CHESTER, Pa. — On Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium, Stanford senior Tomas Hilliard-Arce won a third straight NCAA national championship.
He’ll be back in Philadelphia next month and may earn another big prize: being the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
What would that mean for Hilliard-Arce, a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist and the Defensive MVP of the College Cup?
“It would obviously mean a lot,” the defender told MLSsoccer.com after Stanford rode a dramatic double-overtime goal from Sam Werner to a 1-0 win over Indiana in the College Cup final. “That’s something that’s special to whoever gets that. But, at the same time, I’m just ready to be in a city that wants to have me.”
Hilliard-Arce certainly showcased his pro potential on Sunday, winning every aerial battle with ease, breaking up runs, making a big clearance near the goal line late in regulation and completely handcuffing an Indiana squad that came into Sunday’s final as the country’s only unbeaten team.
And the 6-foot-1 center back believes having such an accomplished college career will bode well for him as a pro. With Hilliard-Arce leading the way, Stanford became the first team to win three straight College Cups since Virginia won four in a row under Bruce Arena from 1991 to 1994.
“I think any team looking to add me to their organization should hopefully see someone who’s a leader, someone who has that competitive edge, someone who’s a winner,” he said. “I think that’s something I can bring to any organization, no matter the style of play.”
With LAFC holding the first pick in the draft and the LA Galaxy right behind them at No. 2, it seems likely that the Stanford senior will move to a different part of California. But Hilliard-Arce — who originally hails from outside Charlotte, North Carolina — is remaining diplomatic when it comes to talking about who he might suit up for when the 2018 MLS season kicks off.
“LA has nice weather,” he said. “But at the same time, being here in Philly, the cold has treated us well. So I’m completely fine going to some place that’s a little cooler.”
No matter where he ends up, the adjustment to the pro ranks may be a challenge even for a top pick. But Hilliard-Arce has looked to two recent Stanford teammates — Jordan Morris and Brandon Vincent — as proof he can make a big impact early in his MLS career.
“They give me a lot of hope that I can potentially have similar success,” he said.
And he plans to reach out to both — particularly Vincent — for advice in the coming weeks as he prepares for the MLS Combine, the SuperDraft and the next stop in his soccer journey.
“If I’m being honest with you, Brandon is my biggest mentor, someone that I look up to,” Hilliard-Arce said. “I want to copy everything he does because he’s had so much success.”