CHICAGO — Perhaps no player at Friday’s 2019 MLS SuperDraft is as grateful to the team that selected them as Tucker Bone. In a few months he’ll graduate from the United States Air Force Academy, meaning his selection by the Seattle Sounders with the 20th overall pick isn’t as straightforward as other players’.
“I owe them everything,” Bone said of his new club. “To draft me in the first round and take that chance, I can’t thank them enough.”
Bone, the 2018 Western Athletic Conference player of the year, will graduate in May, after which all new Academy graduates are given 60 days of leave. While by then the Sounders will be well into their MLS schedule, it will be Bone’s first opportunity to show that he was worth the wait.
“I’ll be fighting extremely hard not to let them down,” he said.
If he is to continue with the Sounders after those initial 60 days, Bone will need special permission. One option is the military’s World Class Athlete Program, normally home to active duty military members training for the Olympics. If accepted, Bone could continue to play for the Sounders and forego his active duty service.
Given the uncertainty, there is the obvious question of why Seattle would take such a risk.
“When he’s available may be tricky, but I’d rather go through that process with a kid who I think is really talented,” said Garth Lagerwey, Seattle’s general manager and president of soccer. “Ultimately, you have to draft guys you think are talented enough for the first team.”
Lagerwey said the club’s draft position allowed them to feel comfortable selecting Bone, viewing him as no more a risk than any other player.
“At 20 in this draft there are no home runs, there are no sure things,” Lagerwey said. “We didn’t come in looking for immediate help.”
The Sounders have been down a similar road before, having selected Air Force cadet Kevin Durr in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. However, Durr was not freed from his military commitments and never played for Seattle. Thus, for Bone this is an opportunity be a trailblazer.
“I think it’s such an honor,” Bone said. “It’s paving the way for young guys like me who want to live out this dream but also want to serve their country. To show that it’s possible means a lot to me.”