Louisville's soccer season ended just over a week ago, but for one of its most distinguished alums, the season lasted just a little bit longer. Andrew Farrell, 2013's first overall draft pick in the MLS SuperDraft, was the starting right back for the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon in the team's MLS Cup match against the L.A. Galaxy. With the start, Farrell is now the only former Louisville Cardinal to ever start in an MLS Cup match.
In their return to the MLS Cup, the Revs lost to the Galaxy in extra time after MVP candidate Robbie Keane scored in the 111th minute to secure L.A.'s record-setting fifth MLS crown. Galaxy midfielder Kenney Walker, another former Cardinal, was drafted by Los Angeles in 2012 and has now seen two MLS Cups during his tenure with the club despite not appearing in either match.
The point of the story here, of course, is that Louisville's men's soccer program is producing an increasingly wide range of professional-level players that have found homes all over the United States' top league. It's probably not going to stop anytime soon, either.
Before Farrell became the first Cardinal to play for an MLS Cup, a wealth of recent Louisville talent found its way to MLS. Moreover, a lot of that talent stuck and earned contracts, a task that can be elusive for many. Here's a brief rundown of the former Cardinals that currently reside on MLS rosters:
7th overall - Nick DeLeon, D.C. United
85 apps (79 starts) in three seasons, 10 goals, 10 assists
9th overall - Austin Berry, Chicago Fire (currently w/ Philadelphia Union)
2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, 68 apps (68 starts) in three seasons, 4 goals, 3 assists
38th overall (Mr. Irrelevant in MLS Draft) - Kenney Walker, L.A. Galaxy
9 apps (5 starts) in three seasons
1st overall - Andrew Farrell - New England Revolution
64 apps (64 starts) in two seasons, 1 assist
Mr. Irrelevant 2.0! (38th) - Greg Cochrane - L.A. Galaxy (currently w/ Chicago Fire)
24 apps (21 starts) in two seasons, 2 assists
8th overall - Marlon Hairston - Colorado Rapids
22 apps (9 starts) in rookie season, 1 goal, 1 assist
1 app w/ U.S. Men's National Team (U-23's)
21st overall - Jimmy Ockford - Seattle Sounders
Spent rookie season on loan from Seattle, but on active roster.
Ken Lolla's program has attracted and developed a ton of top talent in a relatively small time frame. In the four MLS SuperDrafts since 2011, a total of 11 former Louisville players have been selected. Most of the players that are no longer in MLS are still playing in lower divisions around the country. That's impressive. From here, it'll be exciting to watch the careers of all of these former Cards as they get older and grow into their clubs.
On a national note, there's a chance that we could see Hairston with the next U.S. Olympic team (should they qualify), and Farrell has been written about as a potential candidate for a roster spot on the next World Cup team. Obviously, both of these are far from certain, but the fact that former Louisville players are being talked about in these circles is a major accomplishment in its own right for the program.
The 2015 MLS SuperDraft will be held on January 15th in Philadelphia. While it doesn't appear that any Cardinals are projected to go particularly high in the upcoming draft, those things can be hard to predict and can change dramatically after pre-draft proceedings like the MLS Combine (happening in early January). Seniors Will Vitalis and Daniel Keller will certainly be two to keep tabs on when we flip the calendar to January. Of course, others could enter the draft, sign Generation Adidas contracts (like Farrell and Hairston) or become homegrown signings for clubs they've played youth academy soccer for.
For now, congratulations are in order for Walker, Farrell and the rest of the former Cardinals that recently wrapped up another professional season. Louisville soccer is still in the early stages of building quite a legacy at the next level, and it's pretty exciting given what they've already accomplished.
For the record, if any former Louisville players are on the next World Cup team in 2018, we'll need jerseys. Lots and lots of jerseys.