College Men: Zips Head Men's Elite Eight

Recruiting in men's college soccer is a fluid process. Players can change their plans on whether to enter college or go pro. Foreign players are often signed at the last minute. With that in mind, here's how the top men's recruiting classes ranked in mid-February:

1. AKRON. The Zips lost Hermann Trophy winner Steve Zakuani, who turned pro after his sophomore year and is with MLS's Seattle Sounders FC, but they more than made up for that loss with the signing of five former residents at the U.S. U-17 national team program in Bradenton, Fla. — goalie David Meves, defenders Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson and midfielders Ben Speas and Scott Caldwell — and Yoram Mwila, who was the captain of the U-17 Zambian national team.

They join former Bradenton residents Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Kofi Sarkodie, who will be a junior and sophomore in 2009, respectively.

Akron's incoming class also included Matt Mason and Eric Stevenson, who are part of a stellar class of Ohio seniors.

(The U-17 connection will continue next year with the arrival of U-17 captain Perry Kitchen.)

2. UCLA. The Bruins' class is headed by midfielder Amobi Okugo, who is in contention for a berth on the U.S. under-20 national team for Concacaf qualifying. Coach Jorge Salcedo loaded up on attacking players: Dakota Collins, Chandler Hoffman, Ryan Hollingshead, Evan Raynr and Michael Roman. Defender Cesar Morales earned Development Academy all-conference honors with Sockers FC Chicago.

3. STANFORD.
Coming off a 4-11-3 season during which it scored only 14 goals, the Cardinal got help with the signing of Californians Dersu Abolfathi, one of the top senior forwards, and Adam Jahn, who recently traveled with the U.S. U-18s to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, where he scored five goals against China. Also headed to the Farm is Hunter Gorskie, considered one of the top defenders in the country.

4. CALIFORNIA. The Bears give the Pac-10 three of the nation's top four classes. Ireland looked to add forward John Fitzpatrick after he put on an outstanding performance as a guest player for South Coast Bayern at last summer's Milk Cup. Joining Fitzpatrick in Berkeley will be fellow Californians Steve Birnbaum, Riley Kovatch, Anthony Salciccia, Chris Ortega, Nick Shackelford and Kyle Marsh. Santa Clara transfer Jeff Cosgriff will join the Bears as a senior.

5. MARYLAND. The national champion Terrapins dipped into the ranks of the New York Red Bulls academy program to sign Matt Kassel last year, and they have signed forward London Woodberry from FC Dallas and midfielder Paul Torres of D.C. United. Also committed to Maryland is forward Jordan Cyrus, who scored 122 goals for Norfolk, Va., Academy. Real Colorado defender Taylor Kemp should give the Terrapins help on its backline, which lost Omar Gonzalez and A.J. Delagarza to MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy.

6. VIRGINIA. Will Bates (Richmond Strikers), who played with the U.S. U-18s at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, and Ahkeel Rodney (B.W. Gottschee) give the Cavs two powerful strikers. Shane Cooke, Marcus Douglas and Sean Murnane are all products of D.C. United's academy.

7. NORTH CAROLINA.
Uruguayan-born Enzo Martinez — yes, he was named after Enzo Francescoli — broke the South Carolina prep career record for goals with 143 after only three seasons. UNC has also signed goalie Scott Goodwin from the CASL Chelsea FC program.

8. DUKE. South Jersey High School Player of the Year Ryan Finlay, a former U.S. U-17, and Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year Andrew Wenger give the Blue Devils' attack a big boost.

(This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Soccer America magazine.)  

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