With the NCAA Men's Division One soccer tournament underway it gives the most dedicated MLS fans a chance to see potential future stars.
Over the next few weeks the champion of Men's D1 soccer will be crowned. During that time fans of MLS teams, as well as scouts, will get to watch a plethora of matches as the field of 48 is whittled down to just one. Tournament play started today as unseeded teams attempt to qualify the 2012 powers. Up in Montlake, the University of Washington will take on Air Force at 7 PM. If you go you should expect to see a couple people with Seattle Sounders connections as the match is local and there are several former Sounders Academy players in purple and gold, as sidereal pointed out earlier today.
One of those is likely to be Kurt Schmid who is not just an assistant coach, but also part of the Sounders' scouting team. On Tuesday he talked to Sounder at Heart about some of the teams to watch in the NCAA tournament and issues in scouting during tournament play.
He first previewed tonight's local match.
UW has been very hard to beat this year. They're physical, athletic and work hard. Obviously everyone knows about the flip throw, which is dangerous no matter where they are at. Air Force typically is hard working team, used to altitude and another team that's hard to play against. They beat New Mexico twice. It could be a pretty up and down, open game with lots of chances.
It will also be stop and go. The Huskies use that famous flip throw as just another part of their dead ball strength. So while action will be rapid it will also be a unique soccer game.
In the next round, on Sunday, armchair scouts will start to see the most talent stocked teams. In those teams with likely first round talents there is also the uniquely MLS situation where players' rights are controlled by pro teams already.
Notre Dame, the number one seed, has players. The usual suspects in Akron and North Carolina. Georgetown has some underclassmen. It's interesting because so many of the players are becoming HomeGrowns for teams. Georgetown is a school that has one or two undersclassmen that are homegrown. Indiana is another one.
Akron's four seniors - it's a whole 'nother issue. It's an interesting issue because they have the right to sign the kids before the draft, but they've got to make the offer of a contract before preseason, before the draft.
He didn't mention Maryland, but they are clearly part of that upper crust of talent as well. We dove into the details about the number of HGP eligible players that are out there this year and the decisions that many MLS teams will enter just prior to the draft. Not all of them will be signed. FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC all cut at least 2 HGP players this year. The Columbus Crew have seniors scattered through several programs. They are unlikely to sign them all.
I think it's a matter of timing. Because you have to sign a kid before preseason. There's a lot of kids that you draft and he's little bit of a preseason suprise because he makes such a good impression. Or you draft a kid and you seem him with your group for a few weeks. You're kind of denied that opportunity with your homegrown guys. Sure, you've brought them up, had them in the summers, and you should know them well enough, but I think it shows that college is still a place to develop young MLS players. I think that's what that shows.
There's a team like Dallas that has signed a bunch of young guys and they still have a bunch more that they could look at. I think in the ACC Championship they had like four players that were playing and doing well for them.
Scouting the college ranks is made more difficult due to the high level of penetration of former Academy players. There are enough now that they won't all be signed by the club that developed their talent and would then enter the MLS SuperDraft. As these lists are nearly impossible for the armchair scout to determine if the best talents are actually going to windup on their MLS team.
In Kurt Schmid's case he's scouting internationally and helping the overall staff prepare for a certain game against the Galaxy.
I'll be keeping an eye on international stuff as well. College is fun because right now there's that big adreniline rush. That's one part of our scouting, but I'm still doing with Chris and Adrian the international part with those guys.
That rush will also lead fans, bloggers and national media to misjudge players. As a scout Schmid has to temper the few matches of a tournament with the history of the player.
I think it can show you something good if a guy comes up big for his team, regardless of it's college, pros or youth. That's something in his favor and you've got to look at. But just because a guy plays three, four or five good games in a row that can't negate what he's done. There are certain things I try to do to balance out every time I've seen the kid. It can't just be what have you done for me lately kind of stuff.
It is the challenges addressed by Schmid and others like the grainy feeds and the sheer size of the nation that leads the SuperDraft to be one of the least accurate of American sports drafts. Top picks are generally successful, but with 114 players drafted most sides are only going to find a single player that can help them year one and probably only two or three that eventually contribute.
All sports drafts are lotteries. MLS' just has worse odds.
Go out there, watch the Future. Players like DeAndre Yedlin, Sean Okoli and the handful of Huskies could have futures in the Rave Green. They could also just be good players that used this game they love to get quality educations, learn lessons about life and continue their passion for a few more years.