Every player’s pathway is different. While college soccer is no longer the preferred route for the top young American prospects, some very talented players have come through the NCAA system in the last couple of years, including several important players for the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars. Let’s take a look at ten players from the Chicago area who are heading into college soccer this upcoming season, and who could one day be the next Mauricio Pineda, Chris Mueller, or Vanessa DiBernardo.
Luka Bezerra - Indiana
Luka Bezerra is the brother of Victor Bezerra, who recently signed a homegrown deal with the Chicago Fire after playing at Indiana. The younger Bezerra is, like his brother, a technical attacking player who is very good on the ball and can be a threat in the final third. He has already made a couple of appearances for Chicago Fire II after being promoted from the Fire Academy, where he has played for several years, and is a name to keep an eye on as someone who could sign a homegrown deal with the Fire sometime down the line.
Ryan Quintos - Wisconsin
Another Fire academy player who has received looks with Fire II is Ryan Quintos. He is an excellent ball-playing center-back who will surely be a very impactful player for the Wisconsin Badgers. Though he only stands at 5’10”, he has established himself as a good, modern center-half in his first couple of games in MLS Next Pro.
Max Viera - Georgetown
Playing up two age groups, Viera was a part of the Fire U-19 team which won the MLS Next national championship last season. The midfielder/forward has received looks from both the American and Mexican youth national team set-ups in the past, and after four years with the Fire Academy, he will be moving on to one of the strongest college soccer programs in the country, once again competing for a national championship with the Georgetown Hoyas. He can play in numerous positions and will be a big boost for a team that is already very good every year.
Seth Stewart - Indiana
Stewart was previously a standout at the Fire academy before moving to FC United. Now, he will join Luka Bezerra with the Hoosiers of Indiana. He is a hard-working holding midfielder who can connect play well and is good in tight spaces. Indiana has been a force in recent seasons under Todd Yeagley, who took them to the national championship game two years ago.
Christian Baumgartner - Kentucky
After a long and successful career in the Fire academy system, Baumgartner will move on to Kentucky, who plays in the Sun Belt Conference since the SEC does not sponsor soccer. He has been involved with Chicago Fire II on numerous occasions this season, making two starts and three bench appearances. “Train” has captained the Fire at different youth levels and was a part of the team that won the MLS Next national championship last year. In his looks with Fire II, he has shown that he belongs, and he will slot in well at the NCAA level.
Ernest Mensah - Xavier
Mensah is a versatile player who also came up through the Fire academy but has more recently played for Sockers FC (the club that produced Chris Mueller and Michael Bradley). He is a quick and technical full-back, who can contribute on both sides of the ball and is effective going forward. Mensah will join a Xavier program that has been struggling in the last couple of seasons.
Stefan Momcilović - Marshall
The 2021 NCAA D1 national champion, Marshall, secured the addition of Chicago’s Stefan Momcilović, amidst interest from Big Ten schools. He is a technical box-to-box midfielder, who has the ability to both create chances with his passing and arrive in the area to finish. Momcilović has been playing for Chicago Magic and Lake Forest Academy. He led that LFA team with 9 goals and 24 assists this past fall en route to an ISL title, and will now be joining one of the most efficient teams in the NCAA over the last couple of seasons.
Diego Benitez - DePaul
One player staying in Chicago will be Sockers FC’s Diego Benitez. The Palatine native can play in both midfield and attacking positions. Benitez can play on both sides of the ball and has also showcased his ability in the final third during his time at Sockers. He will be joining up with fellow Sockers products Tyson Amoo-Mensah and Felipe Corral with the Blue Demons.
Xcaret Pineda - Oklahoma State
The younger sister of Chicago Fire homegrown Mauricio Pineda is also a talented soccer player. The midfielder, who was developed at Eclipse Soccer Club, has, like her brother, received women’s youth national team call-ups for the United States. She will play for the OK State Cowgirls in the Big 12.
Devin Lynch - Duke
Lynch is another player going into women’s college soccer who has experience with the U.S. women’s youth national teams. She has also previously played for Eclipse but has since moved on to Sockers FC. Lynch will join Duke, who finished 2021 ranked as the #2 team in the country.