To strengthen their midfield, the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer turned to the United States Air Force Academy.
With the 20th overall pick at Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago, the Sounders selected Tucker Bone, who helped take the Falcons to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this past season.
Bone is the first player from a Service Academy drafted by an MLS team since 2015, when the Colorado Rapids spent a second round pick on Navy defender Joe Greenspan. He featured for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship this past season, making the USL All-League team.
The next step for Bone is working out specifics with the Air Force and U.S. Soccer so he can be accepted into the WCAP — short for the World Class Athlete Program. It was created to allow athletes from Service Academies to train for the Olympics and other competitions.
If accepted, Bone would be able to begin training and playing in games with MLS clubs after he graduates from the Air Force Academy in May.
He’s confident that it’ll work out.
“It’s not too familiar, because we don’t get a lot of athletes that (turn professional), but they do have these programs in place so an athlete can pursue this sort of career,” Bone told Pro Soccer USA. “I’ve tried to find out as much as I can about it and I’ve tried to be transparent with teams about it. (The Air Force) wants to see you get drafted by a team and see that you’re a legitimate candidate.
“I don’t see a situation in which the WCAP program wouldn’t work out.”
Bone grew up in Granite Bay, California and looked up to former MLS stars Clint Dempsey and David Beckham. He signed with Air Force over interest from Notre Dame, Loyola Chicago, Seattle and Pacific. His father and uncle were also U.S. military pilots.
In the Falcons high-pressing and aggressive system, Bone played as a typical No. 10, a play-making central attacking midfielder. He went on to earn three All-WAC first team selections and was twice a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann trophy, college soccer’s equivalent to the Heisman.
In his four years at Air Force, Bone tallied 25 goals and 22 assists and Air Force went to two NCAA tournaments while he was there. They also had winning records vs. Army and Navy.
The Sounders finished second in the Western Conference last season with an overall record of 18-5-11. They were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Portland Timbers, who went on to play in the MLS Cup Final.
Seattle opens their 2019 season at home on March 2 vs. expansion side FC Cincinnati.