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MLS Draft Notes: Mattocks ready to skip MLS for Europe, Ownby trial in Germany

Darren Mattocks (

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The 2012 MLS Draft is a month away, and the Montreal Impact's options with the No. 1 overall pick are ready to get a lot weaker.

Akron University striker Darren Mattocks, a consensus pick to be among the first two players selected in January's MLS Draft, is ready to pass on the Generation adidas contract offered to him by MLS to sign in Europe. According to Mattocks' agent, Patrick McCabe, clubs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark have made offers to the Akron sophomore and he is set to select one of those options over the MLS Generation adidas offer.

If Mattocks does pass on signing with MLS, it will shake up the top of the draft, where he and Duke star Andrew Wenger were the consensus top two picks in the draft. According to sources, Montreal was strongly considering Mattocks with its top pick, and may be more inclined to deal the No. 1 overall selection if the Jamaican-born striker is unavailable.

Mattocks was the clear-cut best forward in the pool, but without him, MLS would have a handful of other forwards to turn to as potential Generation adidas signings.

As it stands, North Carolina standout Billy Schuler is expected to be the next highest-rated forward in the Generation adidas pool, and was already being offered a GA deal, but a Mattocks move to Europe would improve the chances of players such as UCLA's Chandler Hoffman, South Florida's Dom Dwyer and UC-Santa Barbara's David Opoku or Sam Garza to land a GA deal.

If Mattocks does pass on MLS, he will be the third top-rated college striker to do so in the past six years, joining Charlie Davies, who skipped the 2007 MLS Draft to sign with Swedish club Hammarby, and Marcus Tracy, who passed on an MLS offer prior to the 2009 MLS Draft to sign with Danish club Aalborg. In both instances, the players were considered the top players available in the MLS Draft. In 2009, Duke striker Mike Grella, the second highest-rated forward in that year's pool behind Tracy, also bypassed an MLS offer to sign with English club Leeds United.

Mattocks scored 21 goals for Akron in 2011, the second-most goals in the nation, as a sophomore after helping the Zips win the NCAA title as a standout freshman in 2010.


Virginia striker and former U.S. Under-20 standout Brian Ownby has been invited to the MLS Combine in January, but that hasn't stopped him from heading to Europe in search of opportunities.

Ownby is in Germany, in trial with third division side SC Preußen Münster. Considered one of the top talents in college soccer before a slew of injuries hurt his stock heading into his senior season, Ownby enjoyed a healthy 2011 and showed scouts the speed and skill that have him once again on the draft radar of several MLS clubs.


What do you think of these developments? Disappointed to hear Mattocks looks ready to bypass MLS? Think Ownby is worth a first-round flyer on draft day?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Is it odd that if Mattocks was American, I would want him to go to Norway/Denmark/Sweden, but because he’s Jamaican, I am annoyed that he’s not coming to MLS?

    I want more young Americans in Scandinavia, where bigger European leagues will look at them, but anyone who is not US-eligible I would prefer to stay in the US and improve the quality of MLS.

  2. The Scandinavian leagues also tend to lose many of their better players to bigger European leagues, so they are often looking for reasonably priced replacement talent. The transfer money that they earn may help to cover the salaries for untested but promising Americans.

  3. I actually thought my second point was the more important one.

    I just don’t see Denmark as being a good league for players to develop.

    From a purely selfish American standpoint, what have we gotten out of Americans playing there?

    I can’t think of anyone who has gone to the Danish league and has made a significant contribution to the US national team.

    I just look at Parkhurst, who for me was one of our top players at the Olympics.

    We’ve heard nothing from him.

    I thought he’d be one of our top defenders by now.

  4. also they seem to think they play well enough to get a look from bigger european teams while playing for these minnows.

  5. yeah thats pretty much it. they definitely dont get the playing time they need in the NCAA to tear it up and as a result they get overpaid and seem to dump out in europe.

  6. Generally speaking, when you work in the EU you are quoted a salary after taxes. So if they offer a kid 200k, that is what they make after taxes.

    The cost of living is higher, but not as significant as it is being made out to be. It’s just a different life. You’re not in the burbs there, it’s going to be in a city with concrete from end to end. Good public transport and services though.

  7. I think it’s more about

    1) Teams more likely to sell. MLS salary cap and rules makes it much less profitable for MLS teams to sell a breakthrough player compared to use the player for the whole (long rookie) contract and letting him leave for free.

    2) Larger chance of getting discovered by the bigger leagues

    3) Contract length. Can sign shorter than 4-year deals.

