2022 MLS SuperDraft: Maryland's Ben Bender goes No. 1 to Charlotte FC

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  • Maryland Terrapins
    Maryland Terrapins
  • Jacob Bender
    American football offensive lineman

Major League Soccer expansion club Charlotte FC selected Maryland midfielder Ben Bender with the first overall pick during the 2022 MLS SuperDraft on Tuesday.

Bender is the first-ever Maryland Terrapins player selected No. 1 overall in the MLS SuperDraft. The announcement of Bender's selection by Charlotte FC was made by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Bender was named a first-team All-American and the 2021 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year after scoring seven goals with five assists over 18 games with the Terrapins as a sophomore.

“I think I’m ready for this next step,” said Bender, who is leaving school early to go pro. “I think my game will take some time to develop into an impact player, but I think that my vision and spatial awareness and work rate will take me to the next level and will help me to be an impact for Charlotte.”

Bender, a Baltimore native, comes from a soccer family. His brother Jacob played for Messiah University and was the national NCAA Division III Player of the Year in 2016. His brother Josh was also a standout for Messiah.

Jacob Bender went on to play for the USL’s Charlotte Independence in 2017. The younger Bender said the two brothers are similar players.

“We did have a lot of duels, between Jacob and I,” Ben Bender said. “We do this one passing drill for like 20 minutes each training session and I think it’s really allowed me to develop in my technique and my understanding of the game.”

“Charlotte FC is getting a player and person of tremendous quality in Ben Bender,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Ben brings all the attributes necessary to succeed at the MLS level and fans in Charlotte will fall in love with his creativity, flair and love for soccer.”

Charlotte, the league’s 28th team, will open its inaugural season on Feb. 26 at D.C. United.

MORE: NYCFC will play Champions League 'home' match in Los Angeles

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Ben Bender (23, playing for Calvert Hall High School in 2019) was the first pick in Major League Soccer's SuperDraft on Tuesday.
Ben Bender (23, playing for Calvert Hall High School in 2019) was the first pick in Major League Soccer's SuperDraft on Tuesday.

Saint Louis University led all schools with four players selected in the first round. Saint Louis became the third school to have four or more players selected in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, along with Akron (five, 2011) and Wake Forest (four, 2010). Players from 47 colleges and universities were represented in the 75 SuperDraft selections overall, led by Saint Louis and Clemson with six apiece, followed by Washington with five.

Notable former MLS SuperDraft selections include current U.S. men’s national team players such as Miles Robinson (No. 2 overall, 2017 SuperDraft, Atlanta United), Jackson Yueill (No. 6, 2017 SuperDraft, San Jose Earthquakes), Walker Zimmerman (No. 7, 2013 SuperDraft, FC Dallas) and Cristian Roldan (No. 16, 2015 SuperDraft, Seattle Sounders), and Canadian men’s national team members Richie Laryea (No. 7, 2016 SuperDraft, Orlando City) and Tajon Buchanan (No. 9, 2019, New England Revolution).

2022 MLS SuperDraft first-round picks

1. Charlotte FC - Ben Bender, midfielder, Maryland

2. FC Cincinnati - Roman Celentano, goalkeeper, Indiana

3. FC Dallas (from Toronto FC) - Isaiah Parker, forward, Saint Louis

4. Houston Dynamo - Thorleifur Ulfarsson, forward, Duke

5. Austin FC - Kipp Keller, defender, Saint Louis

6. FC Dallas - Lucas Bartlett, defender, St. John's

7. New York Red Bulls (from Chicago Fire FC) - Matthew Nocita, defender, Navy

8. San Jose Earthquakes - Ousseni Bouda, forward, Stanford

9. Inter Miami CF - Ryan Sailor, defender, Washington

10. Nashville SC (from Los Angeles FC through Colorado Rapids) - Ahmed Longmire, defender, UCLA

11. Chicago Fire FC - Kendall Burks, defender, Washington

12. Columbus Crew (from CF Montreal through New York Red Bulls) - Patrick Schulte, goalkeeper, Saint Louis

13. San Jose Earthquakes (from DC United) - Oskar Agren, defender, Clemson

14. FC Cincinnati (from Los Angeles Galaxy) - Ian Murphy, defender, Duke

15. CF Montreal (from New York Red Bulls) - Jojea Kwizera, forward, Utah Valley

16. Vancouver Whitecaps - Simon Becher, forward, Saint Louis

17. Minnesota United - Tani Oluwaseyi, forward, St. John's

18. Orlando City SC - Jack Lynn, forward, Notre Dame

19. Atlanta United - Erik Centeno, forward, Pacific

20. New York Red Bulls (from Seattle Sounders) - O'Vonte Mullings, forward, Florida Gulf Coast

21. Los Angeles Galaxy (from Nashville SC) - Farai Mutatu, forward, Michigan State

22. Sporting Kansas City - Esai Easley, defender, Grand Canyon

23. Colorado Rapids - Mohamed Omar, midfielder, Notre Dame

24. New England Revolution - Jacob Jackson, goalkeeper, Loyola Marymount

25. Columbus Crew (from Real Salt Lake) - Philip Quinton, defender, Notre Dame

26. Colorado Rapids (from Philadelphia Union through Nashville SC) - Anthony Markanich, defender, Northern Illinois

27. Portland Timbers - Justin Rasmussen, defender, Grand Canyon

28. FC Dallas (from New York City FC) - Tsiki Ntsabeleng, forward, Oregon State

The 2022 MLS season kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 26.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS SuperDraft 2022: Charlotte FC selects Maryland's Ben Bender No. 1