D.C. United is on the clock…not that they’re sweating it. The 2004 Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Charlotte, N.C., is less than 24 hours away and D.C. United’s pick is all but assured as 14-year-old Freddy Adu signed a Nike Project-40 contract with the league late last year.
While Adu, who has been with the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team in Residency since January 2002 and started for the Under-20s at the most recent World Youth Championship, may be the most hyped in this year’s draft, there are a total of seven other U.S. National Team players who will be available to MLS teams.
Under-18 MNT midfielder Michael Bradley, along with five members of the U.S. Under-20 MNT that turned in an impressive fifth place performance at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship – Ryan Cochrane, Steve Cronin, Clint Dempsey, Ned Grabavoy and Chad Marshall – all signed Nike Project-40 contracts early in 2004. Additionally, Chris Wingert, who is currently with the Under-23s as they prepare for Olympic Qualifying in Mexico, just signed a professional contract with the league last week.
Bradley, who has been in Residency with the U-17s since Sept. 2002, just participated in his first camp with the Under-18s at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The son of MetroStars’ Head Coach Bob Bradley, the confident midfielder showed his value in 2003, scoring eight goals in 20 games (14 starts) for the U-17s.
Santa Clara teammates central defender Ryan Cochrane and goalkeeper Steve Cronin both left after their junior seasons to join Project-40. Cronin has been a part of the U.S. National Team picture since playing with the U-17s, while Cochrane joined the U-18 MNT in 2000. The two former SCU Broncos were both impressive during the World Youth Championship last December, helping the U.S. to a quarterfinal appearance against Argentina. Cronin joined Kasey Keller as the only American goalkeepers to be named to a FIFA World Youth Championship All-Tournament Team after compiling a 1.20 goals against average, the second lowest ever by a U.S. team at a WYC and the lowest by a team that advanced out of group play.
Marshall, who joined Cochrane to form the Under-20s central defense duo the past two years, started with the U-17s in Residency during the fall of 2000. The former Stanford standout, who opted to leave after his sophomore year to join MLS, was the only player on the U-20s to play in every international match in 2003. This past week, while participating in the MLS Combine at The Home Depot Center, Marshall was invited into the Under-23 camp as they get prepared for the CONCACAF region’s Olympic qualifying tournament, which will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico at the beginning of February.
Grabavoy will forgo his final season at Indiana to join MLS, going out on a high note after helping IU win its sixth NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer title this past season. The NCAA championship, in which he scored the first goal against St. Johns in the 2-1 victory, topped off a remarkable week for the midfielder who returned from the World Youth Championship in UAE, where he played in four out of five games. Grabavoy started with the Under-18s in 2000 and was the leading scorer on the team in 2001, before moving on to the Under-20s.
Clint Dempsey came onto the national scene in 2002, getting his first start as a U-20 forward. The Furman University product was with the U-20s at the WYC, but only say playing time in one match. Dempsey signed with MLS after deciding to skip out on his junior and senior years at Furman University.
U.S. Under-23 National Team defender Chris Wingert will also be available to MLS teams after announcing his signing with the league just a couple days after winning the 2003 Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, presented to the top male player in NCAA Division I soccer. Wingert, currently in camp with the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, helped lead St. John’s to the NCAA title game. The Big East Defender of the year became the first player from St. John’s to win National Player of the Year honors.