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Union trade all SuperDraft picks to FC Cincinnati

Photo: 215Pix

Ernst Tanner isn’t afraid of making a bold move.

The Union dealt all five of their picks in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday evening.

In return, the club acquired $150,000 in General Allocation Money, with the possibility of acquiring another $50,000 if Cincinnati’s draft picks hit certain performance benchmarks.

The five picks traded by the Union include a first-rounder (13), two second-rounders (29 and 37), a third-rounder (61), and a fourth-rounder (85).

The trade is more evidence of a shift in the Union’s organizational philosophy, as the club moves away from filling out Bethlehem Steel and the back of the first team with college players and instead signs younger Union Academy products for those spots.

Tanner calculated that acquiring additional cash to help with player signings would be more valuable than the players the draft would acquire. “Not only will we look to continue both signing Union Academy products for the First Team and Bethlehem Steel FC, as well as attracting young talent from abroad, we believe that this sum of money will help us complete crucial signings ahead of the upcoming campaign,” Tanner said in a club press release.

The SuperDraft has been a mixed bag over the years for Philadelphia. The club’s longest-tenured player, Ray Gaddis, was a fourth-round pick in 2012, stud goalie Andre Blake was acquired with the first pick in the 2014 draft, and the Union unearthed defender Jack Elliott in the 2017 fourth round. However, other than Elliott, no players remain with the team from the 2016, 2017, or 2018 drafts.

On a conference call with reporters, Tanner explained that “the level of MLS has increased a lot, and I think that the level of university has been more or less the same.” He believes that the players available in the draft would not make the club better at the MLS level, and said that the coaching staff supported his decision.

The Union currently have 22 players under contract for the 2019 season.


  1. For me, Tanner’s no-bullshit approach is a really refreshing change. He saw the draftable players, was not impressed and sold them. And he very honestly explained his decision when asked. I believe he said he didn’t think any of the players available would be more than USL-level.

    He could be wrong, but I like the clarity of this move. I tend to think he’s very likely right.

    • Agree, they don’t need youth. They need to reinforce the Top/Middle. They have youth covered, and college players are not really youth anyway.

      This allows you to sign a 300k player when maybe you could only afford 150K in the past.

  2. Bold move! I like it

  3. I love it. You are hoping for something to work out, but you are much more likely to find major contributors in your academy than in the draft.
    I wouldn’t even say it’s “bold,” so much as an early warning sign for the entire draft process.

  4. I like the idea of the move, but I think $150,000 for 5 picks seems too low…

  5. el grunon Elephant. says:

    good riddance.
    Ernst and I had some Schnitzel the other day and we agreed, college soccer is a dead end to first tier play… so for all-ya out there who argued and argued and well…. argued me on it.. that in fact I was wrong.

    • John O'Donnell says:

      Jack Harrison…. I’ll see myself out.

      • el grunon Elephant says:

        Go forth and devote your time and resources to finding a Jack Harrison needle in the ever expanding haystack.
        The door is behind you, don’t let it hit you on the … …as you exit.

      • Well, to be fair, Harrison was in Manchester United’s Academy for 7 years before moving to the U.S. If US college players did a 7-year stint with United’s Academies, they might by Championship Level talent, too.

        NCAA should really get with the program and make the schedule year-long or see college soccer become an afterthought for anyone with professional ambitions. This should come as a bit of a warning shot.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr. says:

        Actually it was a growing trend of foreign players coming to America for a college education and passing on signing back homme. Much like the players on the roster now ergo we acquired from the draft. I’m not saying I disagree with Ernst but if that trend continues I think it’s smart to keep an eye on it.

    • Didn’t the Union pick up a decent player a few years ago? Some guy named Blake?
      Not saying they would have done that with the 13th pick but he has worked out for the Union.

      • I’m not so sure. Had Blake not been drafted, would Steffan still be here? Could the Union have gotten the transfer fee for him? I think Blake was drafted, in part, with thoughts of selling him on and reaping his transfer fee. That hasn’t happened and I’m not sure it ever will. So the Union are now at a point where they pay Blake to be one of the top keepers in the league. Is he really worth it for this team? Again, I’m not so sure he is.

  6. OneManWolfpack says:

    With the lack of leadership, plan, and success this team has had since its inception… it’s going to take real thought, and straight up trying different things to make this work. I applaud Tanner for this approach. I also think this will now be the trend in MLS and in a short time the draft will be gone. Well done Ernst. Now spend some Garber Bucks!!!

  7. In his conference call with writers before lunch today Thursday, Bethlehem Steel head coach Brendan Burke said there was one NCAA player in whom they were interested, but that there was no way to get to him.
    Burke was already back in Pennsylvania from Florida when he held the conference call.
    The NCAA soccer draft will soon be an event for USL-C and USL-1.

  8. #13 isn’t a great spot to pick. All evaluated talent is probably already snatched up and you’re guessing on a kid you have seen 2 or 3x at the combine, who will probably end up at Bhem Steel anyway.
    Fill out the Steel roster with academy players you see everyday, who are a minimum 4 years younger.
    Maybe they could have gotten a bit more for the first round pick, but money is money. Kudos, Tanner.

  9. De George had an interesting stat accompanying the news:
    The number of players under 22 years old invited to the combine was 8.
    Or, the same number of players on the Union’s roster that are under 22 (Aaronson, Fontana, Freese, Jones, Mbaizo, McKenzie, Real, and Trusty).

  10. Now this is the definition of money ball. Let’s not bother training and evaluating a bunch of guys who will likely be cut or end up with the final spot on the Bethlehem roster and instead acquire funds to help sign a true first team player.

    Love this move.

