IRVINE — Major League Soccer, the new professional outdoor league, will hold an invitation-only player combine beginning today at the Crawford Athletic Complex at UC Irvine. The combine, which is open to public spectators, will run through Jan. 15 and will include 260 players from around the world.
Some of the top players include Brian Maisonneuve, the 1994 Hermann Award winner (college soccer's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) from Indiana; World Cup goalkeeper Khalil Azmi from Morocco; World Cup players Samuel Ekeme and Victor-N'Dip Akem from Cameroon; defender Ian Butterworth from Norwich City of the English Premier League; Splash players Sean Bowers, Doug Neely, Denis Hamlett and John O'Brien, and former Salsa players Yari Allnutt and Arturo Velazco.
Games will be played each day from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30. The first group of 140 players will play for five days and the second wave of 120 players will play from Jan. 11-15.
Players will be evaluated by general managers, coaches and independent talent scouts in preparation for the Feb. 6-7 draft.
"A lot of these guys are hoping for a break," said Dan Courtemanche, the league's director of communications. "For some of them this is their first chance at making a relatively decent living playing the game they love."
The MLS will begin play April 6 and will consist of 10 teams, each with 18-man rosters. Courtemanche said between 110 and 120 players at the combine will make rosters.