Next week will herald the 3rd season of college of soccer in the Sounders Academy era and the first class of Sounder upperclassmen. That Junior class will be one player light from last year's Sophomore class after DeAndre Yedlin made the jump from Sounder on Campus at Akron to Home Grown Player signing to senior team starter to US youth international in about 5 minutes. So that was cool. We may not see a sudden rise like that for a long time, but there are still some very talented Sounders plying their trade as amateurs.
Here are some players to keep an eye on, with their TopDrawerSoccer ranking if they made the TDS top 100 overall — plus the school's preseason poll rank (if any) and last year's RPI ranking.
Ranked Schools#4 North Carolina (RPI: #12)
Jalen Markey (Fr)
Markey didn't get many starts for the Sounders this season, mostly because he was busy being called up to U18 national team camps. Now he joins a very strong UNC team that has been dominant force over the last decade and made it to the national quarterfinals last season before being beaten by eventual champion Indiana on a goal by a certain Eriq Zavaleta. The Tar Heels are deep at center back in a defense that earned 17 shutouts last season, so despite his pedigree he might not be in line for a lot of early playing time. But playing for a team gunning for national championships in a tough ACC beside players like Boyd Okwuono will certainly aid his development.#17 Wake Forest (RPI: #20)
Sean Okoli (Jr) (TDS #40)
After a fairly quiet Freshman year, Okoli came on strong last season and ended the year as the team leader in goals with 11. Then he tore it up in the spring exhibition season with 3 goals and an assist in 4 games. Along with Michael Gamble — who was one of the top Freshmen in the country last year — he should be part of a dangerous tandem that will be trying to keep a young but very talented Deacons team competitive in the ACC. And with another good year he'll be one of the players discussed as another possible HGP signing.#23 Washington (RPI: #19)
Darwin Jones (Jr), Dom Dismuke (Fr), Michael Gallagher (So), Ian Lange (So), Ryan Herman (So)
The Sounders to Huskies pipeline has dried up a little bit this season. After looking like the system would be sending 3 or 4 players a year to Washington, there are no new Academy graduates this season. However, there are two alumni transferring into Washington. Darwin Jones and Dom Dismuke both committed to Washington previously but had to work their way through community college first. Now the two forwards come at a welcome time to a Huskies team in dire need of offense. Despite being nationally ranked, they're only returning one player who scored more than a single goal last season — Sophomore James Moberg, who had 4. Jones and Dismuke will be immediately relied upon to be a big part of the offense.
They join Gallagher and Lange, who both earned a ton of playing time as Freshmen last season — Gallagher as a center back and Lange mostly at midfield. Herman is looking forward to another season backing up Spencer Richey, the Huskies career leader in everything goalkeeping.
Poised for ContentionVirginia Commonwealth (RPI: #18)
Jason McGlothern (Fr)
VCU is on the rise after making the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2004. McGlothern is a left-sided midfielder and German-American dual-citizen who trained with the Nuremberg youth Academy before joining the Sounders. So I'd expect him to get some playing time.Drexel (RPI: #38)
Mark Matula (Fr)
Drexel Dragons, y'all. Drexel came out of nowhere last season to only lose one conference game and make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1972. That's before I was born and I'm kind of old. So coach Doug Hess is doing something right. And one of those somethings is recruiting Matula, who was an every-game starting defender for the Academy team last season. If they can run roughshod through the Colonial conference again, he's a good bet for a NCAA tourney appearance as a Freshman.Duke (RPI: #50)
Nick Palodichuk (Jr)
After a disappointing season both for Palodichuk (who missed much of it with injury) and Duke (who finished at .500) the Blue Devils return almost their entire starting roster from last season, and Palodichuk will be a veteran presence in the midfield trying to return Duke to ACC contention.Stanford (RPI: #51)
Aaron Kovar (So) (TDS: #14), Jordan Morris (Fr)
Kovar was last season's Pac 12 Freshman of the year while Morris was tearing up the Development Academy with 28 goals for the U18s and was called up to the US U20 national team for its World Cup preparation in France. So if the Cardinal is going to claw back into contention this season, it's going to be done with Sounders at the wheel.
ClimbingDenver (RPI: #54)
Jordan Schweitzer (So)
Schweitzer is part of a very strong Denver midfield that's going to make them conference favorites after their move from the MPSF to the Summit League this summer. This scouting report compares him to Michael Bradley. So yeah, wow.West Virginia (RPI: #58)
Nick Raskasky (So)
Does the departure of Caleb Porter from Akron spell the end of the Zips' stranglehold on MAC Soccer? If so, West Virginia is as poised as anyone to take over the mantle after hovering around the edge of the national rankings last season. The fullback Raskasky missed a good chunk of last season with a knee injury, but was a big part of the defense before then even as a Freshman.College of Charleston (RPI: #63)
Troy Peterson (Jr) (TDS: #92), Ike Crook (Fr)
Another highly regarded midfielder, Peterson is quietly talked about as a leading candidate for an HGP deal in the post-Yedlin era. He's joined in the midfield by Freshman Ike Crook, who was a standout winger and playmaker for the U18 Academy team. This is another school moving conferences this season, as they join the Colonial Athletic Association, a rather stiffer challenge than the Southern Conference they were in last season.UC Santa Barbara (RPI: #66)
Brandon Brockway (So)
Last season the Gauchos suffered a pretty epic collapse. At one point in September ranked in the top 10 nationally, they struggled the rest of the season and ended up not making either their conference tournament or the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years. But their problem was mostly scoring, as the defense only allowed 18 goals all season, thanks in part to the defender Brockway, who started most of the season as a redshirt Freshman.
Of course, there are more — Michael Steele at Oregon State, Keenan Townsend backing up keeper at San Diego State, a bushel of Sounders at smaller local colleges likes Western and Seattle U — and we'll be keeping an eye on all of them this season.