López signed a three-year contract with Generation Adidas a few of weeks ago to play in MLS (Major League Soccer) that include a pair of options that could extend his time in the U.S. first division up through five years. He is also eligible to participate in the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 17 in Indianapolis.
“It’s an exciting time I’m going through right now from signing my contract a few weeks ago and starting it on the first, which is really exciting,” said López. “It’s good knowing I’m finally a pro and that I made it to that step that I wanted to be at. I have a long way to go, but it’s a good beginning.”
López comes from a soccer rich family and has been in the Valley visiting over the holidays. Before leaving on Thursday to take part in this weekend's MLS Combine at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he took in a Sharyland girls high school soccer match, which is coached by his uncle J.J. López and aunt Jessica López. His cousin Valeria López is a sophomore defender on the Lady Rattlers varsity squad. Another uncle of his is an assistant coach on the Sharyland boys state championship team.
After graduating from Austin St. Stephen's Academy, the Valley midfielder earned a scholarship to study and play at NCAA Division I soccer powerhouse UNC, where he has excelled for the past two seasons.
In his first season at UNC he got regular playing time at midfield and never looked back. López helped his team win the national title in 2011 and as a sophomore he guided them to the third round of the NCAA Tournament in November. He also received the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year award.
In October, López traveled to Spain with the U.S. men’s U-20 national team and will participate in the U-20 World Cup qualifiers with the stars and stripes in February. That could lead to an opportunity for López to play in this year’s U-20 World Cup in Turkey from June 21 to July 13.
The talented Valley prospect has achieved a lot in a short amount of time and his long list of accolades has made him one of the top soccer prospects in the U.S. It’s no wonder why the rumor mill has him projected to be the No. 2 pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
“It was great to do well for the team and me personally. In two years, it’s a relatively short amount of time, but it feels good,” said López. “I’m very anxious to see what team I’m going to. I wish I already knew what team I’m going to so I can get my mind set around it and start getting into wherever I’ll be.”
The MLS Superdraft consists of two rounds and 38 picks. Among the teams that López could be drafted by are Toronto FC, Chivas USA, Portland Timbers, New England Revolution, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. The draft order is determined by the final standings of the 2012 regular season. The reverse order of non-playoff teams gets the highest picks.
Regardless of the team, López is ready to take his soccer career to the next level.
“I’m pretty good at adapting to the level I’m around so hopefully it’s not too big of a jump,” said López. “UNC has helped me a lot and made me better, and used to getting ready for that next step, so hopefully it won’t be too tough and I’ll be able to adapt to the MLS and pro level environment.”
“The national team has also helped me a lot in getting ready for the next level,” he added. “There’s a lot of players on my team that are pro and I know a lot of the national teams we play against have a lot of pros, so it’s really good being able to play against them and know how I compare against them, and that I’m not too far away from where they’re at right now as a college player so once I’m a pro, hopefully I’ll be just as good or better than them.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.