On Thursday, Daniel Pereira made Virginia Tech and MLS history as the #1 overall pick in the 2021 MLS Draft. Pereira becomes just the third Hokie to be selected #1 overall in a professional draft, along with Michael Vick and Bruce Smith. The Tech sophomore was taken by Austin FC as the first-ever draft pick by the new MLS club. Austin FC and Pereira will kick off the 2021 MLS season in March.
The top five selections were all from the ACC - Virginia Tech (1), Wake Forest (2), & Clemson (2). Many mock drafts had Pereira as a high-first round selection, but it came as a surprise to see Austin FC take him first overall. That speaks to the upside the new MLS club sees in the Hokies’ midfielder and the style of play they are likely looking to implement this upcoming season.
The Roanoke, VA native was named to the 2019 All-ACC Freshmen team. He had just one full season and the abbreviated fall schedule in Blacksburg, playing in 26 matches scoring six times, and providing six assists during that stretch. Pereira is one of just a handful of players signed to MLS Generation Adidas contracts this season, meaning that he will forego the spring NCAA season and head straight to MLS.
Based on the unique nature of this school year, the men’s and women’s soccer seasons were moved to the spring, despite the short schedule of friendly matches that took place this past fall. As such, the majority of players drafted will have the option to play in the spring with their university before turning pro.
Austin FC joins MLS this year as the 27th club in the league but will have lofty expectations. They are opening a newly built 20,500 seat stadium in Austin, TX — spare a moment to check out these amazing renderings. If you’ve heard of Austin FC before this and don’t regularly follow MLS, it is likely based on one of the investing partners in the ownership group - actor Matthew McConaughey.
In the second round, the Houston Dynamo selected attacker Kristo Strickler, as the 30th overall pick. Strickler has 67 appearances for Tech with 27 goals and nine assists as he heads into his senior season in Blacksburg.
Senior goalkeeper Mathijs Swaneveld was also considered a late-round draft prospect with 45 matches for VT to date and named to the third team All-ACC last season. While he wasn’t selected in the three rounds of the MLS Draft, he will likely look to go pro following Tech’s spring season, either signing as a free agent with MLS or USL or testing his chances in one of Europe’s lower leagues. You can view the entire 2021 MLS draft results here - MLS Draft Tracker.
Austin FC begin their inaugural season in MLS later this spring. Traditionally the MLS season starts in March; however, it may be adjusted back based on COVID restrictions or if clubs favor more summer/fall games which may be able to have crowds.