College Soccer News examined the 2006 incoming recruiting classes throughout the country to arrive at its top 25 rankings.
The criteria College Soccer News used to rank the classes applied a lot of weight to the extent to which a recruiting class filled the perceived gaps a team needed to fill as well as the overall potential of the recruits to increase the competitiveness of the team. Individual players were evaluated based on a combination of their high school, club, ODP, and regional and national experience. Playing experience against top level competition was a key factor. Transfers were also taken into consideration in rating classes. The rankings factored in extra credit to a recruiting class if the class signaled a step upward for the program. Programs that overachieved, as several did in 2006, are recognized in the rankings.
Some classes may still not be finalized so the rankings were issued based on the best information available to us at the time. The 2006 season will feature a lot of freshmen throughout the USA who will make an immediate impact as well as more than the normal amount of transfers who look to play key roles. With that in mind, let's look at the nation's top recruiting classes for 2006.
1. UCLA -- The Bruins lost a lot of talent with the early defection of Marvell Wynne and Patrick Ianni to the professional ranks, but signed an extremely gifted 12-member class that includes eight former All-Americans and seven U.S. youth national team members. No stranger to attracting marquee players, the Bruins had the top recruiting class in the county in 2003 and 2004 and the fourth-ranked class in 2005.
Bruin mentor Jorge Salcedo stated, "This year's recruiting class is one of the best we've had in recent history. The group is extremely well-balanced and will provide us with excellent players for the next few years."
The Bruins last won the national title in 2002 under the direction of Tom Fitzgerald. If this group does remain together in Westwood for several seasons there is a very good chance that during their stay they will give Salcedo his first national title as a head coach at UCLA. The lone transfer in the class is talented sophomore forward Anthony Beltran from Claremont, California who comes to UCLA from St. John's. Beltran is a member of the U.S. U-20 national team and is a former Parade All-American.
The highly touted class is highlighted by midfielder Kyle Nakazawa from Palos Verdes Estates, California who is a member of the U.S. U-17 national team and a Parade and three-time NSCAA Boys Youth All-American; midfielder Michael Stephens from Naperville, Illinois who is an NSCAA Youth All-American and Parade All-American; defender Chance Myers from Thousand Oaks, California who is an NSCAA Youth All-American and 2005 Parade All-American; defender Patrick Rickards from Sacramento, California who is a NSCAA Youth All-American and ESP All-Star team selection and defender Ryan White from Eugene, Oregon out of South Eugene High School where he was an NSCAA Youth All-American and First-Team All-State honoree.
2. Indiana -- Indiana annually loses several prime timers due to graduation but Mike Freitag was faced with more than the usual number of vacancies going into the 2006 campaign. Defender Jed Zayner and forward Jacob Peterson elected to forgo their senior seasons and Lee Nguyen decided to leave Bloomington to play professionally in Holland after his freshman year.
As a result the Hoosiers needed to reload in a big time way. Freitag needed an outstanding class to plug the gaps and he got it. This class includes two of the top players in the country in midfielder Eric Alexander and back Ofori Sarkodie. Alexander, who is from Portage, Michigan out of Portage High, was the 2005 NSCAA High School Player of the Year, the Gatorade National Boys Player of the Year, and was named Michigan's Mr. Soccer. Alexander was an NSCAA High School and Parade Magazine All-American selection.
Sarkodie, who is from Huber heights, Ohio, was a two-year member of the U.S. U-17 Residency Program earning 36 international caps. He was named the 2005 NSCAA National Youth Player of the Year. Sarkodie was also named to the NSCAA Youth and Parade Magazine All-America teams. The class also includes U.S. U-17 national team members back Kevin Alston and midfielder Daniel Kelly. Alston, who is from Silver Spring, Maryland, was a 2005 NSCAA Boys Youth All-America Team selection and a 2005 Parade All-America Team member. Kelly, who is from Hendersonville, Tennessee out of Hendersonville High School, was an NSCAA High School and Youth All-America selection. Forward Neil Wilmarth, an NSCAA High School All-American from Chatham, Illinois out of Glenwood High, rounds out a class of rising stars.