    4) Maybe find a team with more youth development experience.

    5) Playing where soccer is the nr1 sport and the added pressure and general exposure.

    than salary. The GA contracts aren’t low. Denmark has tax benefits for “foreign experts”. IIRC Norway too. Even Sweden is starting something similar for foreigners (who earn +$150k/year).

    But this sounds like the normal agent talk trying to talk up his MLS offer. You know the normal “x teams from x countries are looking at my player”.

  8. As far as Mattocks goes, I wouldn’t consider him gone just yet. A similar thing happened with Danny Mwanga a few years back, when Mwanga’s agent made it seem all but likely that Danny would bypass MLS and head to France IIRC.

    (SBI-You recall incorrectly. There was some early buzz about French interest but nothing ever reported as far as him being gone to France. As soon as MLS came through with its big offer to Mwanga he was signed up.

    Could Mattocks still wind up in MLS? It’s possible, but his chances of leaving are much greater than Mwanga’s were.)

  9. I wonder how long the Scandinavian clubs can continue to overpay for North American bench warmers as Europe’s economy continues to collapse?

    The high tax rate also eats away at those contract.

  10. Taxes. It’s why Benny came back. Unless you’re really near the top, Europe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if you’re just thinking about effective take-home pay. And factor in the Euro going down the drain faster than the Dollar, cost of living, etc., and it’s effectively a toss up if you’re just thinking about pay. But at the moment the ceiling is higher in Europe.

  11. Why pay a college player $250K or more when most are not yet ready for a starting job in any top-flight league? Let places like Norway or Denmark blow money on them.

  12. Ives, can underclassmen declare for the draft without a GA deal and if not, why not?

    I saw a lot of talent on display in the College Cup yesterday that looked like MLS prospects and a lot of them were underclassmen who won’t get Generation adidas offers. MLS should let them into the draft if they want to turn pro.

  13. Plenty of non US players have gotten GA deals going back to Dema Kovalenko in 1999 thru the likes of Tony Tchani, Rodney Wallace, Bakary Soumare, Steve Zakuani and Danny Mwanga.

    (And, as Ives mentioned, Stefan Frei.)

  14. Marcus Tracy signed in Europe after his senior year.

    He turned down a GA deal after his JUNIOR year and returned to Wake Forest for his senior season.

    When he signed in Europe, it was between that and a standard non-GA MLS rookie deal and since it wasn’t a GA deal, there wouldn’t have been any tuition money.

    Further, I’m pretty sure the reason he returned for his senior year was to get his degree so even if they had offered tuition money, he wouldn’t have needed it. Unless he used it to go to law school.

  15. It’s amazing that even in Sweden/Norway they can pay players right out of college $200 K a year even if they warm the bench. No wonder they chose it over the $50,000 MLS offers them.

  16. for many of these players its not only the $$ but the “aura” of playing in Europe… the atmosphere and the perception that if they succeed there, well then…. you have arrived in the soccer world.

    What most young soccer players don’t realize is that you are better off starting in the MLS and then moving on. Like one person commented… as a foreigner, you will have to be much better than the national you would replace.

    Haven’t seen Mattocks play…. maybe the US doesn’t mean much to him and simply wants to live in Europe. Maybe he ends up playing in the mid level leagues in Europe, so if that is what he wants…. well…. it is his life and he will have to live with his decisions.

    The silver lining in this situation is that it offers an opportunity to another player here in the MLS…. maybe not with the same skill level, but with ample opportunity to develop.

  17. For me, the college fund would be worth it. I suppose such a fund can be part of the contracts they write with their first pro clubs as well.

  18. Its great to say he can take his money from Denmark and pay for tuition, but its all too common in all walks of life… plumbers, lawyers, ball players to spend what they have and not leave too much for a rainy day. Atleast with MLS GenAd deal its not their money and it won’t be spent

  19. What some of these young players don’t realize is the cost of living, (ie. seven dollar a gallon gas) will eat up those seemingly better contracts. And, as a foreign player you have to be distinctly better than the domestic players on the club to get playing time. A recepe for misery.

  20. I don’t think anyone should begrudge a kid the chance to go play in Europe. It’s not up to us to decide, it’s their life. If they want to take a Gen. Addidas deal, great. If not, great. There’s plenty more to develop.

    Soon enough, the US Soccer Development academy is going to be producing more top level talent than MLS can recruit in a given year. Then what? Then it will be in the league’s best interest to keep the top level talent here and let the others go abroad. Because even those players will be good enough to go to the lower level EU leagues. And then it will come down to transfer value in the long run, in which they will really want to keep the best players.

