Soccer Mock Draft: Building the best team using Under-21 players

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With the soccer calendar on hold, theScore’s editors took the opportunity to look ahead to the future. Gordon Brunt, Michael Chandler, Anthony Lopopolo, Gianluca Nesci, and Daniel Rouse participated in a fantasy mock draft with just one stipulation: players had to be 21 or younger to be eligible for selection.

Other mock drafts: Current Players | Legends XI

Round 1

Pick Player Manager
1 Kylian Mbappe (PSG) Brunt
2 Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) Rouse
3 Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus) Nesci
4 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) Chandler
5 Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) Lopopolo

Analysis: To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Mbappe is the first overall pick. That he’s still just 21 years old is, frankly, absurd; he went second overall in our mock draft of all current players. Elsewhere, Nesci is the only manager to go defensive in Round 1.

Round 2

Pick Player Manager
6 Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) Lopopolo
7 Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) Chandler
8 Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund) Nesci
9 Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) Rouse
10 Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) Brunt

Analysis: Round 2 sees a run on defensive-oriented players, even if Alexander-Arnold, Hakimi, and Davies are all supremely talented going forward from their full-back positions. Given the relatively weak crop of Under-21 goalkeepers, Rouse springs for Donnarumma early to ensure he’s set between the sticks.

Round 3

Pick Player Manager
11 Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) Brunt
12 Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) Rouse
13 Sandro Tonali (Brescia) Nesci
14 Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) Chandler
15 Ferran Torres (Valencia) Lopopolo

Analysis: The snake format comes to the fore here, as Brunt, incredibly, comes away from the opening three rounds with Mbappe, Vinicius, and Felix. The three young superstars cost a combined €316 million in transfer fees, and Brunt was able to grab all of them. Highway robbery.

Round 4

Pick Player Manager
16 Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma) Lopopolo
17 Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) Chandler
18 Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes) Nesci
19 Houssem Aouar (Lyon) Rouse
20 William Saliba (Saint-Etienne) Brunt

Analysis: Ligue 1, arguably the greatest talent incubator in world football, shines with a trio of players in Round 4 – even if Saliba is only being groomed at Saint-Etienne before joining parent club Arsenal. What’s more, four of the players are French, highlighting Les Bleus’ wealth of riches.

Round 5

Pick Player Manager
21 Declan Rice (West Ham) Brunt
22 Ibrahima Konate (RB Leipzig) Rouse
23 Ansu Fati (Barcelona) Nesci
24 Boubacar Kamara (Marseille) Chandler
25 Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal) Lopopolo

Analysis: As we’ve seen in previous mock drafts, positional versatility is an enormous bonus when building your squad. Both Rouse and Chandler take that to heart in Round 5; Konate, another RB Leipzig standout, can play multiple defensive positions, while Marseille’s Kamara can shift between central defense and midfield.

Round 6

Pick Player Manager
26 Dan-Axel Zagadou (Borussia Dortmund) Lopopolo
27 Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) Chandler
28 Phil Foden (Manchester City) Nesci
29 Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad) Rouse
30 Mason Mount (Chelsea) Brunt

Analysis: Zagadou, the imposing Borussia Dortmund defender, is the outlier here. That’s another Frenchman if you’re keeping score, by the way. After Chandler takes breakout youngster Martinelli, we get a mini-run on creative midfielders, including “the most talented player” Pep Guardiola has ever seen in Foden.

Round 7

Pick Player Manager
31 Sergino Dest (Ajax) Brunt
32 Mason Greenwood (Manchester United) Rouse
33 Reece James (Chelsea) Nesci
34 Alban Lafont (Nantes) Chandler
35 Boubakary Soumare (Lille) Lopopolo

Analysis: A pair of rising English stars come off the board in Round 7, while another goalkeeper gets snapped up. Lafont, on loan at Nantes from Fiorentina, is the only shot-stopper in his age bracket with the top-flight experience to rival Donnarumma.