3. North Carolina -- Elmar Bolowich once again attracts a stellar recruiting class to Chapel Hill. Bolowich stated, "The quality of our 2006 recruiting class will assure us great depth in all positions on our squad." This team will indeed by deep since ten starters return from the young 2005 squad that was 17-4-3 overall and advanced to the Elite Eight in NCAA Tourney play.
Sophomore transfer midfielder Garry Lewis from St. John's should contribute immediately. Lewis was a Second-Team All-Big East selection last year. U.S. U-17 national team members, defender Eric Lichaj from Downers Grove, Illinois and midfielder Eddie Ababio from Tampa, Florida are among the top recruits in the country. Both were NSCAA Youth All-America selections and Parade All-Americans.
The class also features NSCAA Youth All-American forward Bill Dworsky from Huntsville, Alabama who played for the Dallas Texans club team. Defenders David Rodriguez from Dallas, Texas and John Black from Charlotte, North Carolina; midfielders Bradley Brown from Raleigh, North Carolina, Chad Dalton from Land O'Lakes, Florida, and Zach Loyd from Verdigris, Oklahoma; forwards Willie Griffin from Raleigh, North Carolina, and Javier Velez from Monterrey, Mexico; and goalkeeper Brooks Haggerty from Cary, North Carolina round out a talented, deep, and highly competitive class.
4. Maryland -- The defending national champions have some big shoes to fill due to the departure of several key players including forward Jason Garey who was the 2005 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy winner. This talented nine-member class does a great job of addressing the gaps and should fit in very well with Maryland's up-tempo style of play. Sasho Cirovski calls the class "one of the strongest that we have brought in to Maryland."
Sophomore transfer Richard Costanzo from Penn State is a prime timer who will contribute up-top or in the midfield. Costanzo was the 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Marquee members include NSCAA Youth and Parade All-America selections forward Omar Gonzalez from Dallas, Texas and midfielders Jeremy Hall from Tampa, Florida and Drew Yates for Severna Park, Maryland. Gonzalez played club with the Dallas Texans while Hall played club for HC United. Yates lead DeMatha High School to a perfect 23-0 mark his senior season and was the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year. Forward Jason Herrick is from Elmhurst, Illinois and the very competitive Sockers FC Chicago club team. Midfielder Justin Kendro is from Irving, Texas out of Nimitz High. Kendro is a multi-year member of the Region III ODP team. Goalkeeper Josh Mikulewicz is from Frisco, Texas out of Frisco High where he was named the District 6-4A Goalkeeper of the Year. Midfielder Tyler Mishalow is from Fairfax, Virginia out of James W. Robinson High and the Braddock Road Youth Club team. Defender Jon Ports is from Perry Hall, Maryland out of the McDonogh School where he was an All-State honoree and played club for the highly competitive Casa Mia Bays.
5. New Mexico -- Playing for a national championship as the Lobo's did in 2005 always seems to enhance recruiting. Jeremy Fishbein has signed a recruiting class that includes four NSCAA All-Americans, three state players of the year, and two talented international players among others who should contribute immediately. Midfielder Michael Reed, an NSCAA High School All-American and the New Mexico Player, is another of what is becoming a productive line of players from Albuquerque who have elected to stay in town to play collegiate soccer.
Forward PJ Wilson from Ft. Wayne, Indiana was the 2005 Indiana High School Player of the Year and a two-time NSCAA All-American. Defender Zach Tierney from Wildwood, Missouri out of Christian Brothers High School and the Lou Fusz Soccer Club was a two-time NSCAA Youth All-America selection. Forward Gardner Morrow from Shelborne, Vermont out of Champlain Valley High School was a NSCAA High School All-American who also played for the state champion Nordic Soccer Club.
Defender Simon Ejdemyr comes to Albuquerque from Boras, Sweden while midfielder John Chisholm transfers in from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zeland. Both have the experience and athletic ability to contribute immediately. Defender Stephen Brown and midfielder Bryan Sajjadi from Arlington, Texas who are members of the Dallas Texans club team, goalkeepers Justin Fite from Spring, Texas and Eric Staver from Portage, Michigan, and defenders Justin Davis from Avondale, Arizona out of Westview High and Andrew Parsons from Glendale High in Springfield, Missouri round out a class that will keep expectations high in Albuquerque.
