With the 2018 MLS SuperDraft right around the corner, United coaches and technical staff prepare to analyze players at MLS Combine to determine the best options to add to the roster for the upcoming season. The Black-and-Red have had major success at the SuperDraft in the past with players like Steve Birnbaum, Nick DeLeon, and Taylor Kemp all kickstarting their professional careers with the annual event. As top players from the NCAA and across the globe descend upon Orlando in an attempt to prove to MLS coaches and general managers that they have the ability to make it at the professional level, United hope to identify another young prospect who can develop into an impact player.
Here's a look at the development of Birnbaum, DeLeon, and Kemp since the players launched their careers with D.C. United at the SuperDraft.
Selected by United with second overall pick in 2014 SuperDraft
School: University of California, Berkeley
One of the biggest United SuperDraft success stories came when the Black-and-Red selected California Golden Bears defender Steve Birnbaum with the second overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Since his acquisition, Birnbaum has solidified himself in United's backline, and his leadership on the field and in the locker room led to him being named team captain in 2017. He's gone on to make 95 regular season appearances for the club since he claimed the starting role in 2014 and his defensive aptitude and aerial ability earned him his first USMNT cap in 2015. The defender has given everything he has for the club since his arrival, and United fans will be hoping that any future SuperDraft picks will show the same pride that Birnbaum displays when he puts on the Black-and-Red uniform.
Selected by United with seventh overall pick in 2012 SuperDraft
School: University of Louisville
Heading into the 2018 season, Nick DeLeon is the most senior player on United's roster. DeLeon was selected seventh overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and the versatile player has seen his position (and hairstyles) adapt over the last six seasons. The 27-year-old stormed into MLS and scored six goals and recorded four assists in his debut season, ultimately being named a finalist in the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year competition. Since joining United, DeLeon has forged a reputation as an agile and athletic midfielder with an eye for goal and the ability to carve out goalscoring opportunities. He permanently etched himself into D.C. United history books and fans' hearts when he scored the game-winner in the second leg of the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs to advance over rivals the New York Red Bulls. Last season, DeLeon transitioned to the backline where he bolstered the defense and doubled as an additional offensive threat on the United counterattack.
Selected by United with 17th overall pick in 2013 SuperDraft
School: University of Maryland
Taylor Kemp has been a formidable force on the left side of the United defense since he was selected 17th overall in the 2013 SuperDraft. The left-footed player impressed MLS coaches during his tenure at the University of Maryland and his success in the DMV continued when he was acquired by D.C. United. Kemp possesses the attacking instincts, defensive traits and fitness levels necessary for performing in the wide defensive areas at the professional level. United fans have become accustomed to the sight of Kemp skillfully meandering down the left flank and latching onto powerful left-footed shots. The accuracy of his left foot has also contributed 15 assists to United over the last five years, as he gets down the flanks and provides pin-point crosses for attackers in the box. Kemp has made more than 100 appearances for the Black-and-Red and added four goals to his 15 assists.
With the SuperDraft approaching and United armed with the #3 overall pick, Black-and-Red fans will be hoping for a selection that can lead United in coming years as Birnbaum, DeLeon, and Kemp have since their arrivals.