It is a common thought for college athletes to wonder if pursuing their sport professionally is a possibility. Many factors need to be considered such as the financial potential, their physical health, and whether their academic pursuit is worth postponing. One sport that keeps the athletes dreaming big is soccer. Although some of the best talents in the United States such as Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, and Weston McKennie skipped college, there are countless stories of students who played NCAA soccer and made a great professional career for themselves afterwards.
A team in Major League Soccer (MLS) that is built around several fantastic former college players is the Seattle Sounders. Since their inaugural season in 2009, the Sounders have clinched the playoffs every year with two MLS cups to show for it. Currently, they are tied for first place in the western conference with Sporting Kansas City.
As the first half of the 2021 season concludes, there are six players who will be a big part of helping the Sounders finish the second half strong. The players below play different positions, but all have one thing in common: a successful college soccer background.
1) Will Bruin – Indiana University
Will Bruin is a striker for the Seattle Sounders who brings aerial threat to their attack with his 6’2’’ stature. He is a player that must be marked everywhere in the box which draws defenders toward him. This allows other attackers such as Raúl Ruidíaz to have more open opportunities that let him play to his full potential.
This MLS Veteran has 80 total goals in the league. His MLS journey began when he was selected 11th overall by the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of Indiana University. During his three seasons at Indiana, Bruin scored 33 goals in 66 appearances. It was mentioned by Jared Kelly from The Hoosier Network that Bruin’s standout year was his junior season where he scored 18 goals in 20 matches. His efforts helped the Hoosiers win the 2010 Big Ten regular season championship and helped Bruin finish second place for the Hermann Trophy.
2) Stefan Cleveland – University of Louisville
The 27-year-old goalkeeper typically serves as the Sounders backup for Stefan Frei. However, Cleveland was forced to take over early in May when the Sounders announced that Frei suffered a sprained knee with a blood clot developing. So far, Cleveland has made the most of his opportunity by receiving 12 starts and achieving 3 clean sheets from those.
Prior to the Sounders, Cleveland played for Chicago Fire FC, and prior to that was when he played college soccer for the University of Louisville as well as Dartmouth College. His first three seasons were with Dartmouth and it wasn’t until he earned the 2015 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year when he transferred to Louisville. In his final season, Cleveland played 22 games for the Cardinals and recorded 10 clean sheets. This decorated college resume for Cleveland helped him get selected 26th overall in the 2017 SuperDraft.
3) Kelyn Rowe – UCLA
Kelyn Rowe has been in the league since 2012, most notably playing for the New England Revolution for eight of those seasons. This season marks his first season with the Sounders as well as his homecoming since he grew up in the South Seattle area. The 29-year-old has already made his mark on the midfield with 18 games played and over 1,100 minutes of playing time.
Rowe’s soccer ability has been in the spotlight from the moment he stepped foot at UCLA. In his two seasons with the Bruins, Rowe recorded 13 goals and 20 assists. He played a vital role in the midfield in his 2011 season which helped UCLA become College Cup semifinalists. As a result, Rowe won the 2011 Pac-12 player of the year and has continued greatness ever since.
4) Cristian Roldan – University of Washington
Cristian Roldan is one of the most important players for the Seattle Sounders. He plays as a central defensive midfielder and even started in this position for both their MLS Cup wins. Roldan has a spectacular ability to control the game and handles the ball with fantastic composure. The Sounders have had Roldan since they selected him in the 2015 SuperDraft from the University of Washington.
Roldan had a similar impact on the game during his two seasons as a Husky. His ability in the midfield earned him the national freshman of the year award and was used to win the Huskies another PAC-12 championship.
The career Roldan started in college has reached new heights in 2021. He now makes regular contributes to the United States Men’s National Team. Expect to see him representing the United States in their effort to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
5) Alex Roldan – Seattle University
Brother of Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan is originally a central midfielder, but now plays right wingback in the Sounder’s new 5-3-2 formation. Roldan provides great service into the box from this position and adds value to both sides of the pitch. Like his brother, Alex is also making headlines on the international stage with his recent debut for the El Salvadorian National Team. In this debut, Alex scored the opening goal to help El Salvador beat Guatemala in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
At this stage in his career, Alex has played four seasons in Seattle both collegiately and professionally. At Seattle University, he played a whopping 82 games where he recorded 18 goals and 17 assists. Roldan earned his place in the all-WAC first team in his final two seasons all while majoring in business management.
6) Jordan Morris – Stanford University
Although he is currently injured with a torn ACL, Jordan Morris is a dangerous striker who uses his combination of strength and speed to score for the Sounders. Morris was also a part of both MLS championship teams for the Sounders. Most notably, he was the hat-trick hero in the 2019 first round playoff game against FC Dallas where the Sounders won 4-3 which sparked their second MLS cup championship run.
Morris was a college superstar just as much as he is a superstar now. He played three incredible seasons for Stanford University. In that final season, Morris was the leading scorer that pushed Stanford toward their first ever NCAA national championship in 2015. Lastly, Morris won the Hermann Trophy in that same season.
Once Jordan Morris is healthy, he will look to get back into the United States National Team roster and potentially play soccer in Europe.