[MLS SUPERDRAFT] Ecuadoran Victor Estupinan (Chivas USA) and Uruguayan Paolo Cardozo (Los Angeles Galaxy), two foreigners with no previous connection to U.S. soccer, were taken in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, part of the league's concerted initiative to make South American talent available to its clubs.
According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, credit goes to agent Alejandro Taraciuk, who has opened an MLS scouting office in Buenos Aires. The league also has an office in Tokyo, operated by MLS Asian scouting coordinator Takehiko Nakamura, and it is opening offices in Mexico and Brazil and has plans to expand into Africa.
Taraciuk, a New York University graduate who returned to his native Argentina, is responsible for bringing such players as Colombian Fredy Montero (Seattle) and Argentina Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) to MLS.
Unlike Montero and Morales, who were signed as discovery players, MLS went out and brought six players into the adidas MLS Combine in Florida.
John Rooney, brother of English star Wayne Rooney, got all the headlines, but several of the South Americans were immediate hits in Ft. Lauderdale.
Estupinan, a 22-year-old forward from Liga de Quito, and Cardozo, a 21-year-old midfielder from Argentine club Quilmes, went late in the first round, and 18-year-old Ecuadoran midfielder Joao Plata (also from Liga de Quito) was selected by Toronto FC in the third round.
In 2008, several foreign-based players were also brought into the Combine, but none was taken in the SuperDraft.
As MLS clubs sign more homegrown players and dilute the pool of players available for the SuperDraft, look for the league to bring in more young foreign talent to the Combine.