The sport of soccer has invaded Indianapolis.
The city was awarded a new minor league franchise Wednesday in the North American Soccer League. Thursday, Major League Soccer held its Superdraft at the Indiana Convention Center. The event comes to Indy along with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention. The world's largest organization of soccer coaches meets downtown through Sunday.
"It brings together thousands of coaches that help build the game in our country, and in many ways, are responsible for the all the young players that get signed," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "This is an opportunity to say thank you to them and an opportunity to bring the soccer community together one time, from bottom to top."
The MLS Superdraft, also held in Indianapolis in 2007, helps kick off the convention. Chicago Fire fans chanted and cheered, accompanied by trumpet and drum inside the Sagamore Ballroom. Columbus Crew fans taunted them from the other side of the room, with their own loud and proud (and sometimes profane) cheers.
The New England Revolution selected Louisville's Andrew Ferrell with the first overall pick. A pair of Notre Dame players was also selected in the first round. Forward Ryan Finley went to Columbus with the 9th pick. Midfielder Dillon Powers went to the Colorado Rapids with the 11th pick.
Sandwiched in between the Fighting Irish players, the Seattle Sounders traded up with the Vancouver Whitecaps to the 10th spot to select Westfield's Eriq Zavaleta from Indiana University. When Garber called his name, Zavaleta stood up and hugged family and friends. A Sounders scarf was placed around his neck as he stepped up on the stage to be congratulated by the commissioner.
"It's hard to prepare for when you are going to be picked," said Zavaleta. "There are always so many things that go into it. But I saw myself around this area. I never thought that I was actually going to have the opportunity to be part of Seattle. For it to work out this way, it couldn't be more perfect."
Indianapolis doesn't have an MLS team. But the city hosting the Superdraft gave Zavaleta a chance to hear his name called in his hometown.
"I couldn't have dreamed it any better to be here, being picked by such a great organization in my hometown and in front of a lot of people," said Zavaleta. "It's just great."
Zavaleta is the 40th player from IU to be taken in the MLS draft. That's second only to UCLA. The 6-foot-1, 185 pound forward was born in Mesa, Arizona. His father, Carlos, played for El Salvador's national team. His uncle, Greg Vanney, played for the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS.
Zavaleta was the Indiana Gatorade Boys Player of the Year for Westfield High School in 2011. He went on to IU, scoring 10 goals with 5 assists as a freshman. Zavaleta scored 18 goals with 4 assists last season as a sophomore. The season culminated with his header assist to win the national championship, 1-0 over Georgetown. He decided to turn pro after the Hoosiers claimed their 8th national title.
In the second round, the New England Revolution selected Indiana senior goalkeeper Luis Soffner with the 36th pick overall.