Thursday marks the official start of the men’s NCAA Tournament, with the first round kicking off at 16 different sites around the nation.
Major League Soccer scouts are sure to be on hand at various stadiums, tracking and keeping an eye on potential players for January’s college draft.
Here are 11 seniors and juniors to keep an eye on this week.
M Tanner Thompson, Indiana (Junior)
The brother of current San Jose Earthquake Tommy Thompson, Tanner has quietly excelled once again for the Hoosiers. While he’s not high on the list of potential Generation adidas candidates, the junior midfielder is talented and capable of competing at the next level. A dream run for the Hoosiers might open doors.
D Cole Seiler, Georgetown
Plenty of ink has been spelled about the quality of Joshua Yaro, Seiler’s partner in central defense. But Seiler’s no slouch, and the South Carolina native is deserving of a long look at the professional level. While a case can be made about how he is aided playing next to Yaro, Seiler’s been a starter on the Hilltop since his freshman year, a quality defender who reads the game well and is excellent with this distribution.
M Amass Amankona, Dayton
Questions about his position are likely to come with Amankona, a tricky central midfielder who has displayed a dazzling array of skills for the Flyers this season. The senior and Ghana native could potentially shift out to a wing role, where his passing and creativity could become an asset. Dayton opens its tournament on Thursday night at home against Oakland.
F Kyle Parker, Charlotte
The Offensive MVP of the Conference USA, Parker bagged 12 goals in 18 games and looks like one of the better options up front when it comes to seniors. The 49ers open the tournament on Thursday night at home against Radford, where he’ll look to build momentum heading towards the January draft.
M Jacori Hayes, Wake Forest (Junior)
Jack Harrison’s explosion onto the scene is the talk of the town in Winston-Salem, overshadowing a quality central midfielder like Jacori Hayes. Tidy in possession and a key in the midfield next to Ian Harkes, Hayes’ importance for the No. 1 overall seed is even higher if Michael Gamble doesn’t recover from his injury in time.
D Patrick Foss, Virginia (Junior)
The former D.C. United Academy and U.S. youth national team defender has held a firm grip on the left back spot this campaign, despite playing through a hip injury. Left backs are a scarce commodity in North American soccer, and a strong tournament performance could end up drawing interest for Foss, a junior who is on course to graduate this December.
F Ben Polk, Syracuse (Junior)
Are we about to see another Dom Dwyer-like rise? Polk is a junior college transfer and UK native who is catching fire at the right time. The stoutly-built forward is capable of playing with his back to goal, and has three goals in his last two games (both ACC tournament games). He’ll have the opportunity to continue that momentum if Syracuse can put together a deep run, perhaps earning a Generation adidas offer along the way.
D Jordan McCrary, North Carolina
Another left back option, McCrary is flying a touch under the radar after missing the 2014 season with a torn ACL. With his injuries well in the past, McCrary leads the team in minutes played with 1,657, starting all 18 games of the season. Athletic, tough in the tackle and able to join the attack, he’s a potential first round pick who can reinforce that suggestion with a strong tournament.
Despite losing in the ACC semifinals, the Tigers’ stock is soaring after the team earned the No. 2 tournament seed. Fisher, a center back who has missed the last three games due to injury, can improve his draft stock if he’s healthy enough to step on the field and lead Clemson to a deep run.
D Liam Doyle, Ohio State
A left-footed center back and Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, Doyle and the Buckeyes came up short of a Big Ten tourney title against Maryland on Sunday. The 6-foot-4 defender has the size to succeed in Major League Soccer, and he’ll get the chance to show that he’s worth a draft pick despite requiring an international roster spot. The No. 9 seed faces the winner of the Dayton-Oakland first round match.
GK Connor Sparrow, Creighton
Making the leap from college soccer to the pro ranks in goal is a difficult path to tread, simply because of the lack of opportunities in MLS. Sparrow has been tremendous in goal for the Bluejays, showing the ability to make timely saves when not called upon for long stretches of Creighton’s matches. The Omaha power, seeded No. 12, faces either Kentucky or Drake on Sunday.