New Zealand defender Francis de Vries to push for Major League Soccer contract
A promising defender from Christchurch could be the next New Zealand football player to join the ranks of Major League Soccer.
Francis de Vries is one of 53 United States-based players invited to participate in the MLS Combine in Los Angeles, which precedes next week's Super Draft.
The participants have been selected by MLS and NCAA coaches, which shows the left-footed centre-back is being looked at as a serious prospect for the draft.
De Vries won the 2011 National Youth League with Canterbury United before linking up with the academy of Swiss giants FC Basel.
The 22-year-old then joined Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania after being recommended to the coach by former student and current Canterbury captain Aaron Clapham.
De Vries played 18 games for Saint Francis during the 2016 season, scoring three goals. He led a defensive unit that kept 10 clean sheets and leaked just 0.73 goals per game.
He was twice named Northeast Conference defensive player of the year and has earned many other accolades during his four-year stint with the Red Flash, including being named to the third team by the National Soccer Coaches' Association of America.
He also won the Premier Development League championship with the Michigan Bucks, having spent three summer seasons in the fourth-tier competition.
De Vries recently told College Soccer News that he didn't expect to have so much individual success when he arrived in the US.
"Coming into college my goal was just kind of like 'hey, let's just go through the four years and at the end of it hopefully you can have a chance to go [pro],' and now it's looking like things are going to turn out quite positively for me," he said.
"I'm very surprised at how much attention I got but again I think it comes from not focussing on it at all."
Although he was released by FC Basel after six months, he said the stint in Switzerland gave him an advantage technically and tactically heading into the US.
"I was getting challenged every day and getting put way outside my comfort zone so when I came over here to the States into college soccer, which is a different type of soccer than what you see in Europe or even in New Zealand, I had some attributes myself that were different.
"Over the course of the first two, three years I worked really hard on the aspects that I needed to improve on that would make me better in college soccer like the athleticism."
If de Vries is drafted, he will effectively be placed on trial with whichever team selects him.
There are two All Whites currently plying their trade in the MLS; Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and San Jose Earthquakes defender Kip Colvey.