To say it was an eventful 2023 MLS SuperDraft for Charlotte FC would be an understatement. Coming into the SuperDraft, Charlotte had the 20th pick overall pick but through leveraging allocation money traded to acquire the #1 and #12 overall picks. A move that many likely weren't expecting.
“We thought that this year that the draft had some interesting players that we liked, talented players,” said Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. “We also liked that they had something we are missing in our squad that we will be able to develop.”
Charlotte became the first team since D.C. United in 2003-04 to number one overall in consecutive SuperDraft. They utilized the pick to dip their hand back into the Carolina collegiate pool to select Clemson defender and 2021 NCAA College Cup Champion Hamady Diop first overall.
Originally from Senegal, Diop came to the United States when he was 14 years old to pursue his dream of playing soccer professionally. When Diop first arrived at Clemson, it was none other than current CLTFC player and 2022 SuperDraft pick George Marks that took him under his wing. The duo will be reunited at Charlotte FC, something that they’re both looking forward to, with Diop referring to Marks as like an older brother.
A versatile defender, Diop has played across the entire backline throughout his playing career at Clemson. His athleticism is immediately noticeable, but CLTFC Director of Scouting, Thomas Schaling, highlighted his ball-carrying, passing, and ability to defend in large spaces as his standout traits.
Charlotte FC had the second-highest average attendance in their inaugural season, and when asked about the prospect of potentially playing in front of over 35,000 people, this is what Diop had to say.
“I’m super excited... It’s just great knowing how invested the fans are in the team.”
Diop isn’t the only one excited about his arrival in Charlotte. The coaching staff is looking forward to helping Diop realize his full potential. Developing local youth has always been a priority of the club, and Diop is a player the coaches are particularly excited to work with.
“Christian Lattanzio and his team are the types of coaches who like to develop players,” said Krneta.”The coaches are excited. They know him and are really excited to develop him to be a cornerstone of the team.”
The first round of the SuperDraft didn’t stop with Diop, however. The 12th pick was used to acquire striker Patrick Agyemang from the University of Rhode Island, who to Krneta’s surprise, was still available.
Similar to the story of Charlotte FC midfielder Derrick Jones, Agyemang was born to Ghanaian parents who immigrated to the United States to forge a better life for their children. Agyemang played several sports growing up, but nothing came close to what he felt when playing soccer.
“The people around me, my bothers, my family, it was always soccer,” said Agyemang in an interview with MLS. “Soccer was the one thing that always stood out to me... soccer is what made me realize this was my passion.”
Agyemang brings a physical and athletic profile up top that the Club currently lacks. Standing at 6’4, he is physically imposing but is deceptively light on his feet. The talented forward is capable of gliding past players by leveraging his speed, strength, and technical ability.
Charlotte rounded up their busy night by selecting forward Nick Scardina from the University of Washington with the 40th pick and midfielder Andrew Privett from Penn State with the 69th pick.
The 2023 SuperDraft picks will train with the Charlotte FC first team, and from there, coaches will assess whether they will continue with the first team or move to Charlotte’s MLS Next Pro team.
Having a Next Pro team for the 2023 season is a luxury that Charlotte didn’t have the previous season. It serves as a bridge between the Academy and First Team as well as a place where college players or signings can continue their development under the Club’s umbrella.
“I think it is huge, it really helps us because last season if we drafted a player and for whatever reason can’t get into the first team, then you practically kill a career,” Krneta said on having an MLS Next Pro team. “What MLS Next Pro gives us is the ability for players to train with the first team, but if it doesn’t work out, they can continue their development with us. That for us, is crucial.”
As for the rest of the offseason activity, Krneta stressed that the SuperDraft was just the start of an action-packed offseason the Club plans on having.
“[The SuperDraft] is a punctuation mark of the start of preseason. It’s the start of things happening. It’s definitely not the end, but just the very beginning of things.”