Anyone who played youth sports knows that obtaining a college scholarship is no small task.
While a certain skill set is required, it takes a village to propel young athletes into the collegiate ranks. Namely - a strong foundation at the club level.
Looking at the Orlando City SC Academy, that foundation is very much in place.
Entering into the fall of 2020, eight Orlando City Academy players have signed to play at the next level as part of the Club’s continued commitment to achieve a 100% college placement rate.
Four of those players will remain in the Orlando area with goalkeeper Tyler Lavigne, defender Brennon Neff and defender Juan Diego Ramos set to attend the University of Central Florida, while defender Mason Lamb will join the Tars at Rollins College.
Midfielder Donovan Hesselmeyer and defender Kelvin Zinck will stay in the Sunshine state with the former joining the University of South Florida and the latter Stetson University, while defender Jahlane Forbes and midfielder Alejandro Lopez will take their talents to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Lopez has committed to the University of Pittsburgh, while Forbes joins powerhouse program Wake Forest.
“We are beyond proud of these eight young men for seizing the opportunity to continue to play the beautiful game while pursuing a college education,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said of the signees. “As an academy, we work diligently to equip these young men with the tools and opportunities in order to succeed wherever life takes them and could not be more excited about the future of these athletes.”
“We came to Orlando City Academy to develop good people that play soccer. We are thrilled to have these eight young men going on to represent us at the collegiate level,” Academy Director Marcelo Neveleff added. “We will continue to follow each of their careers and, when possible, bring them back for training so we can continue working on their development and hopefully we can provide our First Team with more options in the future.”
Forbes highlights the group of signees, set to join a Wake Forest Demon Deacons side that made a run to the NCAA College Cup a year ago. Rated by TopDrawerSoccer as the No. 32 prospect in the nation and the top recruit from Florida, Forbes joined the Orlando City Academy in 2016. Two years later, he received his first call up to the U.S. U-17 National Team for international friendlies and in 2019, featured in two matches for Orlando City B in USL League One, logging 153 minutes.
"In my opinion, Jahlane has a skill set which could be developed into one of the best attacking backs in our league. He has speed, agility and an eagerness to attack that will suit him well within our system, and fits our style of play,” Wake Forest Head Coach Bobby Muuss said of his new signee. “Jahlane has had stints in different National Team levels and his experiences in the game thus far will serve him well making the adjustment to college soccer."
Lopez joins the Panthers following a year with the Orlando City Academy, playing for its U-18/19 side. A native of Winter Park, Lopez logged 13 appearances for the 2019-20 season, starting six matches. Prior to his time with City, Lopez played for Atlanta United’s academy from 2016-17 and Georgia United for 2015-16.
Heading about 40 minutes north to Deland is defender Zinck, who will join the Stetson Hatters for his collegiate career. Zinck has spent time with the Orlando City Academy at the U-18/U-19 and U-14 levels and played at the prep level at Oviedo Hagerty High School, a top-10 program in the state.
Traveling west on I-4 to the University of South Florida, midfielder Hesselmeyer signed with the Bulls in December of last year. Hesselmeyer spent three years at the Orlando City Academy, joining the U-16/17 for the 2017-18 season. Since then he has appeared in 71 matches between the U-16/17 and U-18/19 sides with 58 starts.
Goalkeeper Lavigne marks one of three young Lions committed to join the University of Central Florida this fall. A three-time state cup champion, Lavigne joined the Orlando City Academy ahead of the 2017-18 season, where he started all 35 matches he played and captained the side that same year. Lavigne logged 10 appearances in 2019-20 prior to committing to UCF.
Neff, a defender, joins Lavigne at UCF, making him a third generation Knight. A native of Lake Mary, Neff has been a member of the Orlando City Development Academy since 2015, when he joined its U-13 side. Neff would go on to win a state cup with the U-13s and continue to play with the Academy throughout the remainder of his youth career.
Juan Diego Ramos rounds out the Lions set to suit up for the Knights, with the midfielder signing just over a week ago to UCF. A graduate of Freedom High School and a native of Venezuela, Ramos joined the Academy in 2019. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had been named a member of the Orlando City B roster.
Closing out the group of Lions’ set to move into the collegiate ranks is defender Lamb, signing with Rollins College. Lamb has been a member of the Orlando City Development Academy since 2015 when he joined the U-13/14 side. Along with Ramos, Lamb had been named to the previously announced Orlando City B roster for 2020.
The eight signees resemble the very commitment of the Orlando City Development Academy to propel prospects to the next level. From everyone at the Club, we wish each all the best as they move into the next chapter of both their athletic and academic careers!