As we draw to within a month of the 2011 MLS Draft, the action behind the scenes that is shaping the 2011 draft class is getting hot and heavy.
Seniors are already getting their MLS Combine invites while the process to select the players chosen for Generation adidas is well underway.
We're on top of it all and can give you the following tidbits:
I am hearing that the MLS Generation adidas class will be smaller than last year. You could see just eight players signed, a number that combined with Omar Salgado, would give us nine GA players in the draft.
Some top GA targets have either chosen to stay in school or are leaning heavily that way. Notre Dame's Dillon Powers and Duke defender/midfielder Andrew Wenger would both have been Top 10 caliber players, but I've been told both are staying in school.
One top GA target who I hear isn't staying in school is Kofi Sarkodie. If Akron wins the NCAA title we could see Akron dominate the GA list with as many as five players on it.
Matt Kassel (New York Red Bulls) and Ethan White (D.C. United) aren't the only draft targets who could wind up going the Homegrown Player route. Word is the Philadelphia Union are trying to claim Penn State striker Corey Hertzog as a Homegrown Player. That would be a major score considering Hertzog is a first-round talent.
Right now I'm projecting the Generation adidas class to be the following eight players: Darlington Nagbe, Perry Kitchen, Zac MacMath, Kofi Sarkodie, Will Bruin, Darren Mattocks, Zarek Valentin and David Bingham. Of this group, Kitchen and Mattocks are still not quite locks to leave school. If Akron wins the NCAA title, that could change things and both could leave.
Now, without any further delay, here is SBI's second MLS Draft Big Board:
SBI MLS DRAFT BIG BOARD 2.0 (*-Underclassman)
1. *DARLINGTON NAGBE, Akron, Forward/Midfielder
Speedy and skillful, some think he can be better than Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury.
2. *PERRY KITCHEN, Akron, Defensive Midfielder
Just a freshman, and not a lock to leave school, Kitchen is regarded by some as Akron's best long-term pro prospect.
3. *ZAC MACMATH, Maryland, Goalkeeper
Top-flight goalkeeper is a U.S. Under-20 starter.
4. *KOFI SARKODIE, Akron, Right Back
Best attacking fullback to come out of college in years. Another U.S. Under-20 player.
5. *DARREN MATTOCKS, Akron, Forward
Akron's leading scorer is just a freshman, and not a lock to come out, but if he does he's an early first-rounder.
6. OMAR SALGADO, Gen Adidas, Forward
A teenage 6-foot-3 target striker with good feet. Interest in him is growing and he should be a Top Five pick.
7. *WILL BRUIN, Indiana, Forward
Strong striker who has been one of the best finishers in college, he's a safe bet to go high.
8. *ZAREK VALENTIN, Akron, Right Back/Centerback
Still young, but skillful centerback projects to some as a top-notch right back.
9. *DAVID BINGHAM, California, Goalkeeper
There is a growing debate over who is the better pro prospect, Bingham or MacMath. It is unlikely Generation adidas signs two goalkeepers, but Bingham making it a tough decision.
10. *DILLON POWERS, Notre Dame, Midfielder
A star on the U.S. Under-20 national team, he slips on Big Board because of rumors he's staying in school.
11. *COREY HERTZOG, Penn State, Forward
Fast, fearless and a clutch finisher, Hertzog has quietly climbed the charts this fall. Philly Union making a play for him as a Homegrown Player.
12. MICHAEL FARFAN, North Carolina, Midfielder
Arguably the most talented senior in this draft, Farfan is a skilled attacking midfielder.
13. A.J. SOARES, California, Central Defender
Best centerback in the draft, he could be this year's Tim Ream.
14. *ETHAN WHITE, Maryland, Defender
The D.C. United Academy product would be one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, which is why it would be foolish for D.C. United to not sign him and let him enter the draft.
15. *ANDREW WENGER, Duke, Central Defender/Central Midfield
Scouts love his skill, size and versatility, but Wenger seems more likely to stay in school. If he came out, he'd be in Top Ten.
16. *CASEY TOWNSEND, Maryland, Forward
A top-notch prospect two years ago, Townsend had a strong comeback season to earn a place here, though he slips a bit amid rumblings that this year's Generation adidas class will be small.
17. *MATT KASSEL, Maryland, Midfielder
Opinions vary widely on the Red Bull Academy product, but with the Red Bulls expressing interest in signing him to a Homegrown Player deal, Kassel may skip the draft and join New York.
18. ANTHONY AMPAIPITAKWON, Akron, Midfielder
His versatility, quickness and passing touch make him a very attractive prospect.
19. JASON HERRICK, Maryland, Forward
Best senior forward in the draft is mature, quick and a good finisher.
20. JALIL ANIBABA, North Carolina, Defender
An athletic centerback who is 6-feet tall, but still dominates in the air.
21. JUSTIN MERAM, Michigan, Forward
A fearless forward who has shown a great ability to go at and beat defenders, Meram's stock has risen faster in the past month than any player in the nation.
22. COLE GROSSMAN, Duke, Midfielder
Overshadowed by Wenger and Duke forward Ryan Finley, but Grossman has won over his share of scouts.
23. STEVEN MCCARTHY, North Carolina, Midfielder
A 6-foot-4 central midfielder who scouts have had eye on since his days at Santa Clara.
24. JEFF ATTINELLA, South Florida, Goalkeeper
25. *MICHAEL NANCHOFF, Akron, Left winger
A quality left midfielder who has enjoyed a strong season at Akron, Nanchoff is a GA long-shot who would be in the Top 20 if he were coming out.
26. *MICHAEL TETTEH, UCSB, Left back/Left winger
Scouts drool over the thought of a speedy left back with good attacking qualities, but injuries are a concern and his chances of being signed to a Generation adidas deal are fading.
27. *BRIAN OWNBY, Virginia, Forward
If not for injury concerns, this blazing fast striker would be near the top of the board. At this point he looks like a safer bet to stay in school.
28. DANIEL KEAT, Dartmouth, Midfielder
A polished soccer player with skill and work rate to be effective two-way player.
29. BOBBY WARSHAW, Stanford, Midfielder/Defender
Tough and talented defender who looks more suited to defensive midfield role in MLS.
30. *LUIS SILVA, UCSB, Midfielder
A skillful two-way central midfielder is reportedly on the Generation adidas radar, though my sources tell me that isn't the case. On ability, Silva is probably closer to early to mid-20s.
31. ASHLEY MCINNES, Tulsa, Forward/Midfielder
32. RICH BALCHAN, Indiana, Midfielder
33. MICHAEL BOXALL, UCSB, Defender
34. AMANI WALKER, Forward, UC-Irvine
35. J.T. MURRAY, Louisville, Defender
36. BRYAN MEREDITH, Monmouth, Goalkeeper
37. ERNESTO CARRANZA, Sacramento State, Forward/Midfielder
38. JOSUE SOTO, SMU, Midfielder
39. EDDIE ABABIO, North Carolina, Defender
40. RYAN KINNE, Monmouth, Forward
What do you think of this group? Who would you like to see your team draft?
Share your thoughts below.