As a Fourth Division soccer club, one of the original goals of AFC Ann Arbor, was to create opportunities for the players to push on to a higher level.
One of only a handful of players who spent 2015 and 2016 with AFC Ann Arbor, Lars Eckenrode, was selected in the 4th round of the MLS Superdraft last Tuesday, January 17th, by Toronto FC.
Eckenrode solidified his spot in The Mighty Oak’s history books, as the first player to be drafted to the MLS.
The student-athlete spent 4 years anchoring the University of Michigan’s backline earning All Big-Ten accolades in multiple seasons. The defender was also a crucial part of AFC Ann Arbor’s success from the inaugural season, continuing that same impact in 2016.
Entering the MLS draft, Eckenrode wasn’t sure what to expect. Lars along with his agent had been in contact with a few different teams, but nothing was concrete as is typical in the later rounds of the Superdraft. Instead of dwelling on the draft, the Virginia native chose to spend his time training with his brother opposed to waiting by his phone for updates. After a solid training session, he went to check his mobile and noticed multiple texts and missed calls, with the news that he had been drafted by Toronto.
In preparation for the draft and his professional career, Eckenrode participated in the Midwest Pro Soccer Combine with some of the best talent in the region.
He added, “The Midwest pro combine was a great experience. It was perfect for me as I was in Ann Arbor finishing up school. The level of competition was very high, I played with and against some really talented players. Playing at such a high level was a great way for me to prepare.”
Eckenrode arrived in Toronto last night, with physicals and the first training session slated for today. After 4 years with the University of Michigan and 2 years with AFC Ann Arbor along with spending time coaching young players at Saline FC, he’s made quite the impact in the region and has acquired a large and faithful following eagerly awaiting his professional debut.
Eckenrode said, “To my fans back in Ann Arbor I would just like to say thank you so much for supporting me. I could not have done it without your support and I can't wait to get to work and make you all proud!”
Coach Eric Rudland is thrilled for Lars and added, "The whole AFCAA family is really happy for Lars as he has paved the way for future AFCAA players to be selected in the MLS Draft. He has put an enourmous amount of time into growing his game and all of his former clubs and coaches should also be commended. It's now up to Lars to take full advantage of his opportunity to win a job at the next level as he begins pre-season with Toronto FC."
Career Stats with AFC Ann Arbor: 3 goals, 2 assists
About AFC Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor completed a very successful inaugural campaign in the Midwest Region of the National Premier Soccer League finishing 2nd in the conference while earning the club’s first playoff berth. The club’s third season kicks off in May as The Mighty Oak look to continue their winning ways under Head Coach Eric Rudland. Youth, General and Premium Memberships for Season Tree can be purchased here.