The 2010 MLS Combine is just three days away, meaning scouts and coaches from all 16 MLS teams are heading to Florida this weekend for a chance to see what the best of the MLS Draft pool has to offer.
With a loaded Generation adidas class, and several quality seniors already signed to MLS contracts, this draft is shaping up to b a good one. It might not boast as many instant impact players as the 2009 draft produced, but this year's draft is deep, particularly at some positions MLS teams could use help at, left back and central midfield.
After four previous editions of the SBI MLS Draft Big Board, we present our final list before the Combine. We've extended our Big Board to 40 players with the help of scouts, coaches and talent evaluators from around the league. There are several changes to this list, though not as many as we expect to see after this weekend's MLS Combine, where players will be able to boost (or hurt) their stock (one player missing from the Big Board is Luis Gil, who hasn't signed a Generation adidas contract).
Here is are latest MLS Big Board:
SBI 2010 MLS Draft Big Board
(*Generation adidas signing. For player profiles, click on each player's college)
1. IKE OPARA*, Wake Forest, D
Has signed a Generation adidas contact. Opara is consider by many scouts to be the top pro prospect in the draft. A prototypical central defender with an impressive combination of speed and size. Would have been a Top Three pick in 2009 draft. Widely-regarded as top talent in draft, but it is starting to look like Philadelphia will look elsewhere with the No. 1 overall pick. There are some questions about his touch and passing ability, but plenty of teams still rate him the top prospect in the draft.
2. DANNY MWANGA*, Oregon State, F
Has moved up amid word that Philadelphia is coveting him with the No. 1 overall pick and after his somewhat surprising Generation adidas contract signing. He possesses similar size-speed combination to Bunbury, though he is faster and regarded by some as the more dangerous forward. Produced 14 goals this season. The Congolese-born striker had been linked to a move to Europe, but signed with MLS after a sizeable offer was made.
3. TONY TCHANI*, Virginia, M
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 and could be first midfielder taken. Not exactly a ball-winning midfielder like you might expect for someone his size, but Tchani's size/skill combo has scouts swooning. Didn't dominate the College Cup, but still did more than enough to move up the Big Board. His strength on the ball was impressive, as was his ability to cover ground. Tchani's season started slowly due to injuries, but no player has boosted their stock more in the last month of the college season than Tchani.
4. TEAL BUNBURY*, Akron, F
Moves down a notch with the inclusion of Mwanga. Didn't have the College Cup Tournament you would have expected from a star forward, but still showed enough to merit being one of the first players taken in next month's draft. He's got the size-speed (6-foot-2) combo at forward that clubs love, not to mention a nose for goal he clearly inherited from his father, Canadian national team legend Alex Bunbury.
5. CORBEN BONE*, Wake Forest, M/F
Has signed a Generation adidas contract. Wasn't the impact player some expected in the College Cup, but he did show flashes of the attacking qualities that have him so highly-rated. 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 more likely a central midfielder on the pro level.
6. ANDREW WIEDEMAN*, California, F
A productive goal scorer in the mold of Taylor Twellman, Wiedeman is considered seasoned enough to play minutes in MLS now and could be seen as a year-one contributor at forward. Rated below Mwanga and Bunbury, Wiedeman should still be a Top 10 pick and could be this year's Chris Pontius. He has signed a Generation adidas deal.
7. AMOBI OKUGO*, UCLA, M
With an MLS deal signed, Okugo is starting to creep up the board. The nation's best freshman is also one of the players whose stock has increased the most during the NCAA Tournament. 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.
8. TONI STAHL, UConn, M
Strong, smart, tall (6-foot-3) and technically sound, Stahl is widely-regarded as the most polished defensive midfielder. The Finland-born midfielder has signed a deal with MLS and can solidify his place as the most highly-regarded senior with a strong MLS Combine. He could also answer some questions about whether he can provide the tough tackling and physical presence teams look for in the middle.
9. ZACH LOYD, North Carolina, M/D
A highly-regarded prospect even before the NCAA Tournament, Loyd's performance in the College Cup semifinals vs. Akron has catapulted him up the rankings and helped make him one of the first seniors signed by MLS. He's natural defensive midfielder who played central defense for UNC this season because the team needed him there. All Loyd did was establish himself as one of the best defenders in the college game. Now scouts see him as a midfielder who can also provide depth in the back, versatility that has boosted his value. He his highly-coveted by some of the top teams in MLS and should be one of the first seniors taken.
