The funny thing about age is that it keeps changing. With MLSsoccer.com in the midst of releasing its list of the best 24 players younger than age 24 this week, it’s important to remember that, at some point, the current crop of players will become ineligible for the list.
Fortunately, college soccer – among other sources – will keep providing new players to replace them. Some, like UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake (should he sign with the league), won’t ever get the chance because they’re turning 24 sometime next year. But you better believe that when the SuperDraft rolls around in January, a good chunk of the guys posing with the Commissioner will soon be gracing the pages of 24 Under 24.
Here are our top five candidates from the college ranks.
Patrick Mullins, F, Maryland
Before the SuperDraft last year, Mullins wasn’t rated as a top 10 prospect. He was 11th. The reigning Hermann Trophy winner surprised some by staying at school after an outrageous 17 goals and 10 assists in 2012. Despite the Terrapins’ struggles this season, Mullins still has a tidy two goals and three assists to show for his efforts.
It’s tough for young attacking players to log minutes at the MLS level, but Mullins is really good. He’ll be fine.
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Boyd Okwuonu, D, North Carolina
This one’s sort of an “if,” because Okwuonu could always decide to stay in Chapel Hill. If he doesn’t, though, pen this one in now: Okwuonu will be named to 24 Under 24 next year.
How could he not? Despite standing at just 5-foot-8, Okwuonu has proven that he is smart enough, tough enough and reliable enough to make it in arguably the best conference in the country. You want proof? UNC allowed just seven goals last season.
A.J. Corrado, M, Indiana
Corrado is a legitimate playmaker, with great individual skill in addition to field vision that helped him bag 12 assists last season.
If he decides he wants to go to MLS, look out. On the other hand, Corrado is pre-dentistry in his senior year at Indiana, so that’s not a bad career path, either.
Robert Kristo, F, St. Louis
At 6-foot-4and 205 pounds, Kristo looks a little bit more like a bruising center back than a striker. He’s not. Last season he scored 11 goals for the Billikens. In a league full of big, physical defenders, surely there’s a team who’d love to pick up the Bosnian-American man-beast and give those defenders a taste of their own medicine.
Joe Sofia, D, UCLA
The Bruins started out their season with a bang on the road, drawing Notre Dame and then beating Indiana. The next week, they returned home and almost inexplicably lost 3-0 to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The difference? Joe Sofia, who had to sit out because of a last-man red card he picked up against Indiana. Sofia is not particularly flashy, but he’s solid, balanced, and smart, and he’s the kind of guy upon whom you can build a backline.