I did something I never imagined I would do this past week; I actually broke down the Major League Soccer draft on our radio show on Saturday. For those of you that don’t know, Major League Soccer, or MLS, is North America’s version of that crazy pro soccer you see on random ESPN and other sports networks from time to time. Albeit a watered-down version, still in its relative infancy in the soccer world, the MLS deserves some credit for their expansion of both franchise offerings and media rights, as they are now better-televised than other pro sports leagues in North America, including the recently-revived National Hockey League.
Now why would I, a relative soccer moron, be breaking down the MLS draft? It just so happens that yet another CSUB men’s soccer player is on the verge of becoming a professional and representing the University at the next level. Kory Kindle, a graduating-senior worked out at the MLS combine last weekend and is projected to go in the first round with the 18th pick in this Thursday’s draft.
While the MLS doesn’t have the fanfare of the NFL, Major League Baseball or the NBA, any time one of our student-athletes can turn professional, it’s a win for them and the institution. MLS recently released their television schedule with every game televised on one of five networks next season, in both English and Spanish, meaning this young man will be mentioned, along with Cal State Bakersfield every time to a national and international audience.
Kindle is on the verge of joining teammate Gyasi Zardes as the second Roadrunner in a single season to turn pro. Zardes, who I wrote about previously, recently signed what the MLS calls a “home-grown” contract to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, since he is from Southern California. Although not drafted, he’ll be honored like a draft pick at the MLS Draft this week and soccer sources say his contract is worth around $200,000 a year, same as what a franchise will pay their top draft picks this season. Not too bad for a kid who played at CSUB and up until a few months ago was working at Jamba Juice with his main means of transportation being a skateboard.
So while I don’t watch a lot of the MLS, I have paid attention to how the league has successfully branded itself and now that potentially two of the young men that recently suited up for CSUB could be in a MLS uniform in the next few months, I’m paying extra-close attention and will probably be watching a few more matches next season.
While CSUB might not be able to offer the world to a young student-athlete like many other institutions with better resources can, helping them succeed both as a professional on and off the field of competition is one thing we do very well. 67 percent of our student-athletes remain in Kern County upon graduation, and in the case of these two young men, within a year they will both have their degrees from CSUB. Even though they will be playing pro soccer in other cities, they’ve prepared themselves for a future off the field as well with their education and they’ll be spreading the notoriety of the CSUB brand in the process.
Oh, and adding one more soccer viewer to their matches. Well played MLS, well played.
COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University Bakersfield.