10. DILLY DUKA*, Rutgers, M
The first of the Generation adidas signings, Duka may need a strong Combine more than any of the other top-rated prospects because he has been out of action since the Under-20 World Cup. 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. He left Rutgers a year ago, but the U-20 World Cup was enough to shoot him up draft boards across the league. He was a member of the Red Bulls academy program during his Rutgers years, so New York is a good bet to try and move up and take him with a second first-round draft pick. Then again, if he has a bad MLS Combine, he could slip to No. 14.
11. ANDRE AKPAN, Harvard, F
An athletic and polished forward who has been linked with moves to MLS for years, Akpan has the tools to step in and play in year one. A Generation adidas target for the past two years, Akpan recently signed with MLS and should move up draft boards now that it is clear he will be playing in the league (There had been concern he might bolt if he didn't like his draft position or contract).
12. BLAIR GAVIN*, Akron, M
A gifted central midfielder who is adept at sparking attacks from deep in midfield with sharp passes, Gavin didn't exactly dominate in the College Cup but still showed enough flashes to lead MLS to offer him a Generation adidas deal. Gaven has the technical ability, but questions remain about his physical attributes. That won't stop him from going in the mid-to-late first round of the draft.
13. AUSTIN DA LUZ, Wake Forest, M
Already a highly-regarded prospect, Da Luz boosted his stock more than any other player at the College Cup. His vision, touch and ability to work the left flank had scouts impressed, though he is seen more as a central midfield option. Has already signed a senior MLS contract, which should help him be a first-round selection.
14. JACK McINERNEY*, U.S. Under-17, F
While Dilly Duka's stock jumped after the Under-20 World Cup, McInerney's dropped after the Under-17 World Cup. He rebounded by impressing scouts at the recent Under-20 national team camp. He's an exciting prospect with a tenacious nose for goal and good touch and moves. McInerney has signed with MLS as a Generation adidas player and now we will see just how early he will go in the draft given the fact that he is 17 and isn't going to help right away. That won't stop teams from considering him in the first round as a long-term project.
15. ZACH SCHILAWSKI, Wake Forest, F
Teams missing out on the top forwards in the early part of the draft will be looking closely at Schilawski, a talented forward who could also be used on the wing. He showed some good speed and movement in the College Cup, but he didn't finish chances and lost some ground to teammate Da Luz. Wake Forest's leading goal scorer should still be a popular prospect come draft time and should go in the late-first, early-second round range, though a strong MLS Combine could improve that.
16. KWAME WATSON-SIRIBOE, UConn, D
In a draft light on first-round worthy central defenders, Watson-Siriboe is a prototypical big back who has the tools and resume to have teams paying close attention come draft day. Arguably the second-best central defender after Opara, Watson-Siriboe is 6-foot-3, was a three-year starter at UConn and is poised to move into the first-round range with a strong MLS Combine.
17. SEAN JOHNSON*, Central Florida, GK
While he isn't an MLS-ready goalkeeper like Stefan Frei was last season, Johnson's physical attributes (a quick 6-foot-4, 220) have goalkeeper coaches in MLS drooling at the thought of being able to work with such a talented young specimen. A back-up on the U.S. Under-20 national team, Johnson has signed a Generation adidas deal and should be the first goalkeeper off the board come draft day.
18. KYLE NAKAZAWA, UCLA, M
Injuries have plagued Nakazaway throughout his UCLA career, but the former U.S. youth international put together a solid senior season that catapulted him up the rankings. There are still concerns about his health, but he will have a chance to ease some of those concerns at the MLS Combine.
19. BRIAN PERK, UCLA, GK
Smallish but athletic and brave goalkeeper who has impressed as a U.S. youth international. The success of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, another quick but small goalkeeper from UCLA, should have teams looking past Perk's lack of size and appreciating his ability and potential. He should go somewhere in the second round and could be the first goalkeeper taken.
20. MICHAEL STEPHENS, UCLA, M
A skillful yet small central midfielder, Stephens was very highly-regarded after his junior season, but just missed out on a Generation adidas contract. Unfortunately for him, he is now a senior in a draft class loaded with Generation adidas talent and he's coming off a season at UCLA that was below the high standard he had previously set. A strong Combine could force some team consider him late in the first round.
21. OFORI SARKODIE, Indiana, D
Considered by some to be the best fullback available in the draft, Sarkodie's stock is starting to take a hit as the large of number of left back prospects in the pool is starting to see him drop on some draft boards. Experienced at multiple positions in defense, Sarkodie is a steady fullback, though not as flashy or attack-minded as some teams would want from a first-round pick. He will need to show off his attacking ability at the Combine to secure his status as the top fullback in the draft.
