On Tuesday the 2016 MLS SuperDraft will continue with the third and fourth rounds. It will be just the second time there has been a fourth round of the draft since 2010, when the draft was reduced from four to three rounds.
Until recently, two rounds of the draft were more than enough. Rarely does a player get drafted beyond the second round and stick with the team that drafted him for more than two seasons. Many of those players quickly end up in the lower leagues, having made little to no impact on the MLS team that drafted them.
There have been some exceptions. In 2010, the Chicago Fire drafted goalkeeper Sean Johnson with the third pick of the fourth round, the 51st pick overall. Johnson would go on to star for the Fire and has earned multiple call-ups to the U.S. national team. However, these situations have proved to be few.
The main reason why so few late round picks stick with their original teams is that these are usually players that are less developed than early round selections. And until recently, there has been no place to develop these players.
But that's beginning to change with the MLS-USL partnership and the addition of "2" teams. Even when late round players were sent on loan before, they generally didn't stick with their original MLS team. That's because when a player is sent hundreds of miles away, the coaches aren't able to see them train every day.
The addition of these MLS reserve teams has changed things. Now, teams like Orlando City can have these late round players train every day with the senior team under the watchful eyes of the MLS coaches. Adrian Heath will see his late round picks train every day and see how they are progressing.
In 2016, 11 MLS teams will have reserve teams playing in USL, with the reserve players training every day alongside the senior team. This is giving several players, that otherwise likely would've ended up leaving the club before making an appearance in a league game, an honest chance to prove themselves.
Ever since the LA Galaxy made the historic decision to field its own reserve team in USL in 2013, people have been weighing the merits of fielding one of these teams. Most arguments for fielding these teams have been to get time for players not seeing enough first team minutes. But with the MLS SuperDraft back at four rounds, it's another reason why MLS teams need a reserve squad.
There are always players in every sport that are overlooked in drafts due to the school they went to or their perceived lack of athletic ability. Some of these players just need the opportunity to show what they can do. In the past, late round MLS draftees weren't given that chance. But with the addition of these USL reserve teams, and there will be more to come, these lesser known players will get that chance. And maybe we'll see more examples like Johnson.