MEDINA — John Nelson’s exploits on the soccer field have hardly been a secret, but now the 2017 Medina graduate could become a household name in Major League Soccer.
The North Carolina sophomore defender will forgo his final two seasons after signing a contract with the MLS. The contract makes him eligible for Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago.
“It can be stressful,” Nelson said. “I know me and a lot of players have had a ton of meetings with the teams throughout these past few days. With different teams and different people, yeah, it can take a lot out of you, but it’s exciting times. It’s always been my dream to play professional soccer.”
Generation Adidas is a joint venture between the MLS and U.S. Soccer and is aimed at raising the level of young professional talent.
The program offers professional-ready players in the U.S. developmental program early entry into the MLS and has had great success.
Nelson joins a list that includes big names such as Tim Howard, Maurice Edu, Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley.
The No. 1 overall pick MLS SuperDraft has come from Generation Adidas dating to 2003. Last year, the Los Angeles Football Club took University of Akron defender Joao Moutinho.
“Throughout the season, I knew I was on the watch list for getting a Generation Adidas contract,” Nelson said. “They offer it to underclassmen. They usually offer it to 5-7 guys. At the end of the season, I got a call from one of the guys from Major League Soccer. He congratulated me and said they were offering me.”
The big stage has hardly been a stranger for the standout defender.
A former U-17 World Cup Player, Nelson was named to the All-Athletic Coast Conference freshman team in 2017 and was second-team All-ACC this season.
He started in all 41 games during his two seasons at Chapel Hill and helped North Carolina win back-to-back ACC Coastal Division titles. The school also qualified for the College Cup in 2017.
Ranked the No. 1 player in the 2017 class by College Soccer News, he was a two-time NSCAA Youth Boys All-American as well.
Nelson wrapped up the seven-day MLS Combine in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and will now wait to see where the next step takes him.
“It’s more exciting than stressful,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t say there have been sleepless nights. I’m not overwhelmed. I’m not too stressed out. I am a bit nervous, but wherever I go, I go. It could be across the country. It could be close to home. We’ll see.”
One of the biggest factors in his decision was the ability to come back to school and finish his education.
Generation Adidas players do not count against the MLS Senior roster. While entering the program disqualifies them from playing college soccer, Generation Adidas players are guaranteed scholarships to continue their college education should things not pan out or if they want to get their degree.
“It was definitely tough leaving a school that I love very much,” said Nelson, who is majoring in sports administration. “With UNC, the big thing was that I can still finish out my education for free. If I ever need to, I can finish things out. That was kind of the deciding factor for me to leave.
“That’s very important. I value my education a lot. I have that resource. I was very fortunate enough to get a very good scholarship to go to a very good school like North Carolina.”