The Major League Soccer (MLS) draft is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start looking at college soccer’s top prospects. For the seniors, the MLS Combine in Florida provides a great opportunity to showcase their skills one last time in front of MLS team scouts. But for the underclassmen not eligible for a homegrown contract, a Generation Adidas (GA) contract is the way to go. Essentially, if an underclassmen player hasn’t formerly played for MLS youth academy, their best route to the MLS is through a program called Generation Adidas, created by US Soccer to provide the top young talents in college soccer a chance to develop as a professional before graduation. Many MLS clubs are fond of choosing Generation Adidas players early in the draft because these special groups of players do not count against the team’s league-regulated salary.
The amount of Generation Adidas players signed reflects the amount of underclassmen talent in the college game and whether or not these players choose to accept the contract. The players who accept the contract will join the seniors at the Combine in Fort Lauderdale. The number of players in the program can vary anywhere from a handful or so to upwards a dozen. This year’s class has a couple intriguing prospects, but isn’t expected to be as large as some other years. College Soccer News takes a look at the top underclassmen most likely to be offered a Generation Adidas contract.
1. Leo Stolz (UCLA): The Bruins playmaker was the focal point of the UCLA attack, which scored 38 goals en route to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Stolz (11g, 8a), directly contributed to half of the team’s goals, while displaying his technical skill and an uncanny ability to beat players one-on-one. The PAC-12 Player of The Year is talented enough to get playing time immediately upon being drafted. Possibly the best player in the country, Hermann Trophy award finalist would be a sure fire top 5 pick.
2. Andre Blake (UCONN): The Jamaican goalkeeper is a physical specimen at 6’4”, 175 LBS and is rated as the best goalkeeper in this year’s draft. The three time first team all conference selection helped carry the Huskies through postseason play, coming up big winning consecutive penalty shootouts. Blake has had three terrific seasons (0.39 GAA, 0.54 GAA, 0.75 GAA) in Storrs and is a guarantee to be offered a contract by Generation Adidas. This athletic beast has great shot blocking ability and could start Day 1 on many MLS squads.
3. Tommy Thompson (Indiana): The Hoosier freshman was one of the most dynamic players in all of college soccer this past year. The 5’7” forward’s eligibility as a Generation Adidas candidate is still up in the air, as the San Jose Earthquakes have submitted a bid to claim him as a homegrown product. Regardless, Thompson’s quickness and on ball skill has him primed to be one of the top picks in the draft. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year led the eight time national champs in almost every offensive category. If eligible, Thompson is without a doubt a top 10 pick.
4. Christian Dean (California): The College Soccer News Third Team All American Selection was a bit overlooked due to the production of his center back counterpart Steve Birnbaum, but Dean is the real deal. The massive defender (6’3”, 198 LBS) has a great vertical leap and the general athleticism to compete at the next level. Dean was a key part to the Golden Bears surge to the top of this year’s national rankings and is definitely a prospect for the future. Dean was off the radar prior to the season, but the left footed center back now seems bound to be a top 10 pick.
5. Schillo Tshuma (Maryland): The two time All-ACC honoree helped the Terps form the most dangerous attack in all of college soccer over the past two years. Tshuma speed and overall athleticism makes him one of the most sought after prospects in the pool. The Zimbabwean forward had a mediocre College Cup, but his overall career in general should overlook one poor weekend. The versatile forward has raw talent, which has helped him accumulate 16 goals as a Terrapin, but he’ll need to work on other aspects of the game to make it at the next level. Tshuma may decide to stay another year or two, but if he declares for the draft, he may go top 5 due to his huge upside.
6. Cyle Larin (UCONN): Larin, the second Husky on the list had an impressive freshman campaign recording 14 goals (6th in NCAA) while helping lead UCONN to the elite eight. The Canadian forward helped raise his stock through a phenomenal NCAA tournament, which saw him notch three goals and an assist in three games. The 6’2”, 190 LBS forward has the size and strength, which translates to the next level. Larin, if offered a contract, is a bit of a project, but he has huge potential.
7. Eric Miller (Creighton): The Bluejays junior is as solid as a defender as there is in the country. Miller (3g, 1a), a youth national team member can play any where in the backline or even at defensive mid which should help his stock. The three year starter covers the flanks well enough to be an instant starter for some teams right away. At 6’1”, 175 LBS, Miller is a good choice for a Generation Adidas contract and will probably have one come draft day.
8. Nick Besler (Notre Dame): Besler may be a bit of a surprise to some people, but the Irish center mid has the pure talent to make it at the next level. Nick, the brother of US national teamer Matt, may not stand out as a flashy player, but he gets the job done. The junior defensive midfielder endured an injury this year, but when healthy he was one of Notre Dame’s most important players on the road to their National Championship. The All-ACC first team honoree covers a lot of ground and would fit in with most MLS teams. Besler has the capability of also playing in the back, which makes him a commodity and with that, he could vie for one of the last GA deals.
Ben Roth is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. He can be reached at Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org