MLS SuperDraft

Midfielder Cristian Roldan Agrees to Terms with MLS

The Univ. of Washington sophomore, considered by many to be the most skilled midfielder in college soccer, is set to become the third Generation Adidas player and will be at the MLS Combine.
BY Brooke Tunstall Posted
January 07, 2015
9:31 AM
IT LOOKS LIKE Cyle Larin might have some competition to see who goes first in next week’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Cristian Roldan, a sophomore from the University of Washington considered by many pro observers to be the most skilled and well-rounded midfielder in college soccer, has agreed to terms with MLS on a Generation Adidas deal and will be “signing soon,” sources close to the situation confirmed to American Soccer Now.

Because of his skill and versatility, Roldan becomes a strong candidate to go first overall in next week’s SuperDraft, with his primary competition being Larin, the powerful Canadian international forward who signed a Generation Adidas deal earlier this week after two strong seasons at Connecticut.

"I want to start my career in MLS," Roldan told ASN over the weekend. "But it has to be the right deal. I want to get what's fair and what makes sense to leave school."

Expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC hold the top two picks in the draft and both teams were reportedly unhappy that MLS hadn’t signed more of the top underclassmen in college soccer to Generation Adidas deals.

And while the league hasn’t gotten all of the top underclassmen—UCLA forward Abu Danladi and Georgetown defender Joshua Yaro are returning to school—it has now signed two of the top players in college soccer at their respective positions and deepened a draft that had been hurt by some of the top seniors (like Saint Louis’ Robert Kristo and UCLA’s Leo Stolz) exploring options in Europe.

As recently as Sunday night Roldan thought he might be returning to school, telling ASN, “I think (MLS) is frustrated with me and doesn’t want to negotiate with me anymore,” he said.

Because he wanted to retain the option of returning to school, Roldan did not use an agent to help in the negotiations. While NCAA rules prohibit players from signing with agents or reaching verbal agreements with them to work on their behalf, players in all sports are allowed to have agents serve as “advisors” during the negotiation process.

However, Washington’s NCAA compliance department cautioned Roldan that the vagueness of that process could jeopardize his eligibility, so the 19-year old with three semesters of college dealt with MLS on his own with the help of Huskies head coach Jamie Clark, a Stanford grad and former MLS player.

“It’s not the best process,” Roldan said this weekend. “It really makes it hard for the player because you want to get the best deal for yourself but the best leverage you have is going back to school. But if you use an agent, you lose that leverage.”

Roldan would not discuss contract numbers with ASN. However, several sources confirmed that MLS’ initial offer was about $80,000 a year and the league had come up to about 100,000 over the weekend, which Roldan turned down.

Roldan’s signing a pro deal is the latest chapter in a fascinating soccer journey. As a nine-year old growing up outside Los Angeles, Roldan beat out hundreds of other youth players to be cast as a young soccer player in an Adidas commercial. As a teenager, he turned down a chance to join the academy programs of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA to play high school soccer and stay with the small club team he grew up with, which did not compete in U.S. Soccer’s Developmental Academy and was thus not highly recruited by major college programs.

He was only spotted by Clark by accident at a tournament in Southern California when he stopped by to visit a friend coaching at a field adjacent to where Roldan was playing and happened to notice a skilled, unknown kid dominating the competition. Clark offered Roldan a scholarship the next day and the move paid immediate dividends when Roldan scored seven goals and registered five assists to lead the Huskies to a No. 1 ranking. He was named national freshman of the year by Soccer America.

That got him invited to the U.S. U-20 national team and drew offers a year ago from MLS—which Roldan turned down. This fall, playing as a sophomore in a deeper role, he scored three goals and had two assists and was named first-team All American.

Roldan is now the third member of this year’s Generation Adidas class, the smallest the class has ever been, and the first American player, joining Larin and Jamaican Romario Wiliams, a junior forward from Central Florida. The league is negotiating with Syracuse All-America goalkeeper Alex Bono and North Carolina State freshman defender Conor Donovan, the only college player to make the U.S. U-20 roster for CONCACAF qualifying.

Roldan will now be in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for MLS’ annual scouting combine, which begins Friday. ASN will be covering the event and will be posting updates beginning Thursday evening.

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Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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