MLS Draft 2009

Sources: Opara staying in school

Ike Opara (ISIphotos.com) 

                                                                 Photo by ISIphotos.com

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?

  • Brian

    My guess is that he wants to play in the U20 World Cup and if he has a strong showing there, he can leave to Europe on a free transfer. If he played in the MLS this year, he would have a harder time getting to Europe.

    If that’s what he is doing, it makes sense.


  • Adam

    U20 WC option very smart, he needs to train his ace off for a spectacular showing!

    Didn’t we just lose out on a 20-something central defender, i can’t recall that guys name though….

    sadly i feel this U20 crop will not be as successful as the 2007 squad.


  • Jay

    The guy was born in North Carolina, his name is Ike, sounds pretty American. You thought because his last name wasn’t Jones he wasn’t American?


  • Jaime

    Any word on two othe Wake GA candidates: Bone and Arnoux? If Wake has those guys back next year, they will be the odds on favorites to win it all IMO.

    Another factor is that Opara enjoys playing for Wake and Vidovich, shockingly – perhaps the same reason Tracy came back for a forth year when he could have bolted last year after being the College Cup MVP?


  • Eugene

    Opara is in a unique position to have confidence he’ll be on that U-20 squad without professional experience.

    I don’t believe what he’s doing will be the beginning of a trend because other players will need the professional experience.


  • Brian


    this U20 WC team is looking like it’s going to be very successful. Most likely Freddy Adu will play as he is not a key part of a club team. There is also a good chance that Jozy will play as well.

    I think we have a good squad when you add in Adu and possibly Altidore, with Opara, Bernardo, Giuseppe Nazzani, Arguez, Flores, Marosevic, and Ibrahim


  • Brian


    He is certainly American. Rongen included him in the last U20 camp that just ended before Christmas.


  • Eugene

    i don’t see either freddy or jozy playing with the u-20s, that would be silly. don’t get your hopes up


  • dos-a-cero

    Sounds like a good move for Opara, leaving him the possibility of going straight to Europe. I am interested in seeing how this group of U-20’s comes together for the WC. They have yet to have a player step up and take the lead, like Freddy or Michael Bradley.



    He can also wait to see what happens with the collective bargaining agreement for MLS players. At that point he will be in a position to see how much he would make in MLS with the new agreement vs. how much he could make abroad. If MLS wages increase for someone in his position, then he may want to stay in the US with MLS rather than worry about getting a contract abroad. This is a smart decision.


  • Marc

    seems like a miscalculation to me. he isn’t going to play a single meaningful game between now and next summer. he surely would be more fit/in form if he turned pro.


  • Brian


    He is going to play in the U20 CONCACAF Qualifying in March and Rongen is going to have extended summer camps with these guys. So Opara will stay active.

    There is a 75% chance Freddy Adu plays in the U20 World Cup. This tournament is in September-October so all players will have a club/country conflict and Freddy is no different. But right now, Freddy is a mere sub for a mid/lower tier French team. If a player like that can’t play in the U20 World Cup, they should just scrap the U20 World Cup. And we all know that won’t happen. Maybe the very best U20 players in the world will stay with their clubs, but FIFA will make it so that most U20 players will play. Plus, if Freddy does well in Egypt, it will only help his value (which has sagged a bit the past year).


  • Eugene

    This doesn’t bode well for U-17 players signing GA contracts, they’re in the same boat with the U-17s WC late in 2009.


  • Modibo

    The U-20 experience and exposure will be invaluable for him, balancing out some of the drawbacks to NCAA soccer compared to pro play (short season, weaker opponents, etc). Also on the plus side, moving further towards his degree and getting lots of minutes.


  • Ryan G

    “his name is Ike, sounds pretty American.”

    You don’t think it could be short for something? I mean, Freddy sounds pretty American too. Doesn’t mean he was born here.


  • Daniel Karell

    Is the reason that the tournament starts really late because it is in Egypt and its too hot during the summer??? Cause the last one in Canada was in July if i remember correctly.


