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MLS draft call could arrive early for Sweat



At some point around lunchtime Thursday, Ben Sweat's lifelong dream will commence when a Major League Soccer club calls to inform the USF senior it has drafted him. At that moment, Sweat knows what he'll do.

He'll likely slap a high-five with his dad, Jon, who plans to stay home from his job at an iron- and steel-casting factory. Then, if the mood strikes, he'll leave his parents' Palm Harbor house and go hit some golf balls at a range near Tampa Bay Downs.

One of the biggest days of his futbol life, and Sweat would sooner pop a 9-iron than a cork. Fitting scenario for a guy who flourished at one of soccer's most unheralded spots.

A versatile left-side defender for the Bulls, Sweat (6-foot-1 1/2, 178 pounds) is projected as a first-round pick in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia. ESPNNews will televise it live starting at noon. projects Sweat, an All-American Athletic Conference first-teamer, to be taken by Seattle with the 13th overall pick.

"For me it would be the start (of a dream)," said Sweat, twice a Times Pinellas County Player of the Year while at Palm Harbor University.

"Getting there is one thing and staying there is another. I'm excited to have the opportunity. I know a lot of teams are interested in I'm just looking to get there and work hard and work my way into the starting lineup right away as a young guy."

Sweat, who totaled 14 points in his four college seasons, attended the recent MLS combine in Fort Lauderdale. Amid speed and agility tests and three games, he was interviewed informally by roughly 10 clubs.

"Obviously I'm looked at to attack," said Sweat, a key cog in a Bulls defense that totaled 31 shutouts in his career. "That's why I was invited to the combine, that's why I've been one of the top left backs in the country the last few years, my ability to get forward."

When Thursday's call arrives, Sweat will become the 21st Bull to hook up with an MLS club, the culmination of a pursuit spawned as a preschool youth-leaguer. Jon coached him then. When the call's complete, they'll share the moment, then Ben will pack his bags.

At least the ones with the irons.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 6:54pm]


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