MLS Draft 2011

SBI MLS Draft Big Board (Version 1.0)

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The 2011 MLS Draft is fast approaching and now that the MLS season is finally over, teams can begin turning their attentions toward identifying the players who could help them next season.

The 2010 MLS Draft was a major hit, and arguably the deepest in league history, but the upcoming draft could be just as deep. With the quality of college players improving, thanks in part to MLS Academies and U.S. Soccer's player development academy initiatives, MLS teams are finding more and more players worthy of their draft-day attention.

As is the case every year, the Generation adidas draft class should lead the charge in the upcoming draft, and this year could give us the biggest class ever if MLS has its way. While eight to ten are expected to be part of the Generation adidas draft class, that number could wind up increasing depending on the number of high-caliber underclassmen who declare their intentions to leave school.

So who are the best players who could be a part of the 2011 MLS Draft? I have compiled a Top 30 Big Board featuring the top players who will, or could, be available in the draft. SBI will run a weekly Big Board through the end of the year, before unveiling our first SBI MLS Mock Draft at the start of January.

Now, without further ado, here is SBI's first 2011 MLS Draft Big Board:


SBI MLS DRAFT BIG BOARD 1.0 (*-Underclassman)

*DARLINGTON NAGBE,  Akron, Forward/Midfielder

Speedy and skillful, some think he can be better than Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury.

*ZAC MACMATH, Maryland, Goalkeeper

Top-flight goalkeeper is a U.S. Under-20 starter.

*DILLON POWERS, Notre Dame, Midfielder

Arguably most talented midfielder in the country, a star on the U.S. Under-20 national team.

*PERRY KITCHEN, Akron, Defensive Midfielder

Just a freshman, and not a lock to leave school, Kitchen is regarded by some as Akron's best long-term pro prospect.

*KOFI SARKODIE, Akron, Right Back

Best attacking fullback to come out of college in years. Another U.S. Under-20 player.

*ZAREK VALENTIN, Akron, Right Back/Centerback

Still young, but skillful centerback projects to some as a top-notch right back.

*WILL BRUIN, Indiana, Forward

Strong striker who has been one of the best finishers in college, he's a safe bet to go high.

*DARREN MATTOCKS, Akron, Forward

Akron's leading scorer is just a freshman, and not a lock to come out, but if he does he's a first-rounder.

*DAVID BINGHAM, California, Goalkeeper

There is a growing debate over who is the better pro prospect, Bingham or MacMath.

*COREY HERTZOG, Penn State, Forward

Fast, fearless and a clutch finisher, Hertzog has quietly climbed the charts this fall.

*ETHAN WHITE, Maryland, Defender

If D.C. United doesn't sign him (He's a D.C. Academy Product), White could be a first-round defender.

OMAR SALGADO, Gen Adidas, Forward

A teenage 6-foot-3 target striker with good feet. Still raw, but his potential led MLS to sign him early.

MICHAEL FARFAN, North Carolina, Midfielder

Arguably the most talented senior in this draft, Farfan is a skilled attacking midfielder.

A.J. SOARES, California, Central Defender

Best centerback in the draft, he could be this year's Tim Ream.

*ANDREW WENGER, Duke, Central Defender/Central Midfield

Scouts love his skill, size and versatility, but Wenger seems more likely to stay in school.

*CASEY TOWNSEND, Maryland, Forward

A top-notch prospect two years ago, Townsend had a strong comeback season to earn a place here.

*MATT KASSEL, Maryland, Midfielder

Opinions vary widely on the Red Bull Academy product, who is unlikely to be signed by NY and could enter draft.


His versatility, quickness and passing touch make him a very attractive prospect.

*MICHAEL TETTEH, UCSB, Left back/Left winger

Scouts drool over the thought of a speedy left back with good attacking qualities, but injuries are a concern.

JASON HERRICK, Maryland, Forward

Best senior forward in the draft is mature, quick and a good finisher.

JALIL ANIBABA, North Carolina, Defender

An athletic centerback who is 6-feet tall, but still dominates in the air.

