There's dreams and there's reality. For many people, they often don't intersect. But for two members of Penn men's soccer, their dreams became reality last Wednesday night.
On Dec. 21, seniors Nick Christoffersen and Ben Stitz were selected in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft. Stitz, a prolific forward, was chosen by D.C. United with the 31st overall pick, and starting goalkeeper Christoffersen went to CF Montreal 83rd overall.
“When I saw my name pop up next to D.C. United on my phone, it didn’t feel real,” Stitz said. “Going into the draft, you think you know what being drafted feels like and you play draft night out in your mind in a variety of different ways. When it actually happened, I couldn’t believe it was real.”
Despite Stitz's joy and unlike other professional sports, MLS doesn't guarantee contracts to all who are drafted. Instead, it ensures players an opportunity to showcase their talent during the January preseason period. For aspiring professionals like Stitz, earning a spot on an MLS roster before the 2023 season opener in late February is crucial.
“Getting drafted is very important because you get the opportunity to enter the preseason with the first team, but, at the end of the day, there's still a ton of work to be done in terms of performing,” Stitz said. “You're expected to prove yourself, and if you're not cutting it, then you can be sent down to the second team or even released.”
Having graduated following the fall 2022 semester, Stitz is fully ready to pursue a professional career. Christoffersen, on the other hand, is still in the process of deciding whether to pursue a professional career.
“I haven’t made a commitment to anything yet — it’s an interesting position I find myself in,” Christoffersen said. “Unlike [Stitz], I haven’t completely finished all of my collegiate eligibility and right now, I am focusing on remaining eligible as a student.”
Christoffersen is looking to train with CF Montreal in January while balancing his academic responsibilities at Penn. He could still elect to stay at Penn for an additional year or semester, allowing him to enter the 2024 MLS SuperDraft.
Coincidentally, Christoffersen was born in Montreal, but during his childhood, he moved to Toronto where he would eventually join the Toronto FC Academy.
“The rivalry between Toronto FC and CF Montreal has always been there,” Christoffersen said. “Being on the other side of that now is a lot of fun. I have a lot of close family friends in Montreal and it brings me a lot of excitement to go back there.”
Despite not knowing what his immediate future holds, Christoffersen is resolute in his eventual goal.
“My long-term aspiration is to hopefully make it onto the 2026 Canadian World Cup team and I think having the opportunity to play for this club is a chance to showcase myself in Canada,” he said.
Now, a week into the next stage of his soccer career, Stitz is able to look back fondly on his time as a Quaker.
“It’s crazy because leading up to the draft, even when I was still at school, I was so consumed by the stress of the uncertainty of the draft and what was gonna happen,” Stitz said. “Now that my future is a bit more certain, I look back on it, and I'm thinking, man, I'm gonna miss these guys so much.”
“The other [graduating players] and I were big parts of the team, but there are a lot of guys who are more than capable of filling in our spots,” Stitz added. “I think the program is in safe hands.”
No matter what the future has in store for Christoffersen and Stitz, their pivotal roles in securing Penn’s first Ivy League soccer title since 2013 will always be remembered.