Throughout the 2012 college season, TopDrawerSoccer.com will closely track some of the top candidates likely to make a successful jump to the pro ranks – whether in MLS or elsewhere – and update them on a weekly basis. Make sure to also check out our player rankings, expected out this week, as well as a rundown of MLS Academy players in college.
Here are forty prospects, 30 who will be seniors and 10 possible GA candidates to look out for this fall – excluding MLS Academy prospects.
We’ll update this list and track performances throughout the season:
Senior Pro Prospects
MF Jose Altamirano, San Diego State: Three years ago, Altamirano got a look with the U.S U20 Men’s National Team. Since then, he has fallen off the radar in the national landscape. His play has not slipped though, and he still has supporters in high places. The deft midfielder might not have the wheels that most MLS teams want, but he has a good touch and a resume that should get him a chance with one MLS team.
MF Carlos Alvarez, Connecticut: The crafty attacking midfielder is at a prominent program and can really tip things into his favor with a good year. However, he’ll face the prospect of having to win over coaches at the pro level, as he’s cut from the attacking midfielder mold without a true position – at least by MLS standards.
F Will Bates, Virginia: A knee injury cut short Bates’ 2011 season, but he showed his quality in spurts before going down with an injury. With a big year for the Cavaliers, there is no doubt he has the tools and will attract plenty of interest.
MF Kyle Bekker, Boston College: The Eagles have a good chance to spring a surprise this season on the rest of the ACC. And wide midfielder/playmaker Bekker is one of those reasons. He’s got pace and the passing ability to contribute in the pro ranks, but will look to leave his mark at this level before making the jump.
GK James Belshaw, Duke: Probably the best senior goalkeeper in the class, albeit with weak competition. His international status (English) will likely dampen his chances of getting picked high in the draft.
F Ashton Bennett, Coastal Carolina: Every coach loves speed, and Bennett’s 23 goals last year was due in large part to his pace and ability to get behind defenses. He’ll get a second chance to prove himself at the collegiate level before turning his eye on the next level.
D Steve Birnbaum, California(m): Birnbaum is a day one starter at the next level, but he likely will not be a top five selection. He is not athletic or flashy enough for MLS scouts to drool over, so he will have to settle with a mid-first round selection. However, he is consistent, he defends well in 1v1 situations, and he is good on the ball.
D Greg Cochrane, Louisville: Left backs are scarce in MLS, and Cochrane is coming off a good summer with PDL side Reading. Another good fall and he’ll likely have scouts talking about his future.
MF Machael David, UC Santa Barbara: The Ghanaian midfielder is battling back from a knee injury two years ago. It slowed David last season, and he lost his starting spot at defensive mid to Fifi Baiden. He will be a defensive midfielder at the next level. His skillset is comparable to Osvaldo Alonso.
MF Paolo DelPiccolo, Louisville: The senior is going to be a fixture for the Cardinals in what will be a challenging season. A central midfielder, DelPiccolo is one of those holding midfield types who has been a three-year starter heading into this fall.
MF Jose Gomez, Creighton: There is so much that Jose Gomez does on the field that never shows up in a postgame stat sheet. His smart passes to relieve pressure, his movement off the ball to open up passing lanes, and his ability to work in tight spaces have taken him a long way in the collegiate game. However, he is the type of player MLS looks past for one reason or another. He will have a professional career, but it is more likely to start outside of the U.S.
D Brock Granger, Louisville: Never count out an experienced player honed under Ken Lolla. Granger’s future in the pros – if he has one – could be useful as he can provide back line depth.
D Taylor Kemp, Maryland: As one of the rare breed in U.S. Soccer – a left back – Kemp attracted some Generation adidas interest after last fall but never seriously considered it. He’ll be a key member in the Terrapins title hopes this year.
D Kory Kindle, CSU Bakersfield: The Roadrunners’ outside back is one of the top defensive prospects in the country. His main weapon is his speed on the flank. The ceiling for Kindle is Sean Franklin, which should be enough for some team to take a chance on him.
M Jonathan Mendoza, Stetson: Most MLS fans probably do not know where Stetson is located in, but that should not take away from Mendoza’s quality. The talented midfielder has put into the work in the Atlantic Sun Conference for the past few seasons and caught the eye of a few college soccer reporters. He has played equally as well in the USL’s Premier Development League for the past two summers against a wide range of competition. Mendoza is going to be a steal in this winter’s draft just because he is not from a well-known conference.
D Tommy Muller, Georgetown: Slightly undersized for a center back, the Hoyas have high hopes for this year, and Muller can kill two birds with one stone with a good season as it will help both his team and professional prospects.
GK Michael O’Keeffe, Fairfield: The New Zealand international had the chance of a lifetime this past summer, competing at the London Olympics with the Kiwis. He’s a three-year starter and will probably get a look from MLS after this fall.
D Everett Pitts, UC Irvine: The towering center back from Irvine will get a shot at the next level due to his speed and size, but there is a lot of room for growth to get him up to MLS level. Pitts’ comparable would be a less skillful David Lopes.
