By Sammie Hill–
Renowned for its thriving talent and breeding of successful players, the University of Louisville men’s soccer program recently achieved a feat unmatched by any other school in the nation. On Jan. 12, the MLS selected four members of this year’s senior class as part of the 2012 MLS Super Draft. Nick DeLeon, Austin Berry, Colin Rolfe and Kenney Walker will soon take their places as players in the most elite soccer league North America has to offer, exemplifying the caliber of the men’s soccer program. The University of Louisville remains the only college in America to have four players drafted and the only university with three players selected in the first round.
Representing the top tier of both American and Canadian soccer, the MLS consists of some of the most talented players throughout the world. Encompassing 19 teams—16 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada—the MLS embodies the highest quality level of professional soccer. This league has attracted prestigious players not only from America, such as Landon Donovan, but also from other nations, such as David Beckham. Thus, the fact that the MLS drafted four University of Louisville players demonstrates the exceptional quality, not only of these individuals, but also of the university’s entire men’s soccer program.
The first MLS team to select a University of Louisville player, the DC United, drafted Nick DeLeon as the 7th overall pick. Since joining the Cards in 2010, DeLeon has served as a valuable asset to the team, starting in every game for the past two years. His strength and intensity make him a fierce midfielder and a danger to the opposition. In a Q and A with the DC United, DeLeon expressed his excitement to take this next step in his career.
DeLeon transferred to Louisville in 2010. The senior midfielder has started in every game since.
“This is what I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” DeLeon reveals, “and now that the opportunity is here, I’m ready. I’m honored to be selected by the club, and while I’m a little nervous, I’m ready for the next step.”
Austin Berry earned his place as the 9th overall pick, drafted by the Chicago Fire. This NSCAA All-American has been an incredible defender for the Cards throughout the past four years. His ability to win balls in the air and exterminate advances by the competition enticed the Chicago Fire to select Berry as a top 10 pick.
Drafted as the 18th overall pick, All-American Colin Rolfe will begin his MLS career with the Houston Dynamo. A tremendously effective forward, Rolfe led the Cardinals in scoring this season for the third consecutive year.
“Colin Rolfe was a player we liked heading into the draft,” Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said in an interview. “He also fills what we considered a position of need.”
Rolfe earned NSCAA All-American honors as a junior.
The final U of L player drafted to the MLS and the 38th pick overall, Kenney Walker, will join the ranks of Landon Donovan and David Beckham as part of the L.A. Galaxy. Known for his constant pursuit of perfection, this midfielder has been a valuable member of the men’s soccer team since his freshman year.
With seasons running from March to November, the MLS requires an immense time commitment and a relentless work ethic. Demanding fitness, finesse and full command of the game, this league molds men into extraordinary players equipped with unparalleled skill. Experience in this type of environment will allow these former Cardinals to exhibit their talent while enabling them to grow as individuals, building on the foundation laid by the University of Louisville and launching their careers as some of soccer’s most brilliant players.