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Soccer Mills - The Schools and Semi-Pro Clubs That Produce MLS Players

Every year, players are drafted by MLS clubs. But where did they come from before getting their big break?

Over the past few days, I've written a series of articles exploring the MLS SuperDraft, the players that come out of it, the managers that select them, and the picks themselves. In this article, I'd like to take a look at where these players came from before signing with MLS and their clubs. Using the same data set (all SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft picks starting in 2010), I'd like to look at the colleges and amateur/semi-pro teams that the players were with before going to MLS. Note that a lot of players who are in college play on an amateur or semi-pro team to get meaningful minutes since NCAA rules severely restrict the amount of matches college teams can play.


Just about every single player drafted between 2010 and 2013 attended college. Only sixteen players who were drafted did not play soccer in college. Most of those who did not play in college were foreign-born, however two Americans - Jack McInerney and Zach Herold (who was forced to retire due to a heart ailment before attending college) were the exception to the rule. Five of the sixteen are still in MLS (McInerney, Omar Salgado, Joao Plata, Emiliano Bonfigli, and Kekuta Manneh), four retired or are otherwise not playing (Herold, Yuri Gorentzvaig, Yazid Atouba, and Stefano Pinho), and the other seven are playing in other leagues from Gienir García playing in Ascenso MX (Mexican Second Division) to Kohei Yamada who now plays for V-Varen Nagasaki of Japan's J-League Division 2. Of the other 371 players who did play college soccer 145 (39.1%) saw playing time in MLS, and 128 (34.5%) are still in MLS.

The colleges that have the most draft picks are the most successful programs. The University of Notre Dame and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) are tied with most alumni drafted with fourteen each. The University of Akron and University of North Carolina (UNC) are close behind with twelve each, followed by Indiana University and University of Louisville with eleven and University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) with ten. 66 colleges in total had players drafted by MLS in the four drafts.

Of the players still in MLS, UCLA is tops with nine of its alumni still playing in MLS. University of Akron has eight, Notre Dame has seven, an Louisville and UNC have six. 59 colleges are represented by current MLS players drafted between 2010 and 2013.


As previously stated, most college players play club soccer in order to get extra coaching and playing time outside of the NCAA's strictly limited guidelines. 208 of the 371 (56.1%) players who played college soccer played on some sort of amateur or semi-pro club.

The club that had the most players drafted was by far USL Premier Development League (PDL)'s Chicago Fire Premier with 24. The next closest was USL PDL side Reading United with 22, followed by Orange County Blue Star with fourteen and Carolina Dynamo with thirteen - both also in USL PDL.

When it comes to players still in MLS, Chicago Fire Premier leads the way with thirteen, with Reading United behind with twelve, and Carolina Dynamo coming in third with eight.

So where will this year's draftees come from? The numbers don't lie - they'll most likely be coming from one of these soccer mills.

Editors note: Thanks to Reading United for pointing out our original totals of twelve total players drafted and ten still in MLS was incorrect.