In a weighted lottery that Major League Soccer conducted at 3 p.m. Thursday at the ESPN Zone in New York City, the Columbus Crew have won the rights to 17-year-old U.S. Youth National Team star Danny Szetela.
"We're excited, no question about it," said Crew Head Coach Greg Andrulis. "He is very technical and very talented and he has some bite to him. We had the luxury of watching him play for the U-17s and also against us in spring training. He is a very good player."
The Crew had the second highest percentage chance (21.1%) of obtaining Szetela in the weighted lottery with 211 out of the 1,000 balls available. Only Dallas with 262 balls and a 26.2 percent chance had better odds of winning the rights to Szetela.
The lottery ranking was based upon a MLS point system, such that the team with the lowest number of points receives the greatest chance of obtaining the player, while the team with the highest number of points has the least chance. Since the lottery may take place at any point during the calendar year, total regular season points shall be determined for each team by taking its points total for its previous 30 regular season games falling before the lottery, regardless of season dates. The previous year's playoff achievement is also relevant. This is achieved by assigning various incremental point values to playoff levels, as follows: Fail to qualify for playoffs (0 points), Eliminated in conference semifinals (2 points), Eliminated in conference finals (4 points), Eliminated in MLS Cup final, runner-up (6 points), and MLS Cup Champions (8 points).
A certain set "percentage chance" of receiving the player was assigned to each team. For instance, the team with the least amount of points after the above mentioned procedure would receive a 26.2 percent chance of acquiring the player, while the team with the most points would receive a 0.6 percent chance. The total points and "percentage chance" are below.
Major League Soccer announced on Friday, July 16, that Szetela, the 2004 Parade Magazine High School Player of the Year, had signed with MLS. The Clifton, N.J. resident, pursued by some of the top clubs in the world including English Premier League clubs Everton and Manchester City, has been a standout midfielder for both the U.S. Under-17 and Under-20 National Teams and joins teammates Freddy Adu (D.C. United), Eddie Gaven (MetroStars) and Guillermo Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) as the latest American youth soccer star to join the League.
"Becoming a professional soccer player is what I've dreamed about since I started playing the sport as a kid and I'd like to thank MLS for giving me the opportunity to stay in the U.S. to play," Szetela said. "I chose MLS because I think playing at home gives me the best chance to prove myself and I look forward to starting my career and making an immediate impact."
Szetela starred on the U.S. U-17 National Team, anchoring the midfield during the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championships in Finland, where he started all five of the team's matches as the U.S. finished in fifth place. It was the best finish by a U.S. team since Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley led the Under-17s to fourth place in 1999. His performance at the World Championships in Finland, where he was the second-youngest player on the U.S. team behind Adu, drew the attention of several top clubs around the world.
A member of the U.S. youth national teams since joining the Under-14 age group, Szetela's size, work rate, technique and bursts of speed have made him a force in central midfield on the international level. A two-way player with fine attacking skills, Szetela is also an aggressive ball-winner and does not shy away from tough tackles and strong challenges. Like Adu, Gaven and Gonzalez, he is a product of the U.S. Soccer Federation's Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida where earned his high school diploma at the Edison Learning Center. Szetela is a developmental player and will not count toward The Crew's senior roster or salary cap.
Height: 6' 0"
Birthdate: June 17, 1987 in Passaic, N.J.
Hometown: Clifton, N.J.
U.S. Under-20s: 2004: Has been one of Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen's most solid players so far this year, playing in 10 matches (third most of any player), starting in nine games ... Has snagged four caps for the U-20s this year ... Recently traveled with the team to South Korea for a four-team international tournament.
U.S. Under-17s: 2003: The second-youngest player behind 14-year-old Freddy Adu named to the Under-17 CONCACAF qualifying roster and FIFA Under-17 World Championship roster... Started in all four of the USA's matches in the World Championship, helping the U.S. to a fifth-place finish ... Scored six goals and dished out 12 assists in 2003 ... Scored the Under-17s first goal of the year in a 1-0 win over AC Milan on January 1 ... Emerged as one of the most talented players on the field for the Under-17s during his time in residency.
U.S. Under-16s: 2002: Played with the Under-16s in early 2002 ... Played for the U-16's in an international tournament in England, scoring one goal in three games ... Joined U.S. Soccer's full-time Residency Program in September, 2002.
U.S. Under-14s: Participated in the 2001 Under-14 Boys National Team camp.
High School: Graduated in May of 2004 from Edison Learning Center in Bradenton, Fla. ... Named a High School All-American as a freshman and Parade All-American High School Player of the Year in 2004.
Personal: His mother, Krystyna, is raising three kids alone ... His father passed away when he was younger ... Names his father as his biggest role model ... Has three brothers (Tom, Derrick, Greg) and one sister Aneta ... Lists his favorite player as Argentina international Andres D'Alessandro ... Enjoys dancing.