*BRIAN OWNBY, Virginia, Forward

If not for injury concerns, this blazing fast striker would be near the top of the board. Still could be surprise GA inclusion.

COLE GROSSMAN, Duke, Midfielder

Overshadowed by Wenger and Duke forward Ryan Finley, but Grossman has won over his share of scouts.

JEFF ATTINELLA, South Florida, Goalkeeper

Third best goalkeeper in the pool, Attinella is top senior and has first-round talent.

*LUIS SILVA, UCSB, Midfielder

Good two-way midfielder with goal-scoring ability, considered a long-shot to score Generation adidas deal.

*MICHAEL NANCHOFF, Akron, Left winger

A quality left midfielder who has enjoyed a strong season at Akron, Nanchoff is a GA long-shot. 

STEVEN MCCARTHY, North Carolina, Midfielder

 A 6-foot-4 central midfielder who scouts have had eye on since his days at Santa Clara.


Speedy forward who could be a second-round steal. 

DANIEL KEAT, Dartmouth, Midfielder

A polished soccer player with skill and work rate to be effective two-way player.

JUSTIN MERAM, Michigan, Forward

Turned heads at Big Ten Tournament with his finishing ability.  Former Michigan football kicker has size, speed and shot to be a good pro. 


Some things to note:

Ethan White (D.C. United) and Matt Kassel (NY Red Bulls) are MLS academy products and could be signed by their developing clubs to Homegrown Player contracts. If White comes out, D.C. would be hard-pressed to pass on a player as highly-rated as White. As for Kassel, New York is believed to not be interested in signing him, which means he could enter the draft if he decides to come out, and if MLS deems him worthy of one of its Generation adidas contracts.

Perry Kitchen, Darren Mattocks and Andrew Wenger are all believed to be closer to returning to school than to turning pro, but all three are very highly-rated and just might end up signing. The situation at Akron is very interesting because if the Zips win the NCAA title we could see a mass exodus. If Kitchen and Mattocks come out, they'll both be top-half first round picks.

It should be noted that, while we have 18 underclassmen listed, only seven to nine are likely to be added to a Generation adidas class that already includes Omar Salgado. We could see that number stretched by one or two, but any more seems unlikely. If Akron wins the NCAA title and sparks an exodus, and if White and Kassel declare but aren't signed by their MLS teams, the league and adidas will have a tough time keeping the Generation adidas class to only 10 players.

Regardless of the size of the Generation adidas class, it is widely believed that Nagbe, Sarkodie, Bruin and MacMath are all but locks. Powers and Valentin are locks assuming they leave school (which some believe isn't automatic yet). If those six are essentially locks, that leaves just three more spots for a host of quality prospects. As we said, it won't be easy picking the Generation adidas class.

Last year, the goalkeeping pool in the draft was widely regarded as week. This year, the opposite is true. Bingham and MacMath are both highly-regarded and there is a belief that Vancouver could be tempted to grab the best of the two with the first pick in the draft. Today's MLS Expansion Draft should go a long way toward telling us how likely that is (The Whitecaps could select Joe Cannon, which would make drafting a goalkeeper in the first round unlikely). Either way, Bingham, MacMath and Jeff Attinella come into this year's draft as first-round values, though Attinella is likely to slip to the second round.


That's all for now. We will adjust the Big Board from week to week as the NCAA Tournament goes on and scouts change their opinions on players. We'll 

  • Dinho

    Amani Walker at UC Irvine was much more impressive than Thompson. Big kid (6’2″) with pace and good feet. I think Walker goes before Thompson.


  • Michael F. SBI Mafia Original

    Wow. 7 players from Akron? What on earth is Caleb Porter feeding these kids?


  • fischy

    So, if the “Caps draft Onstad, that would imply they are going to take a young ‘keeper in the draft, to understudy for a year, but not so much if they take Cannon? Interesting.

