UCLA has lost a second underclassmen to Major League Soccer, but it wasn't like it was unexpected. Kelyn Rowe, who looked seriously at turning pro following his freshman season a year ago, is the league's fifth Generation adidas signing.
Rowe, the Pacific 12 Conference's Player of the Year, joins All-American forward Chandler Hoffman in MLS's developmental program and could be a top-three selection in the Jan. 12 MLS SuperDraft.
Rowe, 20, an attacking midfielder from Federal Way, Wash., has extensive youth national team experience and is in the U.S. under-23 group preparing for Olympic qualifiers early next spring. He was a third-team All-American as a freshman and amassed 13 goals and 20 assists in two seasons in Westwood. He was the first attacker off the bench as the Bruins marched into the NCAA College Cup final four earlier this month.
“It’s every kid’s dream to be a professional soccer player, and I’m definitely in that boat,” Rowe told MLS's website. “It’s a dream come true, so it’s a little surreal right now, hasn’t quite hit me. I think it will once preseason starts.”
He said the opportunity to play against the Galaxy and Chivas USA during his time at UCLA offered a glimpse of what could be.
“We got a little taste what it’s like to play at the next level,” Rowe said. “But it’s going to be hard. It’s never easy. The pace of the game is that much faster, the physicality is there, you’re playing against guys who have been playing for years at that level.”
Rowe and Hoffman had been expected to sign GA pacts, which include funds to complete their degrees and opportunities, because of the program's roster rules, that aren't available to college seniors. GA players do not count against their clubs' roster sizes nor salary caps.
Rowe is the 12th UCLA player to sign with the program since 2000. Many of MLS's top players -- including Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Mike Magee and Chivas USA midfielder Blair Gavin -- signed GA contracts while in college or high school.
The league announced five GA signings Thursday, including Rowe, Hoffman and UC Santa Barbara junior midfielder Sam Garza. The other signings, previously confirmed, are Akron sophomore Darren Mattocks, a Jamaican forward, and Duke junior forward Andrew Wenger. All five will participate in the Jan. 6-10 MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
MLS also is pursuing two players from NCAA champion North Carolina, forward Billy Schuler and midfielder Enzo Martinez, according to multiple reports.
MLS also announced it has signed four college seniors in advance of the draft, including UC Santa Barbara All-American midfielder Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS). The others are Connecticut midfielder Tony Cascio, Louisville midfielder/forward Nick DeLeon and Maryland forward Casey Townsend.