In an effort to gauge where Amobi Okugo, Danny Mwanga, Zac MacMath, and Jack McInerney really fit in the ever-growing landscape of promising young soccer players, I am continually flipping through preseason match reports, stopping by open training sessions, and throwing them to the wolves against Barca and Man Utd on FIFA 11. Perhaps a (slightly) more satisfying and accurate measure would be to look at their contemporaries and predecessors in the Generation Adidas program...
Since 1997, Major League Soccer has partnered with Nike (1997-2005) and Adidas (2005-present) to offer elite players an incentive to forgo NCAA eligibility and test themselves as professionals. Some never pan out - which is exactly why these programs were put in place - but I think it's safe to say Nike Project-40 and Generation Adidas have been highly successful. By my count, over 40 program alumni have been capped by the USMNT and 16 have made a World Cup roster for Team USA.
Nike Project-40 / Generation Adidas Players 1997-2011
Goalkeepers: Matt Napoleon, Andy Kirk, Tim Howard, Scott Vallow, Matt Nyman, Nick Rimando, DJ Countess, Steve Cronin, Brad Guzan, Chris Seitz, Josh Lambo, Stefan Frei, Sean Johnson, David Bingham, Zac MacMath
Defenders: Tim Sahaydak, Brian Dunseth, Ubusuku Abukusumu, Joe DiGiamarino, Scott Vermillion, Chad McCarty, Michael Green, Alen Kozic, Rusty Pierce, Carlos Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Nick Garcia, Nick Downing, Jose Burciaga Jr., Kelly Gray, Nelson Akwari, Jordan Stone, Ricky Lewis, David Stokes, Logan Pause, Ryan Cochrane, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Hunter Freeman, Tim Ward, Drew Moor, Michael Parkhurst, Nathan Sturgis, Patrick Ianni, Roger Espinoza, Blake Wagner, Jed Zayner, Marvell Wynne, Bakary Soumare, Amaechi Igwe, Rob Valentino, Tony Beltran, Jeremy Hall, Chance Myers, Kevin Alston, Omar Gonzalez, Zachary Herold, Ike Opara, Zarek Valentin, Kofi Sarkodie, Michael Tetteh
Midfielders: Jose Botello, Esmundo Rodriguez, Carlos Parra, Nino Da Silva, Ben Olsen, Judah Cooks, Maurizio Rocha, Dema Kovalenko, Antonio Otero, Francisco Gomez, Chris Albright, DaMarcus Beasley, Scott Bower, Sergi Daniv, Shaker Asad, Seth Trembly, Mario Longo, Micah Cooks, Kyle Beckerman, Bobby Convey, Miguel Saaverdra, Santino Quaranta, Kyle Martino, Justin Mapp, Craig Capano, Brad Davis, Mike Magee, Jacob LeBlanc, Eddie Gaven, Guillermo Gonzalez, Brian Carroll, Ricardo Clark, Arturo Alvarez, Danny Szetela, Josh Gardner, Ned Grabavoy, Clint Dempsey, Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, Christian Jimenez, Nikolas Besagno, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Maurice Edu, Nico Colaluca, Bryan Arguez, Anthony Wallace, Brek Shea, Eric Avila, Alex Nimo, Ciaran O'Brien, Steve Zakuani, Rodney Wallace, Baggio Husidic, Daniel Cruz, Dilly Duka, Blair Gavin, Luis Gil, Amobi Okugo, Tony Tchani, Corben Bone, Perry Kitchen, Michael Nanchoff, Darlington Nagbe
Forwards: Juan Sastoque, Eric Quill, Brian West, Josh Wolff, Barry Swift, Jamar Beasley, Marvin Quijano, Sergio Salas, Devin Barclay, Edson Buddle, Martin Klinger, Eddie Johnson, Chris Carrieri, Isaias Bardales, Jason Thompson, Nate Jaqua, Alecko Eskandarian, Jamie Watson, Chad Barrett, Will John, Quavas Kirk, Ryan Pore, Jacob Peterson, Willie Sims, Jozy Altidore, David Arvizu, Kei Kamara, Abudus Ibrahim, Patrick Nyarko, Perica Marosevic, Andrew Wiedeman, Jack McInerney, Teal Bunbury, Danny Mwanga, Will Bruin, Omar Salgado, Corey Hertzog
As you scroll through the list, you can find players who left the sport due to personal conflicts, injuries, "philosophical differences" with coaches, and interests in other ventures (picture McInerney in real estate), but the sheer volume of impact players coming out of Project-40/Generation Adidas seems to suggest that they've got a pretty good chance of hitting it big. At the very least, it's a fun study in how ridiculously awesome soccer player names can be.