Though the 2018 MLS SuperDraft is eight months away, the next couple months will be vital for a number of top prospects in college soccer who will showcase their talent in the Premier Development League this summer.
While many of the stars of college soccer are either homegrown eligible or playing in other settings, the PDL attracts a large percentage of the combine invitees and eventual draft picks every year.
Here are some players to pay particularly close attention to over the coming weeks, either close to home with local teams Reading United, Ocean City Nor’easters and Lehigh Valley United or via online streams.
All players will be seniors this fall unless otherwise noted.
Jon Bakero, Forward, Carolina Dynamo
The Spaniard is one of the big holdovers from a Wake Forest team that was denied the College Cup crown in a penalty shootout with Stanford last season. He’s the leading returning goal scorer this fall with 7 goals and 4 assists in 2016.
Albert Ruiz, Forward, FC Tucson
Ruiz had a monster season at Florida Gulf Coast last year, leading the nation with 22 goals and will join a FC Tucson team that is loaded with college talent.
Grant Stoneman, Midfielder/Defender, Michigan Bucks
Stoneman made the most of his first year at Loyola Chicago last fall after transferring from Wisconsin, earning second-team All-American honors and this summer will try to help the Bucks defend their title.
Afonso Pinheiro, Forward, FC Tuition
The Brazilian led his Albany team to a surprising national seed entry into the NCAA Tournament last season, feasting on defenses to the tune of 13 goals and five assists.
Wyatt Omsberg, Defender, Seacoast United Phantoms
The reigning Ivy League Defender of the Year led a Dartmouth defense that conceded just 15 times in 19 games last fall and will likely be one of the top defensive prospects from the college ranks come combine time.
Chase Gasper, Defender, FC Golden State
One of the top left backs in the country in 2015, Gasper missed most of last year with an injury after an honorable mention All-Pac 12 season the year before. His draft eligibility for 2018 is a question mark at this point, but given his position if he is in the draft pool he could be a sought after asset.
Jose Carrera-Gracia, Midfielder, FC Golden State
Led Cal in assists last season with five and added six goals, showing his versatility as an attacker.
Ben Lundgaard, Goalkeeper, New York Red Bulls U23
The Delaware native had a fine season helping to lead Virginia Tech to the NCAA Tournament last year and will return as one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the country this fall.
Jason Wright, Forward, SIMA Aguilas
The Jamaican was talked about as a possible Generation adidas candidate going into last year but fell off the radar when Rutgers had a disastrous season. Despite the team’s struggles, Wright still managed six goals and three assists. He left the program in January and it’s not clear where he’ll be come fall.
Logan Paynter, Midfielder, Nashville SC U23
After putting up big numbers last season at Lipscomb - 11 goals and 4 assists - Paynter will be a player to watch with a new team affiliated with the 2018 USL expansion team.
David October, Midfielder, North Carolina
The former Tractor Boy youth product didn’t get a lot of attention in North Carolina’s College Cup run last season, but the Englishman was an important piece on a team loaded with talent.
Frantzdy Pierrot, Forward, Reading United
The Haitian international is back in Reading this year for a second straight summer after scoring eight goals and adding five assists in his first season at Coastal Carolina after transferring from Northeastern. A big target with finishing ability, Pierrot will likely be a first round pick in January.
Lucas Stauffer, Defender, Des Moines Menace
The Kentucky native was a first-team All-Big East selection last season at Creighton.
Brian White, Midfielder, New York Red Bulls U23
Once upon a time White was on the Philadelphia Union team that won the 2012 Generation adidas Cup, but he’s back with the New York Red Bulls again this summer in the PDL after a five goal and four assist season with Duke in the fall.
Sam Gainford, Forward, Saint Louis FC U23
The former Liverpool youth player is one of the top returnee pieces to a program that boasts a long list of alums playing at the next level in MLS and elsewhere.