6. Connecticut - Ray Reid has indicated that this eleven member class may be the best recruiting haul that the Huskies have ever attracted. Opinions may vary somewhat regarding the relative standing and overall strength of this class but those who have watched this group play adamantly advise that this class is the real thing. Reid stated, "We have added depth, versatility and athleticism to an already strong team.
Sophomore midfielder Akeem Priestley, who is a transfer from Jacksonville University, is a member of the Jamaican national team. Priestley was a First Team All-Atlantic Sun selection last year as a freshman at Jacksonville. Midfielder Robert Brickley comes to Connecticut after a successful one year stay at Loomis Chaffee Prep School. Brickley played high school soccer at Wethersfield High School where he was named an NSCAA High School All-American in 2004. Netminder Matt Sangeloty is from Unionville, Connecticut where he was a two-time All-State selection and NSCAA High School All-American at Farmington High School. The class has an international flavor as a result of defender Richard Kentish who is a multi-year member of the Jamaican national team and midfielder Toni Stahl who is from Tuusula, Finlad who played for HJK.
Both Kentish and Stahl have the skill, competitive experience, and physical strength to contribute immediately. Goalkeeper Josh Ford from Liverpool, New York out of Liverpool High, forward Euan Holden from Sugarland, Texas out of Clements High School, defender Roberto Sgueglia from Schenectady, New York out of Mohonasen High School where he tallied 76 career goals and contributed 32 career assists; midfielder Michael Pezza from Jackson, New Jersey out of St. Benedicts High School who was named the 2005 New Jersey Prep Player of the Year by the Star Ledger, and defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe from Chino Hills, California out of Canyon High School and the competitive Peteadores Soccer Club round out a class that will play a key role in taking Connecticut back to the College Cup during their tenure if they remain together and healthy.
7. SMU -- Schellas Hyndman always does a good job of recruiting from the inside out by seeking the top talent right in his own backyard before expanding to other areas of the country. The Mustangs have added a 13-member recruiting class that includes eight players who hail from the State of Texas.
The class is highlighted by transfer forward sophomore Scott Geppert from Coppell, Texas who comes to SMU from Brown where he tallied four goals and contributed six assists last year and was named the 2005 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Other key marquee players include NSCAA Youth All-American Leone Cruz who is a defender from Round Rock, Texas out of Round Rock High and the Austin Capitals club team, midfielder Casey Hibbs from Brenham, Texas out of Brenham High. Hibbs was twice honored as a Gatorade Player of the Year and the NSCAA Texas Player of the Year and was an NSCAA High School All-American.
8. Virginia -- With almost everyone coming back the Cavaliers did not need a deep class. George Gelnovatch signed a trio of big-time offensive oriented recruits headed by midfielder Jonathan Villanueva from Dallas, Texas out of South Grand Prairie High School and the Dallas Texan club team. Villanueva was named the top youth midfielder in the nation by Parade Magazine. Villanueva is an impact player who makes good things happen. He was a two-time NSCAA High School All-American and two-time member of the ESP All-Star team.
Forward Matthew Mitchell is from Boston, Massachusetts out of the Noble and Greenough School where he was a two-time NSCAA High School All-American and two-time ESP All-Star team selection. Mitchell is an attack-oriented player who is at his best in one-on-one situations.
9. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons signed a class that includes some big time prospects. The class includes three NSCAA All-Americans, five Elite Soccer Program participants, and two state Players of the Year. Forward Cody Arnoux from Wilmington, North Carolina out of New Hanover High School is among the elite players in the class. Arnoux had 106 career goals and 82 assists at New Hanover. He is a two-time NSCAA All-American and was named the 2005 North Carolina Player of the Year.
Highly regarded goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald from Baltimore, Maryland out of Loyola Blakefield High School was named the Maryland Player of the Year and was an NSCAA High School and Youth All-American. Attacking midfielder Zachary Schilawski is from Cary, North Carolina out of Cary High School where he was an NSCAA High School All-American. Schilawski is considered by some to be the most talented all-around player to come out top of the state of North Carolina this year.
