The 2015 college soccer season is on the cusp of kicking off, as the battle for national honors resumes at campuses across the country.
If MLS Academies have proven one thing in their short existence, it’s the ability to stock Division I soccer teams with a number of decent players for the college level. Tracking those players as they battle for a potential contract one day will continue on TopDrawerSoccer.com this fall.
Below is a team-by-team preview of some of the MLS Academy products dotting the college ranks ahead of the 2015 season.
Northwestern is set to rely on senior forward Joey Calistri to lead the attack. The striker enters the 2015 season with 27 goals in 58 college games for the Wildcats.
One of South Florida’s key returning starters is midfielder Marcus Epps, who started and played in all 20 games in 2014, scoring three goals and adding two assists.
Midfielder Alex Underwood is back with Denver for his sophomore season, after spending last year as a key reserve. Joining Underwood on the roster from Indiana Fire Academy is defender Dan Mooney.
Notre Dame is likely to put a lot on sophomore Jeff Farina after the 6-foot-3 target man’s solid opening season in South Bend last fall. He scored two goals and added seven assists in 21 games, mostly from the bench.
A couple of big pieces on the Indiana back line were supplied by the Fire Academy. Along with hulking center back Grant Lillard, who enters his second season in Bloomington, freshman Andrew Gutman is part of the school’s 2015 recruiting class after helping the Fire Academy hoist the U18 national title this summer. He’ll battle for minutes at the back.
Gutman is far from the only Fire Academy player hitting the college ranks. Also included in new classes are Rashad Boyd (Longwood), Oscar Gonzalez (UIC), Mike Jimenez (UIC), Jack Niestrom (Butler), Jacob Rooth (Creighton), Peter Schropp (Georgetown), Shannon Seymour (Northwestern), Ryan Sierakowski (Michigan State) and Robert White (Northwestern).
As usual, expectations are high for Creighton with a talented roster of domestic and international talent. Rapids Academy midfielder Ricardo Perez is an important piece of that, providing midfield depth either in a starting role or from the bench. Two other Rapids Academy players, midfielder Elias Helbig, join Perez on the Bluejays roster this fall.
Stanford’s expected No. 1 goalkeeper is Rapids product Andrew Epstein. He started 19 games in goal last fall for the Pac-12 side, making 55 saves.
Other Rapids newcomers to the DI ranks include Will Herzl, Miles Chow (Loyola Marymount), Nathan Braaten (Oregon State), Quentin Pearson (Washington), Sam Raben (Wake Forest) and Chris Reichman (UAB).
Senior midfielder Connor Klekota is back for Notre Dame after making 20 appearances in 2014, 14 of them starts. Fellow Crew alumnus and senior Andrew Souders is one of Akron’s key players at the back ahead of the new season.
Junior center back Alex Crognale enters this season as one of Maryland’s starters in the Big 10. He played in 20 games, making 16 starts for the Terps in 2014.
Also close to home with the Buckeyes from the Crew Academy are senior midfielders Zach Mason and Kyle Culbertson, junior defender Tyler Kidwell, and CSA Wolves forward Nathan Kohl, who transferred there this year.
Other notable CSA Wolves alumni in college includes Michigan State defenders Ken Krolicki and Jimmy Fiscucs, Spartan freshman forward Hunter Barone, UC Santa Barbara forward Ahinga Selemani and Samuel Brown at Harvard, who was the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year in 2014.
Ian Harkes is set to be one of Wake Forest’s key midfielders this year as a junior. Redshirt sophomore Rafael Fagundo will battle for minutes in central defense for the ACC side.
College Park is a home away from home for several of United’s Academy graduates. Goalkeeper Dakota Niedermeier gets the nod between the posts for Maryland this year, while Suliaman Dainkeh is a reserve defender who played 10 times in 2014. Midfielder Michael Sauers will get minutes in the midfield, and freshmen Eryk Williamson, Daniel Reeves and Jorge Calix have to stake a claim for minutes. Also new to Maryland this season from the D.C. Academy is graduate student transfer Cody Albrecht.
Plenty of United alumni have made their way to nearby Charlottesville and compete for reigning champions Virginia. That includes junior defender Patrick Foss, Marcus Salandy-Defour and freshman Jean-Christophe Koffi.
Freshmen talent on rosters this season include Alonzo Clarke (Akron), Austin Pelto (James Madison), James Knoebel (Old Dominion), Brennan Ireland (Penn State), Owen Marshall (Columbia) and Patrick Jean-Gilles (UMBC).
Harvard defender Mark Ashby is one of college soccer’s best at the back, and he’ll certainly be a big part of the Crimson’s Ivy League title dreams this season.
Former club teammate Nicholas Rochowski, also a center back, is a redshirt junior at New Mexico, where FCD Academy alumnus Patrick Khouri is also rostered.
Ashby’s not the only center back with high expectations in the college ranks. Under-the-radar program Florida Gulf Coast will rely on another FCD grad in its back line, center back Aaron Guillen, who played in every match for the Eagles last season.