22. COLLEN WARNER, Portland, M/F
Under the radar outside of the Pacific Northwest, Warner's stock is rapidly rising as scouts learn more about this creative, fast and tough midfielder. He didn't play against the best competition in college, but a standout performance at the MLS Combine could catapult him close to the first round.
23. JOVAN BUBOJNA, Illinois-Chicago, GK
A player who would probably have been the second goalkeeper taken in last year's draft, Bobojna is coming off a disappoint year that raised some questions about his readiness. A strong combine would help ease some concerns and push him toward the first round as arguably the goalkeeper most prepared to step in and play.
24. NICK CARDENAS, San Diego State, D
A 6-foot-5 centerback who is dominant in the air and dangerous on set pieces, Cardenas would be ranked much higher if not for question marks about his footwork and touch.
25. ROSS LaBAUEX, Virginia, M
A tenacious defensive midfielder, LaBauex didn't show much on the ball to impress scouts, but his athleticism and work rate are impressive. He's also versatile and could wind up being converted into a fullback or central defender.
26. MICHAEL THOMAS, Notre Dame, M
A skillful attacking midfielder who is rated a notch below playmakers such as Bone, Da Luz and Stephens, Thomas is someone who could play himself into a second-round slot with a good combine.
27. CHRIS SCHULER, Creighton, D
A 6-foot-4 force who is both tough and mature, Schuler has intangibles that coaches love and the make-up to be a long-time pro. One of the better defenders available. Some teams rate him in the range of Opara and Watson-Siriboe so he could go higher.
28. RYAN PETERMAN, U. of San Diego, D
Teams looking for a dangerous attacking left back will have their eyes on Peterman, a true offensive threat who could be starting in MLS in year one according to some scouts.
29. RONNIE BOUEMBOUE, North Carolina State, F
Speedy forward who could be a game-changer off the bench in year one, Bouemboue stood out in the tough ACC and should be a second-round selection.
30. NELSON BECERRA, St. John’s, M
Skillful playmaker who also saw time on the left wing, Becerra is another player who's stock was much higher a year ago. He will need to serious impress at the Combine if he wants to stay in the first two rounds.
31. PHIL EDGINGTON, Louisville, D
Another tall central defender who could provide depth, Edgington isn't known as the kind of set-piece threat that Cardenas is, but he will have a chance to test himself against the likes of Mwanga and Bunbury at the Combine.
32. DREW YATES, Maryland, F/M
A 6-foot-1 combo forward/winger, Yates is quick and dynamic attacking player who can fit several roles in the attack. used as a playmaker and a stiker at Maryland, Yates size and pedigree could lead to him breaking into the second round.
33. TIM REAM, St. Louis, D
Left-footed central defender who can also play left back, Ream doesn't have the size of some of the other defenders in the draft but he's probably a more polished option than some of the big boys.
34. DAVID WALKER, UCSB, F
Pace and size combo from a forward who could wind up flying up these rankings as teams look for options in a top-heavy forward pool.
35. ZACHARY HEROLD*, U.S. Under-17, D
Young central defender is a Generation adidas player and a long-term project who will need a strong combine to avoid winding up like Daniel Cruz, a rare Generation adidas third-rounder.
36. MIKE SEAMON, Villanova, M/F
A versatile player who played forward in college but can play in any attacking midfield position, Seamon has good vision and a nose for goal.
37. ERIC ALEXANDER, Indiana, M
Skillful and efficient central midfielder who boasts good size and an impressive work rate. Could get lost in the mix of a deep midfield class, but he will have his chance show scouts how he matches up against the more high-profile midfielders in the pool at the Combine.
38. BARRY RICE, Kentucky, D
Only player in the Top 40 not at the Combine, Rice has been one of the better defenders in college soccer for a few years, but playing for low-profile Kentucky apparently led to his failure to be invited to Florida. On the smaller side as a central defender, but there are few better athletes in the draft pool. A Chicago Fire PDL product, Rice has the tools to be an MLS defender.
39. SETH SINOVIC, Creighton, D
Another in a deep class of quality left back prospects, Sinovic nearly entered last year's draft before receiving another year of college eligibility.
40. BRIGHT DIKE, Notre Dame, F
A big target striker, Dike will be highly-sought by teams looking for a good holding forward. Questions about his finishing keep him from being rated more highly.
This will be the final MLS Big Board until the day before the MLS Draft (next Wednesday). We will be offering positional breakdowns through the rest of the week, along with our final pre-Combine MLS Mock Draft on Friday. SBI will provide in-depth coverage from the Combine all weekend so be sure to follow along.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this week's SBI MLS Draft Big Board in the comments section below.