On New Year's Eve, standout striker for the men’s soccer team Benji Michel signed a homegrown contract with the Major League Soccer (MLS) club Orlando City SC, forgoing his final season of collegiate eligibility. He is the fifth homegrown player in the club's history and is an Orlando native.
“I just want to thank the University of Portland for giving me the opportunity to attend their college," Michel said in a press release. "I want to also give thanks to the Athletic Department at UP. The coaching staff, trainers and teammates helped to keep me healthy and constantly pushed me every day to reach my goal of going professional. Lastly, I want to give a major shout out to our fan base, Clive's Army. You've truly made my experience unforgettable. Pilots ‘Til I Die."
Michel, a junior at UP, is the third Pilot in two years to sign a professional contract with an MLS team. Former goalkeeper Paul Christensen was taken in the MLS draft last year by Atlanta United and defender Kris Reaves signed a homegrown contract with FC Dallas.
Since Michel played with Orlando’s U-17/18 team from 2013-16, where he scored 25 goals, Orlando City was able to sign him to a homegrown contract. MLS clubs can sign a player to a homegrown contract if he had been a part of their development academy for more than a year and resides in their home territory.
This season, Michel scored 11 goals for the Pilots while battling through injuries down the stretch. He ranked third nationally in game-winning goals with seven this season. He also was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-America second team, the first Pilot to earn the honor since 2002. He made Top Drawer’s Best XI Second Team, All-West Region First Team and All-WCC First Team.
Michel ends his collegiate career with 31 goals, eight assists, 70 points and 12 game-winners in three years. He is third all-time in Portland history in game winners and 12th in goals. Michel has been All-WCC first team all three years on the Bluff and was WCC Freshman of the Year in 2016.
"Benji improved exponentially in our culture and program here to develop into one of the most dynamic attacking players in the country," Portland head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said in the press release. "I couldn't be more proud of Benji to sign his first MLS contract.”
Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.