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Ike Opara was widely-regarded as the best defender, and one of the best players available in the 2009 MLS Draft, but only if he actually entered the draft.
It is looking more and more like Opara won't.
According to multiple sources, the 19-year-old Wake Forest sophomore is set to stay in school, a decision that weakens a decent if unspectacular crop of central defenders in an otherwise strong draft.
Opara has yet to step forward and announce a decision, but one league source told SBI over the weekend that Opara is "100 percent not coming out."
So why would Opara stay in school despite being a consensustop three pick in January's MLS Draft? It's pretty simple really.
As one of the top players expected to lead the U.S. Under-20 national team at next summer's Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, Opara will have the chance to play in front of scouts from around the world as a free agent, rather than as an MLS player whose transfer fate would be in the hands of MLS officials.
Opara would also be in position to return from the Under-20 World Cup in time to help lead Wake Forest to another attempt at an NCAA title after the Deamon Deacons fell short in their bid to repeat as NCAA champions earlier this month. MLS would also remain an option, with Opara likely to be the most coveted player in the 2010 MLS Draft, assuming he made himself available.
Could Opara's reluctance to sign with MLS be a bargaining ploy to score a better Generation adidas contract? That looks unlikely, and given the above factors, Opara is actually in a unique position to capitalize on staying in school this time around.
What do you think about Opara staying in school? Think it's a smart decision? Think he should sign with MLS?