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Brookwood's Zimmerman expected to go high in MLS Draft

Brookwood grad Walker Zimmerman, who just finished his sophomore season at Furman, has signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer. He is projected to be a top pick in the upcoming MLS Draft (Photo: Furman University)

Brookwood grad Walker Zimmerman, who just finished his sophomore season at Furman, has signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer. He is projected to be a top pick in the upcoming MLS Draft (Photo: Furman University)

SOCCER

What: Major League Soccer SuperDraft

When: Thursday, noon

Where: Indianapolis

Local interest: Brookwood's Walker Zimmerman and Greater Atlanta Christian's Chris Thomas are among the top prospects

A good portion of Walker Zimmerman's future is already in place.

As a Generation Adidas player, the Brookwood grad recently signed a contract with Major League Soccer, which inks a few of the top underclassman prospects out of the college ranks each year. Technically, Zimmerman is already an MLS player as his contract will be paid by the league and not by an individual team.

What the standout defender doesn't know is what team he will suit up for, a highly anticipated event that will happen for him Thursday in the MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis. He is a consensus first-round selection in mock drafts.

"It's still definitely up in the air," Zimmerman said of his potential draft position. "I'm looking forward to the day and the experience, taking it all in. I'll be excited wherever I go. MLS has great cities. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity."

Three MLSsoccer.com editors did their final mock drafts this week and they have Zimmerman going in three different spots -- first to Toronto FC, fourth to the New England Revolution and sixth to the Colorado Rapids. Toronto FC also holds the third pick, Chivas USA picks second and the Vancouver Whitecaps select fifth. He likely won't fall out of the top six, but he could end up with another team if trades occur.

"We're hearing anywhere in the 1 to 6 range," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, 19, just finished his sophomore season at Furman and signed his Generation Adidas contract in December. That route to MLS soccer has worked well in the past for Gwinnett players like Josh Wolff (when the program was Nike-sponsored Project 40) and Sean Johnson, now the Chicago Fire's starting goalkeeper.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound central defender has played with the U.S. Youth National Team program since the under-14 level. He had six goals and three assists during an All-American sophomore season at Furman and played regularly this year with the U.S. Under-20 National Team that will go through U-20 World Cup qualifying in 2013.

All that experience has led up to this week's draft.

"It's always been my dream to be a professional soccer player," Zimmerman said. "Now that we're on the eve of that, I'm starting to get excited. I just want to take everything in. I don't want it to be a blur."

Zimmerman isn't the only local player up for the MLS draft.

Greater Atlanta Christian's Chris Thomas also is among the top prospects after a huge senior season at Elon. One MLSsoccer.com editor has the speedy forward, who was part of the MLS Combine, going in the second round.

Thomas was a two-time Southern Conference player of the year in 2010 and 2012 and scored a school-record 53 career goals, including 23 as a senior. He played in the same conference as Zimmerman the past two seasons.

"Chris is a great guy," Zimmerman said. "We have a mutual respect for each other. After the game this season (against each other), we congratulated each other on our accomplishments and told each other we looked forward to playing each other again. He's a hard-worker and he's an athlete. He's got the skills to go to MLS."