EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE senior Austin Ledbetter (St. Charles, Missouri) became the fifth men's soccer alum to be drafted into Major League Soccer in the last four years. He was selected Tuesday in the third round (no. 53 overall) by FC Dallas.
"I am grateful to have been chosen," Ledbetter said. "I am kind of speechless. I'm happy that (FC Dallas) had the faith and confidence in me."
Ledbetter, the 2016 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, is a two-time All-West Region first team pick by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
"I'm extremely excited and happy for Austin," SIUE Head Coach Mario Sanchez said. "He's put so much into this from his youth level all the way through his four years here at SIUE. I am very confident that he will go on to represent SIUE well at the professional level."
The Cougar defender led SIUE's backline which boasted a goals against average of 0.71. He tied for the team lead in goals with six while starting all 22 games. He and his teammates advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Division I Tournament, SIUE's farthest run into the NCAA Division I Tournament since advancing to the national semifinals in 1982.
In his SIUE career, Ledbetter made 79 appearances, including 78 starts. Both totals are among the top 10 all-time for the Cougars.
Sanchez believes FC Dallas to be a good fit for the Cougar captain.
"FC Dallas likes to build out of the back which suits Austin very well," Sanchez said. "He's a very good passer of the ball. He reads the game well from an attacking side. I wasn't surprised at all when I saw that they selected him. I think he fits into their overall philosophy of playing."
Ledbetter brings the total number of SIUE MLS draft picks to seven. Justin Bilyeu was chosen with the 18th overall pick last season. Matt Polster (No. 7 overall) and Christian Volesky (No. 32) were each selected on the draft's first day in 2015. Polster remains the highest MLS pick.
Goalkeeper John Berner was selected in the second round by Colorado in 2014. Mike Banner was selected in the third round by Chicago in 2007. Mike Jones was drafted by Sporting Kansas City in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft.
"It's an elite group of guys, some of the best in the country," Ledbetter said. "I am proud to be a part of that group. It's pretty amazing."
More than 70 players have gone on to play professionally after playing at SIUE.
"It shows the commitment that SIUE has to men's soccer," Sanchez added. "We're able to help produce kids who will ultimately reach their goal of playing professional soccer."