Round 8

Pick Player Manager
36 Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan) Lopopolo
37 Max Aarons (Norwich City) Chandler
38 Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad) Nesci
39 Rodrygo (Real Madrid) Rouse
40 Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth) Brunt

Analysis: We’re starting to see selections made based on need, as five different positions are represented in Round 8. Swedish striker Isak, dubbed by some as the country’s successor to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, highlights the depth of today’s young forwards.

Round 9

Pick Player Manager
41 Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) Brunt
42 Ethan Ampadu (RB Leipzig) Rouse
43 Jean-Clair Todibo (Schalke) Nesci
44 Jonathan David (Gent) Chandler
45 Victor Osimhen (Lille) Lopopolo

Analysis: Lopopolo picking up Osimhen, one of Ligue 1’s top scorers prior to the season’s cancellation, represents excellent value in Round 9. Gent forward David is the second Canadian to be selected, which is probably not something you would’ve expected to see at this point last year.

Round 10

Pick Player Manager
46 Andriy Lunin (Oviedo) Lopopolo
47 Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea) Chandler
48 Dejan Kulusevski (Parma) Nesci
49 Brandon Williams (Manchester United) Rouse
50 Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig) Brunt

Analysis: Winger was arguably the most abundant position in this draft, hence Hudson-Odoi and Kulusevski still being available. Meanwhile, Brunt makes another shrewd pick by getting Olmo with his second-to-last selection.

Round 11

Pick Player Manager
51 Eric Garcia (Manchester City) Brunt
52 Emerson (Real Betis) Rouse
53 Maarten Vandevoordt (Genk) Nesci
54 Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) Chandler
55 Marc Cucurella (Getafe) Lopopolo

Analysis: Fittingly, the youngest player in the draft is taken in the final round. Reyna, Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old American playmaker, is three days younger than Camavinga, who went in the fourth round.

Not Selected

Who was the most egregious snub? Have your say in the comments.

Despite the parameters of the draft, there were still several marquee names – primarily attackers – who went unselected. The likes of Moise Kean, Rafael Leao, and Francisco Trincao didn’t make the cut. Ditto for Samuel Chukwueze and Timothy Weah. There was no room for wingers like Justin Kluivert and Ezequiel Barco, either. In midfield, Dominik Szoboszlai and Exequiel Palacios were the notable snubs, while Malang Sarr and Panagiotis Retsos were surprising defensive omissions.

The Teams

Team Brunt

We’ve mentioned this already, but it really is wild that Brunt managed to load up with Mbappe, Vinicius, and Felix. Getting Olmo in support of that electrifying trio is quite the coup, too. It’s asking a lot of Rice to essentially hold down the entire defensive midfield area on his own, but there was always going to be a trade-off when you’re dealing with that much firepower.

Team Rouse

Greenwood, Manchester United’s ambipedal striker, would get plenty of service leading the line for this team. And not only from dynamic wide players Sancho and Rodrygo. The midfield trio is slick and inventive; Odegaard, on loan at Real Sociedad from Real Madrid, was finally delivering on his boundless potential before play was halted this season.

Team Nesci

Balanced and explosive. There’s an impressive blend of technique and physical prowess in this lineup, with the midfield duo of Tonali and Camavinga the prime examples. Vandevoordt, who endured a rather unfortunate Champions League debut with Genk, is the least-inspiring goalkeeper of the five taken, but his exploits would hardly matter behind that solid backline.

Team Chandler

Attack, attack, attack. That’s the mantra for this team, which is loaded with exciting forwards. Even Valverde, the most withdrawn of the front six, has proven adept at bursting through midfield and getting forward during his breakout season with Real Madrid. In Lafont, Upamecano, and Valverde, Chandler’s side has an impeccable spine.

Team Lopopolo

Speed kills, and Lopopolo has put together an absolutely rapid front three. Zaniolo’s no slouch in a straight sprint, either. A formidable center-back duo is buttressed by Guendouzi and Soumare, while Alexander-Arnold is equal parts defensive stalwart and attacking savant from his right-back spot. Overall, we’re dealing with a very well-constructed XI here.

Have Your Say

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