Union expected to pick Mwanga first today

Four top prospects visit the Reading Terminal in advance of the MLS SuperDraft. (Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel/Staff Photographer)

The first pick in the history of the Philadelphia Union will take place today, and they are expected to make Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga the first overall selection in today's Major League Soccer SuperDraft at the Convention Center.

The draft will be televised at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.

In the last month, Union general manager Peter Nowak reportedly took a trip to Oregon to persuade Mwanga to play in MLS instead of going to Europe. Mwanga joined the league Dec. 30.

"I'm glad Danny Mwanga signed with the league," said Nowak, who did not confirm the visit to Oregon. "We're sending too many guys to Europe, and they don't really have an idea of what's going on over there."

The Union will pick first in each of the four rounds as the only 2010 expansion franchise in the league, which now has 16 teams.

Nick Sakiewicz, the Union's chief executive officer and operating partner, said earlier in the week that he wouldn't be surprised if the team ended up with more draft picks than it started with. Last night, the Union announced a trade with D.C. United that added a pick.

The Union sent their No. 1 allocation ranking to D.C., allowing United to obtain Troy Perkins, the 2006 MLS goalkeeper of the year. In return, the Union received allocation money, D.C.'s seventh overall pick in today's draft, and Brazilian midfielder Fred. (Brazilian players frequently use one name.)

The Union now hold two of the first seven picks in the draft and the sixth spot in the league's allocation rankings.

Allocation money can be used to sign players and does not count against a team's salary budget. When two teams file a request for the same player on the same day, the team with the higher allocation ranking receives priority.

Today's draft is taking place on the second day of the convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, which will continue in Center City until Sunday.

Mwanga, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds on Oregon State's Web site, scored 14 goals in 18 games in his recently completed sophomore season to win player of the year honors in the Pacific Ten Conference.

He signed with the league as a Generation Adidas prospect, which means his salary will not count against an MLS team's salary budget and which makes him eligible for the draft despite his status as a college underclassman.

Generation Adidas is a joint venture between MLS and U.S. Soccer, the national governing body. It fast-tracks the top players from high school and college into the pro game with incentive-laden contracts.

To be eligible for the draft, players must either be invited to the MLS player combine, signed as Generation Adidas players, or have exhausted their college eligibility.

There are several other top prospects in this year's draft class, including four members of the under-20 men's national team and the Division I player of the year, Teal Bunbury, who played at Akron.

"I would say we know who we're taking in all of our picks right now, based on all the mock drafts that we've done," Sakiewicz said earlier this week. "We certainly know who we're picking first."