The NCAA College Cup was supposed to provide a showcase for some of the best young talent in the nation, including several players considered good bets to be MLS First-Round draft picks next month.
It wasn't quite the showcase most expected, but some players definitely took advantage of the stage. Virginia midfielder Tony Tchani (pictured) and Wake Forest midfielder Austin Da Luz were two of those players. Tchani didn't dominate, but he showed strength, poise and maturity that left little doubt that he can make the move to the pro level right now. Da Luz stood out among Wake Forest's star-studded lineup, playing himself into a lock first-round spot as he heads into next month's MLS Combine.
Our second installment of the MLS Draft Big Board has some changes, though not too many drastic ones. We have increased the size of the board from 25 to 30 and will settle on a Top 32 when version 3.0 comes out just before Christmas. If you are wondering when MLS Mock Drafts will start to show up on SBI, you can expect the first one to hit in early January, before the MLS Combine (which SBI will be covering in full force).
Now, onto this week's installment of the SBI 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. Didn't have the best College Cup, but scouts still love him and he's a lock Top Two pick if he comes out.
2. TONY TCHANI*, Virginia, M
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 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.
3. CORBEN BONE*, Wake Forest, M/F
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.
4. TEAL BUNBURY*, Akron, F
Didn't have the College Cup Tournament you would have expected from a star forward, and with Caleb Porter returning to Akron you have to wonder whether Bunbury will leave school or not. 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.
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 and signs are pointing to a deal being reached, though he does have options in Europe.
6. 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.
7. 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.
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. 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. Should challenge Andre Akpan as second senior taken after Stahl.
11. 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 young talent who is a few years away from contributing? He has been approached with a considerable offer by MLS but has yet to sign.
12. 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.
13. 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 sizeable Generation adidas contract he has been offered.
14. OFORI SARKODIE, Indiana, D
The second-best defender available, Sarkodie is a left back prospect who should garner serious attention on draft day. He has been on MLS radars for years and is a safe bet to be a first-round pick.
15. 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.
16. ZACH SCHILAWSKI, Wake Forest, F
Showed some good speed and movement in the College Cup, but he didn't finish chances and lost some ground to teammate Da Luz.
17. KWAME WATSON-SIRIBOE, UConn, D
18. SEAN JOHNSON*, Central Florida, GK
19. MICHAEL TETTAH*, UCSB, M
20. NELSON BECERRA, St. John’s, M
21. BRIAN PERK, UCLA, GK
22. MICHAEL STEPHENS, UCLA, M
23. RONNIE BOUEMBOUE, North Carolina State, F
24. PHIL EDGINGTON, Louisville, D
25. JOVAN BUBOJNA, Illinois-Chicago, GK
26. ALAN SANCHEZ, North Carolina State, M/F
27. NICK CARDENAS, San Diego State, D
28. ZACH LOYD, North Carolina, M
29. BRIGHT DIKE, Notre Dame, F
30. BROOKS HAGGARTY, North Carolina, GK
What do you think of the list? Which players impressed you the most at College Cup? Who are you hoping your team winds up taking in the first round next month? Would you like to see an SBI MLS Mock Draft sooner rather than later?
Share your thoughts on The Big Board below.