Bunbury, one of three finalists for the prestigious Hermann Trophy and Soccer America‘s Player of the Year, will forgo his final two years of eligibility, while Gavin, a two-time All-Great Lakes Region selection, will forgo his final year at UA.
It is the second straight year an Akron player has signed a contract with Generation adidas. Steve Zakuani became the No. 1 overall draft pick of the MLS Super Draft (Seattle Sounders) in 2009 after signing with Generation adidas after his sophomore season at Akron.
“This is an exciting day for Teal and Blair, who will be realizing their dreams of playing professional soccer in the very near future,” said UA head coach Caleb Porter. “They were both offered the Generation adidas contract, which is only given to a handful of underclassmen, and after discussions, they both received my blessing to make the jump to Major League Soccer.
Bunbury and Gavin are expected to be just the fourth and fifth Akron men’s soccer players ever taken in the MLS Super Draft, following Cameron Knowles (Real Salt Lake, fourth round; 2005), Sinisa Ubiparipovic (New York Red Bull, third round; 2007) and Steve Zakuani (Seattle Sounders, first round; 2009).
Four of those players – Ubiparipovic, Zakuani, Bunbury and Gavin – have come during Porter’s four seasons as head coach of the Zips.
“I am proud of their individual and team accomplishments and they certainly have left their legacy, having been a part of some monumental seasons during their careers,” Porter said of Bunbury and Gavin. “They will join an ever-growing group of Zips players to join the professional ranks and I believe it is not only a credit to their talent and determination, but also makes a strong statement that the Akron program is successfully developing players for the next level.
“Blair and Teal will be missed but I know they will have outstanding careers and have inspired future players to follow in their footsteps and win a national championship at Akron.”
In Bunbury and Zakuani, Porter and his staff have produced the nation’s leading goal scorer in back-to-back seasons. Like Zakuani, Bunbury, who led the nation with 17 goals in 25 games in 2009, is being projected as a top-five pick in the 16-team MLS.
When Bunbury does turn pro, he will be following in the footsteps of his father, Alex Bunbury, who was a professional soccer player for a number of years and a member of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2006.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to leave the University of Akron and pursue my life-long dream of becoming a professional soccer player,” Bunbury said. “I feel that I have been blessed by God and presented an opportunity of a lifetime. It is one that I cannot turn down.
“There are so many people who have helped me along my journey and I am so grateful for that. Specifically, I would like to recognize the University of Akron administration for allowing me to pursue my dream, the AK Rowdies for their tremendous support, and most importantly, the fans, who have supported me through the good and the bad.”
Bunbury, who was a National Soccer Coaches Association of America First Team All-American, was the most dangerous striker in the nation for the country’s top-ranked offensive unit. Of his 17 goals, five were game-winners while four of his five assists led to game-winning goals.
In all, he recorded at least one point 16 times in 25 games and scored multiple goals in four contests. Bunbury enjoyed an incredible run from late September to early November, scoring 14 goals in a 12-game span, including game-winners against Florida Atlantic, Virginia Tech, Buffalo and Penn State.
For his accomplishments, Bunbury was also named Player of the Year by Goal.com and the Mid-American Conference.
“I also want to thank my teammates because without them, this would not be possible,” Bunbury added. “I also have to give special thanks to my coaches for pushing me to become the player and person that I am today. I will always be an Akron Zip and will have a special place in my heart for everybody who has helped me along the way.”
Gavin, who served as a team captain in 2009, was a crucial component to the Zips’ success in nearly every aspect during the most memorable season in school history. The defensive midfielder finished with five goals – including three game-winners – and three assists last fall while also directing a unit that recorded the second-highest shutout total (19) and third-best goals-against-average (0.27) in NCAA history.
“After much talk with my family, coaches and mentors, I have decided to forgo my last year of eligibility and turn professional,” Gavin said. “It has always been a dream of mine to become a professional soccer player and once that dream became reality, I couldn’t pass it up. Akron has been such a special place to me and will never be forgotten. Taking the field at Lee Jackson in front of thousands of AK-Rowdies and the Akron community are memories that will live within me forever.”
In addition to his all-region status, Gavin is a two-time, First Team All-MAC honoree.
“I can’t thank the administration enough for all their hard work, giving me the best opportunity for success in the classroom and on the field,” Gavin said. “I also want to thank all my coaches for not only making me grow as a player, but also a person. Caleb was especially the biggest influence in bringing me to Akron, driving me to achieve my goals, and for never letting me settle for anything less than my best. I can’t thank him enough for the belief he had in me from day one and for teaching me how to be a professional and act like one on and off the field. Lastly, I want to thank my teammates, who I also consider my family. I love them and wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”
Generation Adidas is a joint venture between Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer aimed at raising the level of young soccer talent in the United States. The program, sponsored by adidas, encourages early entry (without college graduation) of American players into MLS. Until 2005, the program was sponsored by Nike and was called Project-40.
Entering into the program automatically classifies a player as professional and thus, disqualifies them from playing college soccer. As a result, Generation adidas players are also guaranteed scholarships to continue their college education should their professional career not pan out.
The 2010 MLS SuperDraft, which will begin at 2 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2, will be held in the Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on Jan. 14.