10. South Florida -- This impressive class offers a great mix of size, quickness, athletic ability and soccer potential. Midfielder Neven Subotic is from Bradenton, Florida where he has attended the Edison Academy Center. Subotic has been a member of the U.S U-17 national team since 2004. He was named a 2005 NSCAA Youth All-American and plays club for the Manatee Magic. Midfielder Marc Dougherty is from Sandy Hook, Connecticut out of Newtown High School where he was named an NSCAA High School All-American and the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Midfielder of the Year.
Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is from Lake Clarke Shores, Florida and is a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team Residency Program in Bradenton. Restrepo earned three caps with the U-17 Team in 2005 and was named an NSCAA Youth All-American.
11. San Diego -- This class is strong, fast, and ready to do their part to give the Toreros the lift they need to secure enough big wins to get back into the NCAA Tourney after a two-year absence. Midfielder Ciaran O'Brien from Tacoma, Washington is an outstanding prospect who coach Seamus McFadden describes as the type of player who makes "everyone around him better."
O'Brien, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year from the State of Washington and an NSCAA Youth All-American, and is out of Decatur High School where he was a three-time All-State honoree. O'Brien played club for FC United and is a member of U-18 national team player pool. Defender/forward Ryan Peterman from Rancho Cucamonga, California out of Rancho Cucamonga High School is a multi-talented and silky smooth player who should contribute immediately. Peterman was a 2005 NSCAA Youth All-American who played club for Alta Loma Arsenal.
12. Clemson -- Tiger head coach Trevor Adair's class again focuses heavily on experienced transfers to plug the immediate gaps. However, this class has more than just experience to offer. Depth, or lack thereof, has been one of the knocks on the Tigers in the past. With the addition of the class Adair signed last year that included Dane Richards who came to Clemson from San Jacinto Junior College, plus the current 2006 class, depth is no longer cause for concern.
The transfers who enrolled at Clemson in January include forward David Bell from Watkinsville, Georgia who tallied 9 goals and contributed 7 assists last year at Berry College, midfielder Tate Parrish from Acworth, Georgia, who was a Second Team All-Southern Conference honoree at Appalachian State as a sophomore last year, and forward Frederico Moojuen who was the 2004 and 2005 Gulf South Conference Player of the Year at Lincoln Memorial University.
The class also includes three true freshmen. Defender Greg Eckhardt is from Orange Park, Florida and attends the National Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. Eckhardt is a member of the U.S. U-17 and U-18 teams and was named a Parade and NSCAA Youth All-American. Forward Nathan Thornton is from Spring, Texas out of Klein High School and the Houston Texas Club team. Thornton is a member of the Texas and Region III ODP squads. Goalkeeper Joseph Bendix is from Marietta, Georgia and is a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team, a Regional ODP team member, and an ESP participant.
13. UNC-Greensboro -- This is a very promising class with a ton of soccer and athletic ability. The resumes of the recruits reflect an impressive background of top notch high school, club and ODP play. Spartan coach Michael Parker stated, "We think there are several among the incoming players who will be able to contribute immediately."
The class includes midfielder Michael Bonilla from Lawrenceville, Georgia who is a member of the Georgia and Region III ODP teams, goalkeeper Nathaniel Berry from Holly Spring, N.C. who is enrolled at the IMG Academy in Bradenton and is a member of the North Carolina ODP team, midfielder Cory Maret from Ocala, Florida out of Forest High School where he tallied 102 goals and 16 assists, midfielder Chris Ethier from Beverly, Maine who had 45 goals and 60 career assists at Beverly High and was named an NSCAA High School All-American.
14. Duke -- The Blue Devils sign a strong, athletic, and attack oriented class that includes one transfer and five freshmen. The transfer is junior forward/midfielder Joseph Germanese who comes to Duke from Vanderbilt where he was the 2004 Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. In 2005 he played in 18 games with nine starts and scored 6 goals with 3 assists. Midfielder Joshua Bienenfeld is from Huntingdon Valley, Pa. out of Lower Bucks County where he had 88 career goals. Bienenfeld was a 2005 NSCAA Youth All-American and ESP All-Star.