  11. John O'Donnell says:

    Not that I disagree with the decision but I do wonder if Ernst sells a little quickly and might get more. Would have liked to see this happen at the draft, maybe someone would have pushed the price up a little.

  12. I must say I wasn’t expecting this reaction from the crowd (except Pachy). Now I can’t tell if I’m more pleased by the move or the reactions.

    • i think what was really sobering was the realization that Yaro, Rosenberry, Herbers from 2016 SuperDraft are no longer part of this team. we thought that was going to be our future.

      like most have expressed, i’m fine with the move. on a stingy team, every dollar matters.

  13. Love the move, but real question: Huge holes still remain on the Steel roster. I figured the draft would fill those in. If not, where are they coming from? As of now, team doesn’t even have a full XI.

  14. Don’t really care one way or another with move–hope money spent well.
    But from a grow-soccer-in-usa view, shouldn’t we want college soccer to improve?
    Hoops and nfl grew in popularity because of college making it accessible and enjoyable in parts of the country where there were no professional teams.
    Shouldn’t we want college soccer fixed and to succeed?

    • Hoopes and NFL are the developmental pathway to the professional level… in sports anchored by the american player at the highest level.
      NCAA Orchestrated Money Machine model works perfectly for those models.
      To answer your question, no, we shouldn’t.

    • I’ve given this a bit of though recently. US college athletics are really pretty unique. In some ways, the tradition and culture isn’t far off from what people in Europe have developed for their local clubs.

      The difficulty in the college game, particularly for sports where college is the main pipeline, is that the teams don’t really control their own farm system. Look at the Sixers and the process. I could imagine the NBA looking to duplicate the European academy system to control and develop their own talent. Beats “the process” and tanking to get favorable draft positions. Of course, with the popularity of college basketball (and all the money in the NCAA) an academy/minor league system has a snowball’s chance in hell.

      NCAA soccer doesn’t have much going for it other than the promise of giving young players a plan B (diploma). Of course, there’s nothing preventing a retired pro from enrolling at a university if his or her pro career doesn’t work out. The start is for NCAA to go to double the length of their schedule and make it a year-round sport. Or, just give up on competing with the academies and make it a sport for scholar/athletes who want to play but don’t have any ambitions beyond the college game.

      • NBA Commish Adam Silver has said in interviews that he sees the NBA moving towards a European Academy model eventually.
        Main reason is that the quality of basketball players isn’t as good as it was 20 years ago. The athletic ability is way better, but the basketball skills pale in comparison. Today it’s all dunks and threes.
        Also the NBA is growing tired of the NCAA, and the FBI’s investigation into teams, recruiting, and gambling could be the thing that pushes the NBA to go the Academy route.
        The Academy route would solve the leagues biggest issues: 2 awful teams in New York, “The Process,” and would give the G-League a huge boost and significance that is lacking.

      • I can see the academy style system working in the NBA. This would eliminate “one-and-done” NCAA players and players going to Europe for a year to avoid playing in college. If done right, the thing we all watch college basketball for, the tournament, could be saved.
        Here’s my crazy idea: create two tournaments. One similar to the US Open Cup. One similar to the current NCAA Tournament.
        The open cup would be a season long competition, in the same style as the USOC with higher level teams entering as the tournament progresses, games every other week or so. All teams, NBA, D-League, NCAA (D-I, II, & III), AAU, and whoever else are eligible.
        This wouldn’t fill the hole left by the NCAA Tournament, so tournament #2 will be a three week long tournament between D-League teams and NCAA D-I. D-League will have replaced the “blue blood” programs as the place for NBA talent, so we need those teams to match the level of basketball currently seen in the NCAA tourney. We need to keep the conference champion auto-bids so that we can still have to root for the underdog, so Loyola Chicago can upset the Maine RedClaws.
        But the NCAA makes way too much $$$ on the tourney, so I don’t see this happening anytime soon. NBA would need to be the one to take action to make this happen.

      • The way the NBA could “upend” the NCAA’s pretty remarkable tournament business is to sign these players to decent contracts and get them on TV. Most of these kids would probably be happy to forgo college and just sign a pro contract right out of high school.

        But yeah, it’s a tall task given how big NCAA March Madness is.

    • “Shouldn’t we want college soccer fixed and to succeed?”
      (No affront intended here) In my mind, that’s not too much different than saying, “Shouldn’t we be able to get this mini-van fixed up enough to run in the Daytona 500?”. And, of course, the answer is, “No, it’s a mini-van.”
      The game and it’s development mechanisms have long passed by college soccer. Nobody really wants players who are already 21-22 by the time they become available AND they’ve spent 3-4 of their most valuable/formative years in systems that are nothing like what they’ll see in the pros.
      It’s an old American model that doesn’t work for this sport, and it should have been sent to the scrap heap years ago.

  15. The college draft will continue to be important in USLs 2 divisions, but less so at MLS level

  16. Can’t believe it, this was a great move. Something ($$) for nothing (College kids who will never make pro’s).

    However, currently this team is worse than it was last year. Lots of holes to fill (haha), once again no real $ and time is ticking!!!!

  17. TRADE SAPONG! So Curtain can’t play him 😉

  18. Well this is news that makes me smile. Tanner is not Stewart. He seems to have a much different view of how to build this team. Time will tell if it works out. But let’s face facts… just this off season is already better. This is a move we all hope will better the team. Pretty cool… for a change!

  19. Great move Union,,,,, College soccer is only good for a education not good for players to develop, they regress, ‘seen some make all conference who cant pass or settle a ball, kick and run High School ball on Steroids

  20. Physicals on Monday.
    First training sessions on Tuesday.
    Where is our #10?
    Feels like groundhog day.
    C’mon front office get this done now so the guy doesn’t have to spend the first 1/3 of the season getting used to his teammates!

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