    Is this list meant to be in some order of desirability? I thought Salgado was more highly ranked. Since DC United brought him in for a trial, I thought they were thinking about using the third pick on him. On the other hand, it would be great if he lasts late into the second round. I would love DC to have choice between Nagbe, Sarkodie and Powers, and still have a shot at Salgado with the pick they got from the Red Bulls. Or, maybe United could deal to trade up and grab him in the middle of the first round…assuming they liked what they saw in the recent trial.


  • Second City

    Really excited to see Sarkodie at the next level for a number of reasons.

    Lihaj and Sarkodie are exciting replacements for Cherundolo going forward.


  • fischy

    It’s interesting that Sarkodie is so well-regarded for his attacking ability, when his brother’s stock fell so dramatically supposedly because he looked terrible with the ball in the combine


  • Dannyc58

    Can you expand on why Red Bulls would not sign Kassel?

    (SBI-It’s pretty simple really. They don’t rate him. Not everybody rates him. His stock is lower now than it was three years ago. Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be drafted, but it also means he wouldn’t be a first-round lock either.)


  • whoshotsam

    Indeed. That seems to be totally retarded. Even if you don’t want to keep him, sign the kid and then trade his rights for something of value.


  • catfish

    Any chance Crew could sign some of those Akron kids (ie. Sarkodie) that played for their national championchip academy teams this year rather then them going through the draft? I think even Valentin was listed on their roster over the summer. Could they circumvent the the system with the Homegrown rules? How much can you pay homegrowns? They don’t count against the salary cap either.


  • Dannyc58

    Exactly. His salary (if GA) doesn’t count vs cap, and he’s been projected as a round 1 pick in some parts. WTF would they not just take him and trade him for?


  • Gerald

    Have to agree it doesn’t make any sense not to sign him especially with all of the extra roster spots


  • gerald

    catfish – They would have to been part of the academy before they hit college (or US youth squad). This is why the Red Bulls couldn’t sign Dilly Duka (who played for RBA) and he had to go through the draft


  • r.benjamin

    For me personally, I attribute these posts and the background info as a main reason for my jump in MLS interest over the last year (when i started reading them).

    For me – the new Stadiums, the DPs and this info is combining to convert me.

    Now if only MLS hadn’t upped the playoffs to ten teams next year. It just screams of amatuer hour.. and just when the 8 spots was suddenly legit.


  • Chicago Fire Fan ;)

    This may be random but what do you think of the MLS expanding to 10 teams for playoffs? Good because some more major market teams make the playoffs or bad because it makes the regular season seem meaningless? Also there is this talk of the additional two spots are used as a playoff for the right to get the #8 seed? Anyone Know?



  • Jay

    I see aside from Salgado this is all college players are there any high school or non college players that are going to be in the draft?


  • Dominick

    I think it is TERRIBLE! As an earlier poster stated–this was the first year that the playoffs seemed like a legit accomplishment. Hopefully–Garber hears the feedback from the fans on this.


  • Dominick

    Amen- on the playoffs to 10 teams. Even with the fire missing the playoffs–this was my favorite year of MLS in reent memory, i think the playoff race down the wire added to that enjoyment. Garber–you are building a good thing here–don’t f it up!!


  • Dominick

    Wait–Meram used to be a kicker for Michigan? Ug, he could have helped out a ton over at the Big House…although, I am enjoying Michigan’s run this year…


  • tom

    Why wasn’t warshaw in the top 30? find it hard to believe he won’t be a first rounder

    (SBI-Being a highly-decorated college player doesn’t make you a highly-coveted pro prospect. Warshaw doesn’t really get much buzz from anybody I talk to. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a good player, but I’m not sure what 12 guys he rates higher than on this list.)


  • Aljarov

    Now there are 18 teams the GA class needs to be expanded accordingly. It’s not grown in 5 years or more, and as i recall, actually used to feature about 12.