The Furman offense will run through a pair of FC Dallas Academy players once again this year. Bobby Edet and Marco Ortiz are both juniors for the Southern Conference power, and are joined on the roster by incoming junior transfer Marco Carrizales.
While the local pipeline doesn’t exist at SMU as it does in some other markets, the Mustangs do have a couple of promising FCD Academy talent, including defender Jordan Cano and forward Abdul Yassine.
Defender Kristoffer Reaves played in 19 games, all starts, on the way to earning All ACC honors at Wake Forest in 2014. He’ll be a key cog in the Demon Deacons defense under the new coaching staff.
Club teammates Louis Thomas and Christian Diaz are on the books in Morgantown, ready to lead another push at a Mid-American Conference title with West Virginia. Former Mountaineer and Dynamo Academy product Alex Ochoa transferred back closer to home at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Defender Bradley Bourgeois is a senior this fall for Tulsa, set to cap off a strong college career in Oklahoma. Goalkeeper Fernando Pina is on the move, transferring to Coastal Carolina this year, while Matthew Dorsey and Gabriel Camera seek an increased role at New Mexico after both redshirting last fall.
The late homegrown signing of Christian Lucatero deprives the college ranks and Oregon State of a bright talent. His former club teammate David Brown will head to Beaverton as a freshman.
A whopping 10 former Galaxy Academy players currently sit on the UCLA roster for 2015. Goalkeeper Juan Cervantes is in the running for the starting spot vacated by Earl Edwards, while Javan Torre, Grady Howe, Christian Chavez, Brian Iloski, Nathan Smith and Willie Raygoza will be in the running for minutes. Three Galaxy Academy freshmen step onto the roster: Dakota Havlick, Robert Knights and Malcolm Jones.
While the bulk of the LA Galaxy freshmen seem to have flocked to Westwood for college, a slew of others are at campuses across the country, as Elan Koenig (Wisconsin), Santiago Digiuseppe (San Francisco), Michael Lopez (UC Irvine), Dylan Smith (UC Riverside) and Chris Segovia (California) are among the alumni entering their first year in college soccer.
Given the presence of former LA Galaxy Academy assistant Eddie Soto at San Francisco, it’s no shock to see a quartet of former LA Academy players on the roster. That includes sophomores Manny Padilla, Justin Schottenhammer, Aaron Lombardi along with freshmen Santiago Digiuseppe.
New Mexico goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu made 11 appearances as a freshman last season, 10 of those starts. With three other netminders on the roster, he’ll need to be at his best to keep his starting spot.
New England Revolution
Freshman goalkeeper Austin Aviza has a shot at the starting goalkeeper job in Syracuse his first year. He earned the starting nod in the team’s final preseason game against Connecticut as the Orange look to replace Alex Bono. Sophomore midfielder Danny Apajee made just two appearances, and will look for increased minutes this year.
New York Red Bulls
Virginia is a popular destination for Red Bulls Academy products. Currently dotting the roster in Charlottesville is senior defender Scott Thomsen, sophomore defender Nate Odusote, and first-year players Derrick Etienne, Wesley Wade and Malcolm Dixon.
Few prominent DI schools boast as many for Red Bulls alumni as Georgetown. From senior striker Brandon Allen, junior Alex Muyl, sophomores Arun Basuljevic and Christopher Lema, to freshmen Ethan Lochner and Kyle Zajec, there’s no shortage of standouts set to play on the Hilltop this fall.
Some of college soccer’s brightest talents hail from the Red Bulls Academy, including midfielder Adam Najem (Akron), defender Kevin Politz (Wake Forest), midfielder Steven Echevarria (Wake Forest), goalkeeper Evan Louro (Michigan), defender Brandon Tetro (Rutgers), midfielder Anthony Viteri (Boston University), forward Alexander Tejera (Siena College), defender Billy Stevens (Michigan), midfielder Erik Sa (Rutgers and Ethan Vanacore Decker (Louisville).
New York City FC
Orlando City SC
Midfielder Noah Franke provided depth for Creighton as a freshman in 2014, appearing in 21 games from the bench. He’ll be angling for more playing time this fall as the Bluejays battle it out in the Big East.
Two South Florida newcomers hails from the expansion club’s academy: goalkeeper Jake Stone and defender Chandler Maynes. Other freshmen include Dennis Zapata (Florida Gulf Coast), Gorka Aperribay (UCF), Aiden Wixted (NC State) and Aaron Kleinert (UC Riverside).
The Union’s murky academy alumni picture recently became clearer when the team actually started its own teams in the Dev. Academy.
Senior forward Darius Madison is reportedly joining the UMBC roster in time for this season after being suspended from Virginia for violating team rules. Fellow senior Keegan Rosenberry (Georgetown) is looking to shed his homegrown label and trained with different MLS clubs this summer.