15. Santa Clara -- A class whose long range potential ranks below only a select few. Cameron Rast stated, "Given some time and a bit of experience we believe we have a special group coming in this year." The marquee player of the class is defender/midfielder Amaechi Igwe from Belmont, California who is a 2005 graduate of the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton. Igwe has been a starter for the U.S. U-17 and U-20 national teams. Igwe is a multi-year NSCAA Youth All-America Team selection who will have an immediate impact.
Forward Ryan Brown is from Montclair, New Jersey out of Montclair High School where he was a First Team All-State and All-Region selection and was named the Essex County Player of the Year. Midfielder Jeff Cosgriff is from San Bruno, California out of St. Ignatius College Prep where he was a two-time All-League selection who tallied 13 goals and added 14 assists his senior season.
16. Notre Dame -- A very balanced class which has a lot to offer. Bobby Clark stated, "I don't know where people will rank this class, but we certainly rank it as one of the best recruiting classes that we've ever taken at Notre Dame."
The class features NSCAA High School All-America midfielders Justin Morrow from Cleveland, Ohio out of St. Ignatius High School and Michael Thomas from Olathe, Kansas out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Morrow was a multi-year member of the Michigan ODP team and a two-year member of the Region II ODP pool. Thomas was a First Team All-State selection and was named the Player of the Year by the Kansas City Star. Midfielder Dave Donohue from Reading, Massachusetts out of the Cushing Academy was an All-State selection and played for the U-18 Boston Bulldogs. Forward Tamba Samba is from Indianapolis, Indiana out of Ben Davis High where he was a First Team All-State selection and Indiana ODP team member. Defender John Schaefer is from Detroit, Michigan out of Detroit Jesuit High School where he was voted to the 2005 Michigan Dream Team. Goalkeeper Philip Tuttle is from Hooksett, New Hampshire out of Brewster Academy where he was named to the 2005 Boston Globe prep All-Scholastic soccer team. Tuttle plays club for the Seacoast United Premier U-17 team.
17. San Diego State -- Lev Kirshner stated, "We significantly increased the talent level of our squad with our 2006 recruits. We were successful in filling the necessary gaps and found a number of individuals with the ability to play for us right away." The class features midfielder Evan Toft from Centennial, Colorado out of Centennial High School and forward Daniel Ortega from Chula Vista, California out of Eastlake High School. Toft played club for the Colorado Rush, was ESP participant, and a NSCAA Youth All-American.
Ortega was a two-team NSCAA Youth All-American who was a member of the U.S. U-17 national team residency program in 2005. Defender Nick Cardenas is from Thornton, Colorado out of Horizon High where he was a two-year Colorado All-State selection and a member of the Colorado Rush club team. Midfielder Kyle Crain is from Pleasanton, California out of Foothill High and the Mustang United soccer club. Crain was a Cal-North and Region IV ODP team member.
18. St. John's -- Another class that includes a good mixture of athletic ability, soccer skill, competitive experience, size, and quickness. The marquee player of the class is midfielder Ryan Soroka from Langhorne, Pennsylvania who is considered by many to be among the top recruits in the county. Soroka has the competitive experience and the skills needed to contribute immediately. He is a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team and is a NSCAA Youth All-American.
19. South Carolina -- Mark Berson has added a very athletic class that includes a good mixture of size, speed, and competitive club play. The marquee player of the class may be NSCAA All-American midfielder Andrew Evans from Cayce, South Carolina who was named the 2006 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year. The class also includes midfielder Mario Burstein who was a four-year starter and ESP participant out of George Walton High School and forward Jamal Geathers from Aiken, South Carolina out of Aiken High who was a 2005 ESP All-Star.
