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Commentary: NCAA stars have better chance to go pro

In the past few weeks, a flurry of MLS roster rule amendments were announced. With the overall goal to improve the depth and quality of the league, the news is certainly a positive development for senior college soccer players round the country.

These tweaks have surely caught the attention of those collegiate stars seeking a professional contract. With the roster size growing and the reserve league coming back, it’s a good time to be on the lookout to start a soccer career.

Raising the roster sizes from 24 to 30 is the first of many minor changes already implemented by MLS before the young offseason began. Many of the details are yet to be hashed out completely, but for those fringe college players, the Jan. 13 SuperDraft date became an even bigger chance to land an MLS contract.

Along with the increased roster size, the decision to bring back the reserve league will keep players match fit, gives players a chance to impress coach and technical staffs in games and push players for starting spots in the first team.

One of the most recent examples of the reserve league bearing fruit is Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings, who has been in tremendous form for the last two years. But the former Cincinnati State and University Cincinnati man might never have gotten an opportunity were it not for the reserve league.

A third-round draft pick by the Rapids in the 2007 SuperDraft, Cummings spent most of his rookie year playing in the reserve league. By the end of that first season, the Colorado coaching staff took notice of Cummings, making 11 appearances for the first team.

The rest is now history – Cummings entered 2008 as a regular, and come season’s end, had started to form his now-famous strike partnership with Conor Casey.

Now that the 2010 college soccer season is in its last stages, seniors around the nation are continually working hard, looking to build a case for selection in the SuperDraft and perhaps follow Cummings’ route to the bigs.

Not only is the resurrection of the reserve league a big move for those with professional aspirations, the addition of two new teams creates more roster spaces around the league with the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps trying to fill out their inaugural teams.

Only a few games remain on the NCAA Tournament schedule, and with each passing weekend, the number of teams left will be halved. Some players’ college careers may expire, but the beginning of their professional careers could begin at the Draft Combine.

For those who earn an invitation to Florida during the first week of January, the Combine will provide scouts, general managers and technical staffs one last look at the prospective MLS rookie class in 2011. And those looks now offer those prospects the best chance they've had in a while to have a successful career.

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