Former University of Wisconsin mens soccer player Aaron Hohlbein signed a senior roster contract with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer on Thursday to become the second Badger in the last three years to earn a senior roster spot in the MLS at the conclusion of his UW career.
Hohlbein, who was selected by Kansas City with the third pick in the 2007 Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft back in January, joins former Badger Nick Van Sicklen, who signed a similar contract with D.C. United in 2005.
Wisconsin is now in a select group of universities that have had multiple four-year players sign MLS contracts following their senior seasons. In addition, both Hohlbein and Van Sicklen are Madison-area natives.
Were all very proud of what Aaron has accomplished, UW head coach Jeff Rohrman said. I think that what Aaron and Nick have done at the professional level says a lot about the quality of the players in our area.
It is also a very positive reflection on our program that we are getting players ready for the next level.
The senior roster spot came as a pleasant surprise to Hohlbein, who sparked the clubs interest during Kansas Citys 18-day preseason camp in Bradenton, Fla., from Feb. 11-28.
Going in, I was hoping for any spot I could get with the team, Hohlbein said. I never thought I would get a full contract, although that was certainly my goal.
Aaron had a very good camp, Kansas City assistant coach Kris Kelderman said. He got better each day which is really promising because some young guys get weaker as the camp goes on, but Aaron got stronger.
He is very good technically and physically, Kelderman continued. Hes good on the ball, has great speed and is good in the air. Those are all the qualities of a strong center back in the MLS.
Hohlbein is proud of what he and other former Badgers and Madison natives like Van Sicklen have accomplished at the professional level.
It says a lot about soccer in Madison that they can produce young players and bring them through the ranks, said Hohlbein. Its also a credit to the UW program for recognizing and developing talent to give players those opportunities to advance their careers.
Kelderman, a native of Neenah, Wis., is also glad to see a fellow Wisconsinite making his mark on the MLS.
I think its great because there arent a lot of us, so I find myself rooting for Wisconsin guys to make it to the next level, Kelderman said. Its exciting to see another Wisconsin guy make it to the MLS and Im proud to say that I have a Wisconsin player on the team.
Hohlbein, a two-year captain from Middleton, Wis., concluded his UW career last fall and was named a third-team NSCAA All-American as well as a first-team All-Great Lakes selection after leading the Badgers to within one game of the Big Ten regular season title last fall.
Hohlbein traveled back to Kansas City from Florida on Wednesday for a few training sessions before the team departs on a 15-day trip to Argentina on Monday.