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Friday, December 23, 2011
UCLA's Hoffman signs with MLS

By Scott French

UCLA striker Chandler Hoffman has signed as expected with Major League Soccer's Generation adidas program.

Hoffman had a phenomental junior season, winning All-America honors after scoring 18 goals to lead UCLA to its first NCAA College Cup men's soccer final four in five years.

It had been assumed the forward from Birmingham, Ala., would sign with MLS, and he said following the Bruins' loss on penalty kicks to North Carolina in the NCAA semifinals that he planned to discuss his options “with my family the next few days, talk to the [UCLA] coaching staff and see what the opportunities are in MLS.”

UCLA sophomore Kelyn Rowe also is expected to sign a Generation adidas pact, which is offered to the best players retaining college eligibility. Players in the program do not count against MLS clubs' salary caps nor roster sizes and tend to dominate the initial selections in the first round of the SuperDraft.

“I’m thrilled to be included in the Generation adidas list,” Hoffman told the league's website. “When you just look at the players that have come through this program, it’s basically every big-name American player. To have that opportunity to come into MLS and be a professional athlete, which has been my goal, is a major accomplishment and something I’m very proud of.

“I also see it as a new beginning and a time to prove myself once again, because coming to UCLA from Alabama, a lot of people didn’t believe I could do it, and I’m sure that at the next level there are going to be people who think I can’t do it. So it’s just added motivation to me to prove myself, because I definitely do think I’m good enough to be a goalscorer at the highest level.”

Hoffman is the 11th player from UCLA to sign since 2000 with Generation adidas (which was called Project 40, and sponsored by Nike, until 2005). Previous Bruins in the program were goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Carlos Bocanegra (2000), goalkeeper D.J. Countess (2001), defender Nelson Akwari (2002), Galaxy forward Chad Barrett (2005), defenders Patrick Ianni and Marvell Wynne (2006), defenders Tony Beltran and Chance Myers (2008) and midfielder Amobi Okugo (2010). Hoffman is in the 2012 class.

Bocanegra, of course, is the U.S. national team captain and a backline stalwart for Scottish champion Rangers. Akwari played last season with the L.A. Blues. Countess no longer plays professionally, but the rest remain in MLS.

Others who have gone through the program include U.S. national-teamers Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea, Clarence Goodson, Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan, DaMarcus Beasley, Teal Bunbury and Sean Johnson, former U.S. players Ben Olsen (now D.C. United's head coach) and Josh Wolff, Armenia national team star Yura Movsisyan, Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Mike Magee, former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, Chivas USA midfielder Blair Gavin, former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Zarek Valentin, Philadelphia midfielder Freddy Adu, Columbus defender Chad Marshall, Houston winger Brad Davis and Seattle winger Steve Zakuani.

WORTH NOTING: The National Soccer Coaches Association of America has added Long Beach State forward Nadia Link to its NCAA Division I women's All-America team. The junior from Rowland Heights scored 16 goals to lead the 49ers to the NCAA quarterfinals; she was added when officials learned that four of Long Beach's opponents failed to vote on the awards. ... Former USC women's coach Jim Millinder, a long-time presence in the South Bay's soccer community, has been hired to coach the University of San Francisco's women's team.