20. St. Louis -- Dan Donigan needed an infusion of talent to help fill immediate gaps and to help add depth across the board and he got it. Donigan stated, "This is the deepest class that we have brought in since our current junior class arrived in 2003." The ten member class includes midfielder Tim Ream from St. Louis out of St. Dominic who tallied 15 career goals and 39 assists and was an All-Midwest Region honoree, forward Jimmy Holmes from St. Louis out of Priory High where he was an NSCAA High School All-American, forward Scott Wisniewski from Dallas, Texas who tallied 152 goals and 99 assists as a member of the Solar Soccer club, defender Rob Viviano from Orange, California out of Orange Lutheran and the Pateadores soccer club, and midfielder Simeon Steward from Redlands, California out of Redlands High and the Pateadores soccer club.
21. Northwestern - Tim Lenahan brings on board a six member class that features defender Mark Blades and forward Eamon O'Neill. Both were highly recruited NSCAA All-Americans. Blades is from Lakewood, Ohio out of St. Ignatius where he tallied 17 career goals and 41 assists and was named the 2005 Ohio Player of the Year. O'Neill is from Wilmington, Delaware out of Salesianum High where he 69 career goals and 64 assists, was named the Delaware Player of the Year, and was a two-time ESP participant. Defender Pat Coleman is from Chagrin Falls, Ohio out of Chagrin Falls High where he was an All-State honoree and the Chagrin Valley Conference MVP. Forward Kevin Valenta is from St. Louis out of St. John Vianney High where he was First Team All-State. Defender Drew Pavlovich is from Leawood, Kansas out of Rockhurst High School where he was an All-State selection. Defender Daniel Pydo transfers in from Georgetown.
22. UC Santa Barbara -- This is a very interesting class. Tim Vom Steeg has built a successful program at UCSB by going after talented players but also by putting a premium on selecting only players with a team mentality. Vom Steeg stated, "We look for kids that are coachable and willing to be part of a team and I feel we have accomplished that." He called the 2006 recruiting class "the best all-around collection of players we have ever had."
Based on the productivity of some of his prior classes, that seems to be a bit of a stretch but time will tell. The class is highlighted by goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner from Rancho Cucamonga, California, who has 27 starts under his belt with the U.S. U-17 national team. Midfielders Chad Williams who is a transfer from Hiram College and midfielder C.J. Kintas should contribute immediately. Forwards Drew Gleason from Merced, California and Bongomin Otii from Denver, Colorado should push for time up-top.
23. Penn State -- This class meets immediate needs while providing future productivity. Junior defender Chris Germani, who is a transfer from UNC, may be the X-Factor for Penn State in 2006. A starter as a freshman, Germani has since been hampered by injuries. A healthy Germani will give this team a big boost.
Midfielder Alex Wentzel is out of Exeter Township High where he was an NCAA High School All-American. Defender Robert Bohlen is from Port Jefferson, New York out of St. Anthony's High was an ESP selection.
24. California -- Kevin Grimes again stayed within the borders of the state of California to attract this class. This is a very balanced group of recruits with an impressive array of accomplishments. The class includes talented midfielder Hector Jimenez from Bell Gardens, who has been a member of the U.S. U-17 national team and was named a 2005 NSCAA Youth All-American. Other midfielders who will compete for playing time include Anthony Avalos from Morgan Hill out of Live Oaks High and the Santa Clara Ruckus, Patrick Dolan from Concord out of De La Salle High School, Imaan Kerchgani from San Jose out of Leigh High School and the Santa Clara Ruckus, and Evan Sassano from Orinda out of Miramonte High. The class also includes forward Chris Cortes from Mission Viejo and defender Josh Leon from Calabasas.
25. Akron -- Caleb Porter's initial recruiting class at Akron is shaping up very well. Several members will contribute immediately. Midfielder Ben Zemanski is a NSCAA High School All-American out of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Akron. Midfielder Vedran Ilic is from Belvidere, Illinois out of Guilford High School and the Chicago Magic Soccer Club. Ilic was named an NSCAA All-Region selection and Second Team All-State honoree. Midfielder Elliot Bradbrook is a junior transfer from Ashland University where he was an NSCAA Division II Third Team All-American. Midfielder Oscar Odoch is from London, England where he played for the Arsenal, Fulham and Wigan youth sides. Odoch's playmaking and finishing skills will add an additional dimension to the Akron attack.
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