  • jhase

    these all seem like likely picks but for sarkodie will most likely stay in school seeing as he has a 4.00 gpa and not in something easy for that matter but in biology but two players flying under the radar is the Okiomah brothers both are 6’2 185lbs and recorded 12 goals a piece this season and neither of them are seniors


  • jhase

    these all seem like likely picks but for sarkodie will most likely stay in school seeing as he has a 4.00 gpa and not in something easy for that matter but in biology but two players flying under the radar is the Okiomah brothers both are 6’2 185lbs and recorded 12 goals a piece this season and neither of them are seniors


  • patrick

    technical instruction and a desire to play the game? In all serousness what he’s doing isn’t too dissimilar to what Bruce Arena did at UVA many years ago. Once you get the ball rolling and you can prove that A) you win and B) you set up players to succeed as a professional it’s much easier to get these kids to come play.


  • Eurosnob

    Fischy, he is a much better prospect than his brother was. Even last year he was ranked higher, but decided to stay at school for another year.


  • Oranje

    There is zero chance he comes back next year. I know because my nephew was recruited to replace him.


  • WahooFan

    No Diego Restrepo from Virginia? C’mon Ives, the guy is a stud, had the best year for a GK EVER last season and still gets no love.

    (SBI-I do like Restrepo, and have had the chance to meet him and talk to him, but the fact is right now scouts and MLS teams don’t rate him above the top three guys (MacMath, Bingham and Attinnella). That doesn’t mean he can’t get drafted and won’t be a good pro, but the Big Board is based on where prospects actually stand right now, which is based on my own observations as well as input from several clubs and scouts.)


  • Gerald

    Also need to remember that 30 people doesn’t finish the second round assuming all of the underclassmen on this list comes out which is unlikely


  • jhase

    well get ready for him to sit a year or come off the bench cause they said the same about his brother when he was highly rated but yet he stayed i think the parents have more of a say


  • will

    I’m glad that you included Bingham on your list. During his senior year of high school he almost signed for Cagliari in Serie A and would have had the first team coach at the team not been fired as they were mired in the relegation zone. Having played with him for four years I can attest that he is as good as Macmath and deserves to be recognized among the best in the nation. He will surely follow in the footsteps of Stefen Frei and turn out to be a solid pro.

    I do Think that both Andrew Bulls and Houpeau deserve to be included, however.


  • Mike

    Where have you heard that the Red Bulls aren’t interested in Kassel? Literally every single other media outlet says they’re looking at him intensely with a view to adding him as a homegrown player.


  • yossarian

    Very restrictive rules re signing players from your own academies. Can’t blame rbny for not wasting one of their few chances on a kid they are not in love with. What if the next agudelo or altidore comes along and they cannot sign him?


  • alex

    Those rules are no longer as restrictive. Unfortunately, at the time both Osorio and Agoos did not have a complete understanding of them. RBNY could have signed Kassel and someone else but chose no one at the time. Most other academies have capitalized on their homegrown whereas RBNY still doesn’t get it!


  • rory

    Fascinating that nobody from Louisville is on this list. If they hang around the tourney towards the end I’d love a piece about them… they must be playing some good team ball if there’s no standouts on the team.


  • Cyrus

    Houston Dynamo academy product, and current Duke defender, Sebastian Ibeagha might be one to add to this list. He’s currently with the U20s in Georgia and has looked good both in practice and in the game against Colombia.


  • Scott A

    I have a lot of faith in the current staff, but I have to admit that it seems with the more relaxed Homegrown rules NY should sign him to at least see what happens and maybe deal him. The coaches seem to be pretty savvy, so I can only hope that continues.


  • pete

    Pete said…

    Creighton’s Finley is outstanding with top gear speed and finishing skills, he playing with a young team this yr. He may be looking at Europe if MLS does not grab him with a GA slot.


  • Calogero

    Wondering about Corey Hertzog – what’s his game? Having heard nothing of him before this year, do you think he’s really going to be considered inside the top 10? Could he get a GA offer?


  • Pingback: SBI College Spotlight: After choosing to stay in school, and overcoming injuries, Powers set for achampionship run | Soccer By Ives

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