Dec. 17, 2015
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” Following an inaugural professional season that began as the fifth overall pick in last January’s MLS SuperDraft, 2014 University of Notre Dame men’s soccer captain and All-American Nick Besler (’15) has re-signed with the reigning MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers. Portland announced on Wednesday that it agreed to contracts with Besler and teammates Ben Zemanski and Andy Thoma for the 2016 MLS season.
After becoming the highest Notre Dame selection in program history during the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, and eighth Irish player ever taken in the first round, Besler played the balance of his rookie season on loan with the Portland Timbers 2 of the United Soccer League (USL). Besler appeared in 25 matches with T2 during the 2015 season, logging 22 starts. He connected on his first career professional goal during an international friendly with Newcastle United of the English Premier League on July 21, tallying the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win for T2.
Besler joined brother and fellow Notre Dame All-American Matt Besler (’09) as siblings who have been members of an MLS Cup championship organization during their professional careers. Matt helped lead Sporting Kansas City to the second MLS title in franchise history in 2013 and has served as the side’s captain in each of the past two seasons, which included winning the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in September.
Matt has also emerged as a regular defensive contributor for the United States Men’s National Team since 2013, competing with that year’s USMNT CONCACAF Gold Cup champion and starting for the U.S. side in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Beslers are among known sets of brothers that were signed to eventual MLS Cup winners’ rosters during a franchise’s championship season. Chris Wondolowski and brother, Steve, were both with the Houston Dynamo organization in the midst of the team’s 2007 charge to the MLS Cup. A trio of brothers, Brian, Jeff and Pat Carroll, followed suit as members of the Columbus Crew system in 2008. After brother Sean Henderson reached the MLS final with the Colorado Rapids in 1997, Chris Henderson became a championship winner with the then Kansas City Wizards in 2000 in another sibling connection to the MLS Cup.
In addition, the Beslers were two of 14 former Notre Dame players to appear at either the MLS or USL level during the 2015 season, including eight regular MLS starters. Patrick Hodan and Max Lachowecki, a pair of tri-captains on the 2015 Notre Dame roster, have been invited to take part in next month’s adidas MLS Player Combine and look to join the Irish professional fraternity during the 2016 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 14 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.