When Roman Celentio was called up to the national team in January Camp, he completed the impressive accomplishment of going from college soccer to a national team call up in a single season. While college soccer's importance to the national team has certainly diminished significantly, we still see some late bloomers and overlooked players who make their way from the NCAA to the USMNT. 8 members of the World Cup squad played college soccer, with 9 more former college athletes receiving call ups in the last year. It may be a few season before any of this year's crop of new pros receive a call up, but odds are at least one or two of them will make an appearance in the future. These ones' are worth keeping an eye on this season for a potential breakout.
Duncan McGuire (ST, 22)-Orlando City
To say that Duncan McGuire's breakout MAC Hermann winning season was a surprise, is a bit of an understatement. While the Creighton striker had shown flashes of his potential during his first two seasons, the redshirt junior took his production to a completely new level. McGuire went from only 1 goal in 19 games during his sophomore year, to running away with D1's golden boot, scoring 23, including 4 during Creighton's run to the College Cup semi-finals.
While he did not sign a Generation Adidas contract, McGuire was selected sixth overall in the MLS Draft by Orlando City, a club that's notable for giving opportunities for college forwards to succeed. The likes of Canada's Cyle Larin, Daryl Dike and to a lesser extent Benji Michel, all found quick success in the purple jersey coming out of school, with each one eventually making the jump to Europe. McGuire's strong pre-season has suggested that he'll have the chance to compete with DP signing Ercan Kara for the the number 9 position, with some analysts tipping McGuire to potentially start the season opener. Due to Orlando competing in CONCACAF Champions League for the first time, and the additional games from the expanded Leagues Cup, he should be line for heavy rotational minutes this season even if he doesn't secure the starting job.
At 6-1, McGuire's physical strength, positional awareness and ability to threaten the goal from virtually any angle, made him the most dangerous striker in college soccer. Whether those skills can translate to the next level remains to be seen.
Peter Stroud (CM, 20)-New York Red Bulls
While he came just short of winning the Mac Hermann award, as Duke's two time ACC Midfielder of the Year and a First Team All American, Peter Stroud has no shortage of accolades. Despite not racking up absurd numbers of goals and assists, his ability to control the midfield and build up an attack has made one of the most well rounded young midfielders in the country.
A West Ham academy product, with over 20 national team youth caps to his name, Stroud has a bit of higher pedigree than the typical player coming out of college. This ability earned him overseas interest, however Stroud chose to stay local by signing a Homegrown Contract with the Red Bulls, the same club where his older brother Jared (who now plays for St. Louis) made his professional debut. While he'll have more immediate playing time in New Jersey than he would have abroad, Stroud's likely to serve as the understudy for Venezuela national team regular; Cristian Casseres Jr. Nevertheless, with the youngest midfield in the league, and more games on the schedule, Stroud should have plenty of chances to find minutes over the course of the season.
Daniel Munie (CB, 23)-San Jose Earthquakes
Daniel Munie is a bit older than the typical player making their professional debut in this spot, however he is a skilled, disciplined defender. The two time Big Ten Defender of the Year with Indiana, Munie went his entire collegiate career without receiving a single yellow card.
Drafted 10th overall by the Earthquakes, Munie's had an impressive pre-season, displaying his aerial abilities with two headed goals coming off of corners. Despite having a fairly strong attack, San Jose's defense is paper thin, conceding 69 goals last season, the most in the Western Conference. It's a backline with plenty of holes, one where someone like Munie (who can also play left back) should be able to break into. While he doesn't quite have the same ceiling the likes of McGuire, Stroud and a few others may have, considering the national team's current depth at center back, a strong season leading to a January Camp call up, isn't an unreasonable possibility.
Pac-12 OPOY of the Year, Ilijah Paul (ST, 20 RSL), stands out as a high quality aerial threat in the box, but likely will slot in at third on RSL's striker depth chart for now. CJ Fodrey's (RW, 18, Austin) speed and strength led to speculation that he could be the number 1 overall pick at the MLS Draft, but that he ended up falling to 13th is likely an indicator that most teams don't view him as MLS ready quite yet. Like Paul, Fodrey's probably worth keeping an eye on more so next year than this one. Homegrown Jayden Reid (LB, 21, NYRB) has received speculation as a potential John Tolkin replacement should the latter make the move to Europe this season. Neither number 1 nor number 2 overall picks Hamady Diop (CB, 20, Charlotte) and Shak Mohammed (AM, 19, Orlando), are currently eligible for the USMNT, but as both came to the US in high school, they could become eligible in the near future. Owen O'Malley (RW/RB, 21, ST. Louis), Joey Skinner (LB, 19, Nashville) and Joey Akpunonu (CB, 21, Cincinnati) round out the American Generation Adidas signings.
Syracuse's Nathan Opoku signed with Leicester City in a move that several online USMNT personalties made note of, but sadly he is not currently eligible for the US. Now that he's chosen to begin his professional career in Europe, odds are he's never will be.