Isaiah Parker, the forward selected No. 3, scored three goals and had seven assists in 2021 for Saint Louis. FC Dallas also picked up Lucas Bartlett (defender), Tsiki Ntsabeleng (forward), Chase Niece (defender) and Holland Rula (defender).
- Plenty of Picks: The passes came in the third round, but even still there were a lot of selections made in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. For this native of Pittsburgh, two selections were made from the University of Pittsburgh: Arturo Ordonez to Houston and, in the third round, Jasper Loeffelsend to Real Salt Lake.
- Sleeper Pick: Roman Celentano. It was clear-cut from General Manager Albright: drafting a goalkeeper was a need for Cincinnati, who acquired Kenneth Vermeer last year. Those two will have a battle in camp for the No. 1 spot, and Vermeer will have some much-needed pressure on his back. Celentano could shake things up and become the starter.