This year’s crop of freshmen is certainly impressive. Sean Wilson (North Carolina), Will Campbell (North Carolina), Sebastian Elney (Maryland), Kevin Carvalho (Northeastern), Morgan Hackworth (Syracuse), Nick Jachwak (Temple) and John Schroeder (Delaware) are among the first-year players at the DI level.
Midfielder Foster Langsdorf is one of two Timber Academy graduates at the Farm in Stanford. He spent last season in a reserve role, while college teammate Sam Werner is a redshirt freshman.
A handful of former Timbers Academy players are in Beaverton for the upcoming campaign. They include freshmen defenders Nick Ballenger, John Chambers, redshirt freshmen midfielder Alex Segovia and forward Rolando Velazquez.
Three Timbers are at Akron, all looking to play more prominent roles this season. Midfielders Jesse Garcia-Aguilar and Anthony Macchione were in and out of the starting lineup for most of last season, while defender Niko De Vera made just two appearances in 2014.
Real Salt Lake
Former U.S. U17 MNT player and RSL-AZ grad Corey Baird enjoyed a stellar freshman year in 2014, scoring four goals and adding four assists while playing in 19 games. Junior midfielder Trevor Hyman and fellow RSL alum, mainly a reserve over the past two seasons, is angling for more minutes this year.
A trio of players – Tate Schmitt, Andrew Brody and Jack Gayton – are on the roster at Louisville as the Cardinals look to duke it out for an ACC title. Brody finished with three goals and four assists last season as a sophomore.
From the large class of freshmen, Paul Bin, Amar Sejdic and Diego Silva headed east to Maryland, where they'll suit up and battle for minutes for the Terps in the fall. Silva is penciled in as the team’s starting left back ahead of Friday’s season opener.
San Jose Earthquakes
Ace striker Amir Bashti didn’t leave the Bay Area for his college career, as he’ll look to fight for minutes in his first year as a freshman. He’s part of an impressive crop of first-year Quakes players in college, which includes potential Georgetown starting goalkeeper and U.S. youth national teamer J.T. Marcinkowski.
Injuries nagged Joshua Morton during an otherwise impressive freshman campaign, limiting the California center back to just 14 appearances in the 2014 season. He’ll be in the running once again to start in defense for the Bears.
Jordan Morris is arguably the most noticeable name amongst MLS alumni in college. The U.S. men’s national team striker is healthy after surgery in the summer and ready to lead Stanford as a junior.
While Morris nabs the headlines, right behind him in terms of potential pros is UCLA forward Seyi Adekoya. The sophomore enjoyed a promising start to his college career last fall before a broken foot ended his season early.
Seven former Sounders Academy players remain on the Washington roster. Senior leaders include Michael Gallagher, Ryan Herman, Jim Oganga and Ian Lange provides the bulk of the experience. Two freshmen, Ryan Degroot and goalkeeper Saif Kerawala and sophomore midfielder Henry Wingo are also close to home ready to battle for a Pac-12 title.
Defender Eric DeJulio is a senior this fall for Creighton, expected to fill a starting role once again after playing every minute of the 2014 season. He’s joined on the Bluejays roster by freshman forward Bryce Gibson.
Junior Seo-In Kim is now on the West Coast after transferring from Duke to UCSB for this year.
North Carolina attacking pair Zach Wright and Andy Lopez are both sophomores at Chapel Hill, seeking more minutes in the upcoming season.
Senior striker Nate Opperman is back in Evansville for his final year of eligibility. He has five goals in 47 career appearances.
On the back of Nick Besler’s graduation, there’s a nice tradition of Kansas City-area players at Notre Dame that goalkeeper Ryan Krutz continues as a freshman. The starting spot in goal is up for grabs, but it’s a long shot as he’s battling with a couple of more experienced players.
Jay Chapman signed with TFC after a quality career at Michigan State, though a TFC Academy product remains in the form of sophomore midfielder Michael Marcantognini.
Big things are on the horizon this season for Daniel Jodah at Marshall. A member of the preseason All Conference Team in the Conference USA, Jodah’s attacking verve is crucial to the Thunder Herd’s offensive hopes for the upcoming season.
It's a big season for Sergio Camargo. The Coastal Carolina junior has shown flashes of a potential pro, but was reduced to mainly a bench role in 2014, making just 10 starts in 21 appearances. That doesn't tell the whole tale, as the attacking midfielder/forward can make a big impression this year that could make an impression with TFC.
A trio of promising young defenders from the TFC Academy dot the college ranks. Duke’s Kevon Black was a fixture last year as a freshman, same for central defender Alain Sargeant at George Mason. Eli Roubos transferred to Florida Gulf Coast and should see significant time there this season.
The goalkeeping tradition runs deep from the Whitecaps Academy into the DI U.S. college ranks. Kentucky’s Callum Irving was one of the best players last year and is a senior this fall. UNC Wilmington boasts Sean Melvin in goal, while sophomore Nolan Wirth has an opportunity at the starting spot in net for Oregon State this season.
Forward Brody Huitema has experience with the Canadian youth national team, and the hulking striker is a key piece for Duke’s aspirations of an improved 2015.