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Ben Bender, Roman Celentano lead 2022 MLS SuperDraft

Ben Bender, Roman Celentano lead 2022 MLS SuperDraft
Maryland's Ben Bender was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Photo by Maddie Kyler/Maryland Terrapins

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Maryland midfielder Ben Bender, Indiana goalie Roman Celentano and Saint Louis University forward Isaiah Parker were the first three players selected in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.

New MLS expansion franchise Charlotte FC selected Bender with the first pick Tuesday in the virtual draft. FC Cincinnati and FC Dallas owned the second and third picks, respectively.

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NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson announced the first selection of the draft, which broadcasted Tuesday on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and MLSSoccer.com.

"I've heard the fans are itching to see soccer in Charlotte," Bender said on the broadcast. "I can't wait to get started. I know the futbol down there will be a good brand. I just want to be a part of that."

The Houston Dynamo selected Duke forward Thorleifur Ulfarsson at No. 4. Austin FC selected Saint Louis University defender Kipp Keller at No. 5 overall.

FC Dallas picked three times in the first round. They also selected St. John's defender Lucas Bartlett at No. 6 overall and Oregon State forward Tsiki Ntsabeleng at No. 28 overall.

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FC Cincinnati, the New York Red Bulls, San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids each picked twice. FC Cincinnati took Duke defender Ian Murphy at No. 14, in addition to Celetano. The Red Bulls picked Naval Academy defender Matthew Nocita at No. 7 and Florida Gulf Coast forward O'Vonte Mullings at No. 20.

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The Earthquakes picked Stanford forward Ousseni Bouda at No. 8 and Clemson defender Oskar Agren at No. 13. The Rapids selected Notre Dame midfielder Mohamed Omar at No. 23 and Northern Illinois defender Anthony Markanich at No. 26.

Another 28 players were selected in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft. The third round features 33 selections.

Austin FC selected former Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira with the No. 1 overall pick in last year's MLS SuperDraft. Former Wake Forest forward Calvin Harris and Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka also were among the Top 3 players picked in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft.

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The 2022 MLS season starts Feb. 26. The MLS Cup Playoffs title game is scheduled for Nov. 5.

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