MF Dillon Powers, Notre Dame: His name has been connected with Generation adidas possibilities, and the former U.S. youth international has plenty to prove in his final college season – along with the entire Irish squad.
D Jonny Raj, Fairfield: Every year under the radar players force their way into consideration despite playing for lower profile programs. And the New Zealand-born Raj is one of those, a top class defender who will have to overcome his international status to get an MLS shot.
MF Andrew Ribeiro, Creighton: If Gomez passes on MLS, the streak for Creighton sending players to the league will fall on Ribeiro. The utility player is versatile enough that he will draw interest from scouts, but he may fit into a more defensive role at the next level.
MF Nik Robson, New Mexico: The New Zealand center midfielder decided to transfer to the Lobos this season after a successful three seasons with UCF. Robson is tall, skillful, and decent in dead ball situations. His speed of play will be the big question for MLS scouts.
F Charlie Rugg, Boston College: A quick, pacey forward with plenty of experience, Rugg can lead the Eagles to new heights in the ACC – and along the way, attract the attention of professional teams.
D Eric Schoenle, West Virginia: One of the best central defenders in this class, Schoenle’s Mountaineers have lofty ambitions this year, and he’ll need to step up in order to help his team on the field. Along the way, he can reinforce the notion that he’s one of the best central defenders in this class.
F Thomas Schmitt, Akron: Never count out a four-year senior from Akron, and while Schmitt isn’t the most physically impressive player, if he can hold onto his starting spot and score some goals, he’ll certainly get a chance to showcase himself in MLS.
MF Shadow Sebele, West Virginia: An attacking midfielder who can play out wide or in the middle, Sebele’s impact at West Virginia on a very good side is going to set the tone amongst how he is viewed by the pro coaches watching this fall.
MF John Stertzer, Maryland: A tall central midfielder who can operate on both sides of the ball, Stertzer is one of three Maryland seniors with a big role to play this fall. Scored 14 goals last year, and elicits comparison of another Terp already excelling in MLS, Graham Zusi.
F Yannick Smith, Old Dominion: The dynamic forward was limited by a concussion at the end of last regular season. Prior to the injury, Smith was scoring goals in bunches in conference play. The jury is still out on his professional prospects though. Does he do one thing well enough to make a difference?
F Emery Welshman, Oregon State: Welshman is Canadian so he is already a Simon Borg favorite (and likely on the radar for the three MLS franchises in Canada). The forward had a ho-hum debut season in the Pac-12 with three goals and seven assists in 18 starts, but expect those numbers to double this fall with more attacking pieces around him.
F Paul Wyatt, James Madison: A versatile and dynamic player, Wyatt is facing high expectations with the Dukes in need of goal-scoring help and he’s coming off a strong junior year.
Generation adidas Candidates
GK Andre Blake, Connecticut (Sophomore): The goalkeeper is a tremendous prospect, and while a GA deal is likely something of a long shot, Blake has the potential and ability to catch the eye of scouts. He’ll look to lead the Huskies on a deep run this year.
F Mamadou Doudou Diouf, Connecticut (Junior): The charmingly named striker knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. Diouf’s main detractor is the school that he attends. The UCONN Huskies rarely see players leave the campus early for Generation adidas deals.
MF Mikey Lopez, North Carolina (Sophomore): A deep-lying midfielder with plenty of ability on the ball, Lopez could see his stock rise if he can help UNC cope with a number of absences.
MF/F Dylan Mares, Louisville (Sophomore): There’s no doubting the quality of a player like Mares, but he has a lot to prove after missing the entire 2011 season with an ACL injury. A big year could perhaps land him a GA deal.
D Eric Miller, Creighton (Sophomore): The industrious right back might see time in the middle for the Bluejays this year, but he certainly has a chance to take a leadership role after Creighton lost a number of key players at the back. If he makes a strong mark on this season, combined with his experience with the U20s, he’ll attract GA interest.
F Patrick Mullins, Maryland (Junior): The former ACC Freshman of the Year has the ability to play professionally – it’s just a question of when and where. A Louisiana native, the Chicago Fire have a Home Grown claim on him that might fall under dispute if he has a strong season on a good Terps team and attracts the eye of other MLS clubs.
F Steve Neumann, Georgetown (Junior): The slashing forward will certainly come under consideration if he has another strong season. Scored 11 goals, added 7 assists in 2011.
MF Pedro Ribeiro, Coastal Carolina (Junior): A tall attacking midfield, Ribeiro is quality and offers a physical presence that would suit MLS. Would need to have a massive season in order to generate enough interest.
F Mark Sherrod, Memphis (Junior): Sherrod burst onto the scene last fall with a breakout performance for the Memphis Tigers. This summer, he continued the hype with a strong showing in the PDL with the Portland Timbers U23 team. He is a target forward who can operate by himself – surprisingly, those are becoming increasingly rare.
D Walker Zimmerman, Furman (Sophomore): The defender, who could probably slip into any spot across the backline, is going to be on the watch list for many MLS teams. He has good size, good athleticism, and he has a decent enough touch for the professional level. Experience with the U.S. U20 MNT will only help showcase his abilities for potentially making the early jump to MLS.