Charlotte FC, the newest expansion club to join the MLS, made Maryland men’s soccer midfielder Ben Bender its first-ever draft selection with the No. 1 overall pick in Tuesday’s MLS SuperDraft.
Bender burst onto the scene in the 11-game spring season in 2021. An untraditional freshman year still allowed the local recruit to earn All-Big Ten Second Team honors after starting every match.
The light sample size was just an appetizer to his breakout campaign just a few months later, however, as a full-length fall season saw the sophomore establish himself as one of the premier draft prospects in the country.
Bender notched seven goals in his sophomore campaign, including five straight during a torrid late-season stretch. He logged a team-high 1,383 minutes and also notched five assists to bring his point total to 19 on the year.
His play elevated the Baltimore native to United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American status and earned the dynamic youngster the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year award.
Bender’s ability as both a surveyor in the midfielder and a relentless attacker thrust him to the top of many draft boards ahead of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.
Charlotte FC made Bender the third Maryland product to be drafted first overall, following in defender Leo Cullen (1998 to Miami Fusion) and midfielder Maurice Edu’s (2007 to Toronto FC) footsteps.
The bright midfielder will become one of the faces of Charlotte FC in its inaugural season and beyond. His professional debut will come in familiar territory when the club debuts at Audi Field against D.C. United on Feb. 26.