The 2010 MLS Draft is still five weeks away, and while some of the best prospects expected to be available in the draft are still completing their college seasons, fans have already started to consider what their teams might be doing when the draft arrives.
It isn't too early to start thinking about the talent that will be available, and if the 2009 draft showed us anything, it is that quality MLS starters can be found among the players coming out of the college ranks. The upcoming draft may not produce the numer of instant impact starters that last year's draft did, but the 2010 draft is shaping up to be an even better draft for attacking players.
Each week from now until the MLS Draft we will be running the SBI MLS Draft Big Board, listing the Top 25 draft prospects. For now, the list will include underclassmen who have yet to sign with MLS, but who are being targeted by MLS. We have consulted with coaches, team officials, scouts and players to come up with a list that we hope will closely measure where players are ranked heading into the draft. We will be tweaking the list from week to week so be sure to track the changes as they happen.
If you are not too familiar with the college game, but would like to see some of the best prospects play, you will have your chance on Friday, when the top four players on our Big Board, including Wake Forest's Ike Opara (pictured), take the field in the College Cup semifinals (airing on ESPNU).
Now, onto our first edition of the SBI 2010 MLS Draft Big Board:
SBI 2010 MLS Draft Big Board
1. IKE OPARA*, Wake Forest, D
A prototypical central defender with an impressive combination of speed and size. Woul have been a Top Three pick in 2009 draft, is a lock to be top two pick, assuming he signs which MLS, which most folks believe he will.
2. CORBEN BONE*, Wake Forest, M/F
The most dangerous attacking player in the draft, Bone is a dynamic playmaker with great vision and a terrific motor. Has played predominantly on the wing for Wake Forest, but he's
3. TEAL BUNBURY*, Akron, F
MLS is chasing this sophomore hard, and with good reason. He's got the size-speed (6-foot-2) combo at forward that clubs love, and maybe most technically gifted striker in the class. A guaranteed high pick if he comes out, could potentially be the No. 1 overall pick.
4. TONY TCHANI*, Virginia, M
Tchani's season started slowly due to injuries, but no player has boosted their stock more in the past month than Tchani. A 6-foot-4 playmaker who combines strength, a deft passing touch and goal-scoring ability, Tchani is at the top of some team's draft boards.
5. DANNY MWANGA*, Oregon State, F
Possesses similar size-speed combination to Bunbury, and regarded by some as the more athletic prospect. Produced 14 goals this season. MLS is in hot pursuit, but sources tell SBI that the Congolese-born Mwanga is not a lock to sign with MLS and will go on trials in France this winter before returning for his junior season at OSU if no offers are made.
6. ANDREW WIEDEMAN*, California, F
A productive goal scorer in the mold of Taylor Twellman, Wiedeman is considered polished enough to play minutes in MLS now and could be seen as a year-one contributor at forward.
7. TONI STAHL, UConn, M
Strong, smart and technically sound, Stahl is widely-regarded as the best defensive midfielder in the draft and potentially someone who can step in and start in year one like Sam Cronin did for Toronto FC. He has signed a deal with MLS, which will only increase his value.
8. AMOBI OKUGO*, UCLA, M
The nation's best freshman is also one of the players whose stock has increased the most in recent weeks. He's still just 18, and could stay in school since he's just a freshman, but MLS teams are already drooling over his box-to-box midfielder tools and upside.
9. DILLY DUKA*, Rutgers, M
Regarded by many as the most impressive of the U.S. Under-20 World Cup participants, Duka boasts good skill, touch and a surprising bite for his small size. The questions that plague him surround his upside, and just what is his ceiling.
10. LUIS GIL*, U.S. Under-17, M
One of the more enticing long-term prospects in the pool. Gil is just 16, but he's a bundle of skill who could blossom into a star if he's groomed properly. The question is where in the draft do you take a yong talent who is a few years away from contributing? He has been approached with an offer by MLS but has yet to sign.
11. ANDRE AKPAN, Harvard, F
An experienced and polished forward who has been linked with moves to MLS for years, Akpan could be the victim of a slide in the draft if MLS succeeds in signing all the Generation adidas targets it has in mind. That won't stop Akpan from being a first round pick, or from potentially being this class' Chris Pontius.
12. JACK McINERNEY*, U.S. Under-17, F
While Dilly Duka's stock jumped after the Under-20 World Cup, McInerney's dropped. That said, he's still an exciting prospect with a nose for goal and good touch and moves. If he signs a Generation adidas deal then it will be interesting to see who takes a chance on him given the fact that he isn't going to help right away. There are other more experienced players on the board who could go higher if teams are looking for help right away, but McInerney is still a quality prospect some teams will look to pounce on early, if he accepts the Generation adidas contract he has been offered.
13. AUSTIN DA LUZ, Wake Forest, M
14. ZACH SCHILAWSKI, Wake Forest, F
15. OFORI SARKODIE, Indiana, D
16. KYLE NAKAZAWA, UCLA, M
17. KWAME WATSON-SIRIBOE, UConn, D
18. SEAN JOHNSON*, Central Florida, GK
19. MICHAEL TETTAH*, UCSB, M
20. ALAN SANCHEZ, NC State, M/F
21. NELSON BECERRA, St. John’s, M
22. BRIAN PERK, UCLA, GK
23. MICHAEL STEPHENS, UCLA, M
24. PHIL EDGINGTON, Louisville, D
25. JOVAN BUBOJNA, Illinois-Chicago, GK
What do you think of the list? Excited to see this much talent potentially being available in the draft? Which players are you hoping your team takes? Which players are you surprised not to see on the list?
Share your thoughts on The Big Board below.