Men’s Soccer: Three Wahoos selected in MLS SuperDraft

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

Photos: UVA Athletics

A trio of Cavaliers were selected in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft on Tuesday. Center back Aidan O’Connor (New York Red Bulls) and forward Stephen Annor (Houston Dynamo) were each selected in the first round. Leo Afonso, Virginia’s three-time captain, was selected in the second round by Inter Miami.

2024 Virginia MLS SuperDraft Picks
D – Aidan O’Connor – New York Red Bulls – Round 1 (12th overall)
F – Stephen Annor – Houston Dynamo – Round 1 (26th overall)
F – Leo Afonso – Inter Miami – Round 2 (32nd overall)

Throughout George Gelnovatch’s 28-year tenure, UVA has produced 34 MLS SuperDraft picks since its inception in 2000. With Virginia’s three selections in the 2024 draft, 16 Cavaliers have been taken in the draft since 2018. UVA has had at least one player selected in five of the last seven drafts.

Aidan O’Connor, a center back from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the cornerstone of Virginia’s defense in 2023. A towering, athletic presence at the heart of Virginia’s back line, O’Connor was crucial in keeping six clean sheets for a Virginia team that held its opponents to 0.95 goals per game. As a reliable player on the ball, O’Connor made his presence felt in the Virginia attack as well, providing a game-winning assist in a 1-0 victory over North Carolina in Virginia’s regular-season finale.

In two seasons at Virginia, O’Connor appeared in 31 matches while making 27 starts. He scored one goal and a pair of assists as a Cavalier.

Stephen Annor, one of two collegiate freshmen to sign a Generation adidas contract earlier today, was named a 2023 United Soccer Coaches All-American in 2023 after leading UVA with 10 goals on the year. Annor became just the fourth UVA freshman to receive the honor joining the likes of Claudio Reyna (1991), Tony Meola (1988) and Jeff Agoos (1986). The first Cavalier to record double-digit goals since Daryl Dike in 2019, he was named the 2023 ACC Freshman of the Year while earning a spot on the All-ACC First Team.

With his selection, Annor will join a Houston Dynamo team coached by former Virginia All-American, Ben Olsen (’95-’97) who remains tied for second on Virginia’s single-season points list with 54 in 1997. Olsen joined the club in 2022 and led the Dynamo to a US Open Cup title in 2023.

Three-time Virginia captain, Leo Afonso becomes the first Cavalier selected in the MLS SuperDraft by Inter Miami—a club that was founded in 2020. Afonso has been a constant scoring threat for the Cavaliers leading the team in goals in both 2021 and 2022. As a junior in 2022, Afonso was a first-team All-ACC selection. He posted recorded a total of 18 points (8 goals, 4 assists) to lead a Virginia offense that posted its highest scoring output (34 goals) since 2017.

Despite missing nine games due to injury in 2023, Afonso posted five goals and two assists to total 12 points. The veteran forward provided a crucial presence in Virginia’s three postseason matches, scoring three goals including a spectacular brace to give Virginia a 2-1 overtime victory over FIU in the second round of the NCAA Championship.