Clemson, S.C. -- It was a historic day for the Clemson men’s soccer program, as Philip Mayaka (#3), Kimarni Smith (#4) and Justin Malou (#27) were all taken in the opening round of Thursday’s 2021 MLS SuperDraft. Today’s draft marked the first time in program history that three Clemson players were selected in the first round, in addition to it also being the first time two Tigers were taken within the draft’s top-five picks.
During Head Coach Mike Noonan’s 11-year tenure at the helm of Clemson’s program, the Tigers have had 17 players selected in the annual MLS SuperDraft, with seven of those players having been drafted during the past three seasons.
“It’s a historic day in the long history and tradition of our soccer program,” reflected Noonan following the draft. “I’m very proud of the players, and to have seven players drafted in the last three years speaks really well to Clemson and our program and the steps our staff has been able to take in developing our players.”
Philip Mayaka was the first Tiger off the board on Thursday, as the Colorado Rapids selected the highly-touted midfielder after making a trade with the Houston Dynamo earlier in the day. Mayaka will join the Rapids in the coming days and will look to slot into the midfield for a team that finished the 2020 season fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 8-6-4.
Kimarni Smith was the next player off the board as D.C. United selected the pace-filled forward with the fourth pick in the draft. Smith was the second forward selected on Thursday and recently completed a stellar 2020 campaign with the Clemson Tigers. Last season, D.C. United finished 13th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 5-12-6 and scored 25 goals.
Justin Malou was selected by the Columbus Crew with the final pick in the first round on Thursday. The defender will bring a wealth of experience to Columbus as an outside back, along with a keen sense of one-on-one defending. Columbus selected Malou at the conclusion of the first round after being crowned the 2020 MLS Cup Champions.
When Clemson takes the field this spring, it will be without the services of Mayaka and Grayson Barber, as both have already signed professional contracts. With Smith and Malou having been selected in today’s MLS SuperDraft, it does not immediately impact their eligibility in this upcoming season. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to monitor the status of each player as they begin conversations with their respective clubs.