    Right now, though, I won’t blame a kid for doing what he wants to do or what’s best for him and/or his family.

  21. +1

    Therein lies the problem, “The paycheck in Europe would be probably be bigger than what you’d get in MLS anyway.”, until the MLS can compete with Euro salaries for youth, MLS will be starved for young talent. Sure it’s getting better each year, but as long as clubs overseas can afford to pay 250k or more for a guy to sit on the bench or be loaned away we just will not draw young top talent.

  22. “Look at Marcus Tracy, he is all but done now with his injuries, if he was in MLS he would be able to go back to college and not pay tuition.”

    Or he can take his Denmark money, and pay for his own tuition.

    I don’t see how one is better than the other.

    What I do know is that Denmark has become sort of a black hole from a developmental standpoint.

    People go in, but no one comes out (with any significant improvement in their game). I expected bigger things from Feilhaber, Parkhurst, Tracy, et al.

  23. My favorite Ownby moment had to be that U-17 World Cup where everyone on SBI was trashing him for being too slow and sucking… then he took the ball by himself and made a hell of run up field and scored. I think even Ives was like… “And it’s time for me to eat crow” on that one.

  24. I don’t know. MLS offers some of these guys $150 K. They can sign for Danish/Norwegian/Swedish teams and make double that. Head to Europe

  25. The “MLS doesn’t offer enough money” is just silly. These guys are being offered extremely high wages for the league, with guaranteed contracts and a college fund. Also, these guys are given protections to allow teams to develop them and offered such opportunities as the Gen. Ad. tour in Europe. A gen. ad. deal gives a player an amazing opportunity to develop. What if Jack Mac, Hertzog, Weidman, or Corben Bone signed in Europe? They might not have made it past one season without the team giving up on them because they have a middle level contract and occupy a foreign roster spot. Or they might have played in 6 teams in 3 seasons like Mike Grella.

  26. MLS is just not a big enough pond for rookies from college to see first team playing time. how many rookies really see significant playing time every year? The chances of breaking through are probably lower than signing with a lower level EU team, where the pay is probably better.

  27. Gen Adidas contracts are good deals for MLS teams because Adidas pays the players salary and it doesnt count against the teams salary cap. The thing MLS needs to improve is the reserve schedule and competition. Gen Addidas players that dont get first team minutes only have a measly 10 game reserve schedule.

  28. Well — You have a limited amount of cap space, plus the profit margin is slim enough that most teams have only one or no DPs, so, if you have tah extra cash and a little cap room and you want to put together a winning team with players that might interest fans, will you spend a big chunk of cash on some college player that a few thousand people in this country have seen play (and at most once or twice) and who probably isn’t ready to contribute in a big way on the MLS level, or will you seek out a proven international talent who will instantly be the best player on the team and will be recognizable to tens of thousands of your potential customers?

    Which of those is the smart choice? Then, throw in the idea that even if you do sign one of these top college talents, they’ll be looking to jump to Europe as soon as they think they can score a BIG deal there.

  29. I thought Generation Adidas contracts only went to Americans. Why would Mattocks get one.

    (SBI-GA deals are for top college prospects, regardless of nationality. Stefan Frei is Swiss and got one.)

  30. Well if they have to do what’s best for them it could open up a spot for another Guy that career takes off how many guys were drafted before Dempsey? How many guys bypassed MLS then who we don’t remember now. Its all hit or miss.

  31. Making $150k-$250k a year plus having a college fund available to fall back on is pretty decent deal. Making more money in Europe is nice, but not everything. Look at Marcus Tracy, he is all but done now with his injuries, if he was in MLS he would be able to go back to college and not pay tuition.

    Or Devin Barclay who was a Project40 player that after injuries and a lot of bench warming was able to go back to Ohio State.

    Being a young star in any sport is a crapshoot, I just think what MLS does is a pretty good deal when it comes to college funds

  32. As a MLS fan, it disappoints me to not see top young American-developed talent not play here. At the same time, a lot of players dreams is to play professionally in Europe – and why use MLS as that stepping stone and just head straight overseas and do it. We’ve seen players from Charlie Davies (pre-accident of course), Oguchi Onyewu and Steve Cherundolo benefit from bypassing MLS. If I was them, I’d probably do the same thing – head overseas and just trial with clubs and gauge interest. If something works out, even better. The paycheck in Europe would be probably be bigger than what you’d get in MLS anyway.


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