From national championships to broken records and All-American status, these players racked up accolades during successful college soccer careers. Now playing professionally, that success has been sustainable. Here are 11 active players matching their collegiate brilliance in the pros.
Zack Steffen – Maryland (2013-14)
The former Terrapin started all 48 games and recorded 17 shutouts during a two-year career in College Park. Steffen’s most memorable games took place towards the end of his freshman year, when he helped the ‘Terps to 11 consecutive wins and an appearance in the College Cup. He allowed just five goals during that stretch.
Steffen was named the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player in addition to an All-Tournament nod. He returned as a sophomore, winning 13 more games and the honor of Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the Big Ten tournament in Maryland’s first season with the conference.
In July, he was transferred from Columbus Crew SC to English giants Manchester City. Steffen is on loan in Germany, where he’s made four appearances in seven matches for top-tier club Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Matt Hedges – North Carolina (2011)
Hedges came to North Carolina as a transfer, twice being named Horizon League Defender of the Year prior to his arrival in Chapel Hill.
While his Tar Heel career was brief, he still managed to make an impact as UNC won the 2011 national championship. Hedges started every game for a defense that registered a goals allowed average of .69. He was the 2011 ACC Defender of the Year and a NCSAA first-team All-American.
The center back’s success has translated to the MLS, where he was named the youngest captain in FC Dallas history. Hedges followed that up by winning MLS Defender of the Year, and has been an All-Star in each of the past three seasons.
Tim Ream – Saint Louis (2006-09)
Ream played four years for the Billikens, improving noticeably each season. He managed 19 appearances in 20 games as a freshman, registering one point. Over the course of the next three seasons Ream played every game and tallied 17 points in his final year.
The defender earned all-conference honors three times, additionally breaking through as a third team All-American as a senior. The Billikens reached the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons.
Ream started his professional career with the New York Red Bulls in 2010. After two seasons in the MLS, he’s spent the past eight seasons in England, including the last five with EFL Championship side Fulham.
DeAndre Yedlin – Akron (2011-12)
In those two years, Yedlin appeared in each of the Zips’ 45 matches. The versatile wing back was a difficult matchup given his speed and thorough understanding of multiple positions.
Yedlin tallied six assists in both years with Akron, helping the Zips to the third round of the NCAA tournament each time. He was a two-time All-MAC selection.
Since turning pro, Yedlin became the first Zip to play for the United States Men’s National Team at the FIFA World Cup. That international attention prompted a move from the MLS to the English Premier League, where he currently plays for Newcastle United.
Walker Zimmerman – Furman (2011-12)
Zimmerman made his presence known in two seasons at Furman. The center back quickly became one of the better two-way defenders in Division I, scoring 11 goals over the course of his college career.
Zimmerman’s size made him an easy target man on set pieces and a regular fixture in the Paladins lineup. Furman was 26-8-7 during his time with the program, reaching the 2011 NCAA tournament. Zimmerman was twice named first team All-SoCon and an NCSAA All-American.
He went on to be selected No. 7 overall in the MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas. Zimmerman has since been traded to Los Angeles FC, where he was named to his first All-Star team in 2019 and is a part-time volunteer assistant coach at UCLA.
LOOKING AHEAD: Zimmerman explains his coaching role at UCLA
Sacha Kljestan – Seton Hall (2003-05)
Kljestan was the prototypical offensive architect during his three-year career at Seton Hall. The midfielder was a focal point in the Pirates’ attack as he finished with 28 assists, including a single-season program record of 15 in 2005.
The accolades didn’t stop there. Kljestan earned All-Big East recognition in each of his three seasons, twice being named an All-American and capping off his career with Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors. Seton Hall reached the NCAA tournament in all three seasons.
Kljestan went to the MLS out of college, drawing attention overseas after competing for the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He signed with the Belgian club Anderlecht and spent five years there before returning to the MLS in 2016. He currently plays for Orlando City.
Darlington Nagbe – Akron (2008-10)
Nagbe began his career at Akron as a freshman beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. By the end of his junior year, the midfielder was the engine that drove Akron to its first-ever national championship.
The Zips were at the pinnacle of college soccer during Nagbe’s tenure, going 62-4-7 in that stretch. Nagbe registered 57 points over his career, was twice named an All-American, in addition to three All-MAC nods, a place on the College Cup All-Tournament Team and the 2010 MAC Hermann Award
He’s played the full extent of his professional career in the MLS. After seven seasons with the Portland Timbers, Nagbe was traded to Atlanta United. He’s won two MLS Cup titles, one with each club.
Graham Zusi – Maryland (2005-08)
Zusi’s time at Maryland coincides with a period of bountiful success in College Park. The Terrapins were dominant, reaching the final 16 of the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons, winning national championships in 2005 and 2008.
His role as a wing-back hybrid enabled him to be in different positions, which allowed his role to expand after coming off the bench as a freshman. He had 64 points between his sophomore and senior seasons, but none more critical than his game-winning goals in the 2008 College Cup semifinal and national championship, helping the ‘Terps win their second title in four years.
Zusi has spent the entirety of his career with MLS club Sporting Kansas City, earning seven All-Star selections and winning the 2013 MLS Cup. He’s also made 55 appearances with USMNT.
Cyle Larin – Connecticut (2013-14)
Few freshman are able to make an immediate impact to a team the way Larin did at Connecticut. Wearing the No. 10 shirt, typically given to top goal scorers around the world, he exceeded expectations with a 14-goal campaign.
UConn reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA tournament, its best postseason showing since winning the College Cup in 2000. Larin returned for his sophomore year to net another nine tallies and was later named American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
After two seasons in Storrs, he became the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, the first Canadian-born player taken with the top pick. Larin spent three seasons with Orlando City, scoring 43 goals in 87 appearances before signing with Turkish club Beşiktaş.
Jordan Morris – Stanford (2013-15)
Morris’ Stanford career checks off just about every box during his three years in Palo Alto. As a freshman, he helped the Cardinal end a three-year postseason drought. The following year, Stanford won the Pac-12 for the first time since 2001. His junior year and Cardinal career culminated in the program’s first College Cup title.
Morris was offensively electric for Stanford, scoring 23 goals and 62 total points across three seasons. Those numbers equated to three first-team All-Pac-12 nominations, two first-team All-America nods and the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy.
After Stanford, Morris went on to sign with the Seattle Sounders. He’s in the middle of his fourth MLS season in addition to logging 37 appearances with USMNT.
Gyasi Zardes – Cal State Bakersfield (2009-12)
Zardes re-wrote a fair amount of the Roadrunners’ record books in three seasons at Cal State Bakersfield. The striker was a dominant target man and equally adept at finishing with 38 goals and 94 total points, both good for second-best in program history.
Zardes recorded the school’s two highest single-season goal outputs with 18 tallies in 2011 and another 15 the following year. His 2011 season was particularly notable as he was named a third-team All-America selection in addition to leading the Roadrunners to what remains their only NCAA tournament berth.
That attacking prowess transitioned seamlessly to the MLS, where Zardes won an MLS Cup in 2014 and has 66 goals in 192 career appearances. His current club is Columbus Crew SC, with whom he was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year in 2018.