  • Danny

    Yeah, because he would make 13k a year in MLS as a top 3 pick. Yeah, because a degree from Wake REALLY means more than any degree. (I’ve got buddies that have degrees from Wake and I’m less than impressed.) 😛


  • BD

    Ives – Any chance MLS might look to replace him in the GA class with another underclassman? We know Indiana’s Ofori Sarkodie had wanted to go pro after the 2005 U-17s and the 2007 U-20s, might this be a good time?


  • Barry Jive and His Uptown Five

    Maybe Opara is staying in school because he values an education? With a name like Ikenna Opara he may be the first one in his family to attend college.


  • SonicDeathMonkey

    Not the smartest comment you’ve made, is it King? A top 3 pick with a GA contract is going to make a tad more than 13K. Plus, he can eventually go back and finish his degree for free.


  • victor

    Wow, there have been some really bizarre and outlandish comments on here over the last week, for instance Barry Jive…was that “with a name like…” comment a really bad joke or are you being serious?


  • Tom in Newark

    2010 is a long, long ways away. His decisions should be made on what is best in the immediate future, including European options. But he can get hurt at any time and/or suffer a loss in form. It happens all the time. His value is very high right now in MLS; but assuming he has nowhere to go but up is a big one. He’ll be better off making decisions based on facts not hype.


  • Ives

    “His decisions should be made on what is best in the immediate future, including European options.”

    Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph and Kenny Cooper called. They said, “That’s what we thought.”


  • rio

    Ives, don’t discount the fact that his family is Nigerian and Nigerians(and really all of Africa) value education much more than sports/entertainment. That’s probably a bigger reason for Opara staying in school than getting a better Generation Adidas contract.

    As for Barry jive, I take it you meant well with the first sentence but the second was just ignorant and off base. Like I said, Opara is of Nigerian descent and I bet both his parents probably have Masters degrees and maybe even a PHD, finishing his education will play a huge role in his decision to enter the draft of not.


  • Andolini

    Rio, it’s great that all Africans value education over sports/entertainment. But judging by what’s going on in Somalia, they must value pirating over pretty much everything. 🙂 just kidding, but that is a pretty broad statement you made.


  • VPjr

    Sorry Folks…this is a Dumb decision by Opara. It makes me wonder about who the hell is giving him advice.

    I hope he gets himself some decent insurance because if he is the next O’Brian White, he’ll be regretting this decision. Nothing devalues a player more than a major injury.

    If he is really as talented as some think he is, he’ll be in Europe inside of 2 years (like Mo Edu) via MLS. MLS never turns down a fat transfer fee for its young players.

    in the meantime, he could earn decent Gen Adidas money, he can get his education in his spare time (because, trust me, pro soccer players have tons of free time on their hands) and still play in the U20, which proved to be a very successful showcase tournament for Freddy Adu and Jozy.


  • zongzap

    It’s the right move.

    Stay in school, get the degree. If he’s really all that, soccer will still be there. If soccer doesn’t work out, he can always fall back on the degree


  • joe k

    zongzap — forget about that “fall back on the degree” crap. if you’re in school training to be a professional athlete, and you’re damn good with the opportunity to play professionally at a high level, you should go for that, whole-hog, every time. that goes for all college sports.

    why not say something like:

    he should play now, and if soccer doesn’t work out, college will still be there. he can go back and get his last 30 credits and be a more marketable white collar job-applicant with recent and relevant experience in whatever he wants to pursue.

    just to be clear: ives’s speculation that he wants to wait for a free transfer makes some sense and doesn’t contradict what i said above.


  • Lisa

    As someone who has known Ike (and his family…PS his dad is a doctor) since he was 12, some of you people’s assumptions are quite amusing.


  • Dave

    Opara is from North Carolina. He actually wasn’t all that highly recruited coming out of HS. Boy did a lot of schools miss the boat on their analysis. Corben Bone is also going to return and it is looking more and more likely that Cody Arnoux will as well – meaning Wake will be very solid again next year.


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