On Jan. 20, Georgetown alumnus Sean Zawadzki started in the United States Men’s National Team’s (USMNT) friendly match against Slovenia. Zawadzki, a four-year starter and two-time captain for the Hoyas, had previously worked his way into the starting lineup of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer (MLS) since he joined the team in 2022.
His call-up to the national team was a monumental achievement—not just for his career, but for the Georgetown men’s soccer team as well. However, Zawadzki’s success is an anomaly, as most of the current best USMNT players did not get their start in college soccer.
Almost all of the elite professional soccer players got their start in club academies, working their way up to the senior level. For example, Christian Pulisic—one of the best American soccer players of all time—signed for the German team Borussia Dortmund’s academy when he was 16, proving his worth on their youth teams before making his senior debut as a 17-year-old.
Georgetown’s men’s soccer program has consistently been one of the best in the country, with five BIG EAST championships and a national title in 2019 to their name. Many Hoyas, such as Zawadzki, have gone on to have careers as professional soccer players—a sign of the consistent strength of the program.
Sean Zawadzki, Columbus Crew FC
The aforementioned Zawadzki is a midfielder/defender for the Columbus Crew. Zawadzki joined the side during the 2022 season, but only made five appearances in that year’s campaign. The former Hoya captain played a larger role in the 2023 season, making 30 appearances in the regular season and 15 starts, as well as appearances in all six of the Crew’s playoff games. Zawadzki’s appearance for USMNT in the international friendly game against Slovenia was a sign of his rise over the past few years. Admittedly, the team that played against Slovenia was not the “A Team” for the USMNT, but Zawadzki was a steady presence for the team and led the USMNT in touches, showing that he can handle the international level.
Dante Polvara, Aberdeen FC
Dante Polvara played three years at Georgetown between 2019 and 2021 and won the 2021 MAC Hermann award as the best player in men’s college soccer. He is now a defensive midfielder for Aberdeen, a club in the Scottish Premiership. In his time at Aberdeen, he has made 35 appearances and scored two goals, including his career-highlight goal in a match against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA European Conference League on Sep. 21, 2023. Polvara’s goal marked the first goal by an American in a European competition in 2023, even before world-class players like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and Ricardo Pepi. Polvara joined Aberdeen in 2022 after his junior season at Georgetown, before leaving on a short loan to play for the Charleston Battery in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship, the second tier of American soccer.
Aidan Rocha, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Aidan Rocha was a standout midfielder who played four years for the Hoyas, leaving the Hilltop after the 2022 season. D.C. United selected Rocha 60th overall in the MLS SuperDraft, and he signed with D.C.’s reserve team, Loudoun United FC of the USL. Rocha had a strong season with Loudoun United, playing in both midfield and defense. In December 2023, he joined another USL team, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, for the 2024 season.
Jack Panayotou, New England Revolution
Jack Panayotou only played the 2022 season at Georgetown, recording seven goals and three assists. After his freshman season, he signed a homegrown contract—a contract for players who began their career with a MLS club’s youth academy—with the New England Revolution. Panayotou made 11 appearances in the 2023 season, but at only 19 years old, his career is just beginning. In an interview with the Revolution, Panayotou expressed gratitude for his time at Georgetown. “It helped me […] get ready for this level, and I think I can come in here and make an impact.”
Dan Gargan played as a midfielder for four years at Georgetown from 2001–2004, serving as captain in his junior and senior years. The Colorado Rapids drafted Gargan 43rd overall in the MLS Supplemental Draft—the rounds of drafting after the MLS SuperDraft for players who have completed their college soccer careers. He had a long career, stretching from the 2005 season until the 2015 season, and won the MLS Cup in 2014 with the LA Galaxy. Gargan’s extensive career makes him perhaps the most successful Georgetown men’s soccer alumnus.
Jacob Montes, Botafogo
Midfielder Jacob Montes played three full seasons with the Hoyas before departing in the middle of the 2020 season (which was played in the spring of 2021 due to COVID-19). When Montes left, he became the first Georgetown men’s soccer player ever to sign with an English Premier League club when he signed with Crystal Palace F.C. in 2021. Crystal Palace, however, sent Montes on loan to two clubs in Belgium, and he never made an appearance for the English club. In August 2022, he joined the Brazilian team Botafogo, where he currently plays. Most of Montes’s recent play has been for the Nicaraguan national team, where he has made seven appearances and scored three goals for the team. Montes, a member of the 2019 National Championship team, is a very talented player who could have a long professional career.
On the whole, Georgetown men’s soccer has recruited a number of incredible talents and helped them develop into professional-level players. Their professional careers are proof that there is a path from the Hilltop to the pros. Six Georgetown players were chosen in this year’s MLS SuperDraft—twice as many selections as any other school. Among the draftees was sophomore forward Jacob Murrell, who was selected seventh overall by D.C. United. Those players have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of all the Hoyas who have come before them.
However, the fact remains that it is very difficult for college soccer players to make it at the next level, competing against players who have gone through professional clubs’ academies. Georgetown will continue to produce talented professional-level players, but they will face an uphill battle to reach the world-class level.