Everything is going according to plan for Mikey Lopez.
When Lopez is drafted Thursday in what is expected to be in the Top 5 of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Indianapolis, the Mission native will complete another step in a long-line of goals.
“I’m not finished yet,” Lopez said. “It is one part of my dreams. My dream is to play in Europe and to be one of the best players in the world.”
Lopez is on the right path. Late last month, he signed a Generation Addias Contract with the MLS, which is given to only a handful of players every year and supports early entry into the pros.
Only seven received the guaranteed contract this year and were chosen by the MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation in a joint venture aiming to foster home grown talent.
Others to have received the contract in the past were current U.S. national team members Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey.
That’s impressive company.
“I wanted to start (my pro career) in the states and make a name for myself here,” Lopez said. “That’s just the way I was thinking about it, rather than go somewhere overseas.”
To get to where he is was not easy.
Lopez’s dedication to soccer has taken him away from home for months at a time since he was in the seventh grade, when his parents decided to send him to St. Stephens Academy in Austin in order to attract college attention for his talents.
Lopez said his decision to move to Austin was a difficult one because he is proud to be from the Valley. In international competition, Lopez has asked that his hometown read Mission and not Austin.
“I was raised in the Valley and that is where my family is,” Lopez said. “That is my home. Austin is a second home. I don’t really consider that my home. There is a sense of pride of being from the Valley and Mission and trying to represent everyone in the Valley.”
It turned out to be a good decision.
While in high school, he was named to the U.S. national team’s under-18 squad and signed with the NCAA’s North Carolina. He helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2011 national championship and was named the ACC Freshman Player of the Year and a College Soccer News freshman All-American.
Lopez is currently on the under-20 team, only two steps from the actual national squad.
His father Miguel Lopez says the younger Lopez’s rapid ascension was a product of countless hours of training.
“We are very excited because we know how hard Mikey has been working for it and all the sacrifices he has made,” Miguel said. “He gave up a lot. He really didn’t have a regular teenage life because he was always on the road. He was always playing. He didn’t have a lot of time to go out to the movies or the malls like most kids do on the weekends.”
Lopez would not have it any other way.
“I don’t regret any of it,” Lopez said. “That was my normal teenage life. … I really don’t regret any of it. I had fun and I love (soccer). There is nothing to regret about it.”
Peter Rasmussen is the sports editor for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4448 or via email at email@example.com.