Former Hoyas Aidan Rocha (CAS ‘22), Stefan Stojanovic and Jack Panayotou are all just one step away from making their professional Major League Soccer (MLS) debuts this upcoming season.
Each choosing to go pro at different points in their careers, Rocha, Stojanovic and Panayotou all took distinct paths to gain the opportunity to prove themselves to MLS coaches this preseason. The trio will join a network of dozens of former Hoyas pursuing professional careers around the world as Georgetown men’s soccer continues to impress on the national stage.
Stojanovic was the first of the three Hoyas to officially make the jump to an MLS first-team environment when the Philadelphia Union selected the forward with the 57th overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft. Stojanovic was the 28th pick in the second round of the Dec. 21 draft.
Stojanovic transferred to the Hilltop for his junior year after attending St. Louis University, starting every game and notching nine goals during the 2021 season. Stojanovic departed Georgetown at the season’s conclusion to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Union II, the MLS Next Pro team for which he made 16 appearances in the 2022 season.
Georgetown’s successes continued as D.C. United drafted Rocha as the 60th pick overall after an illustrious four seasons on the Hilltop. Rocha’s college career saw him hoist the 2019 Division I National Championship, and Rocha was honored as the 2022 Big East Midfielder of the Year.
Rocha participated in the Dec. 9-12 MLS College Showcase, an event allowing teams to evaluate top college prospects on the field and during interviews, where he learned that several teams were interested in drafting him. It was not until eight family members frantically refreshed their screens on draft day that he learned of the good news, according to Rocha.
“I was cheerful,” Rocha told The Hoya.
Panayotou was the third Hoya to make the leap to the pros, as the New England Revolution officially signed the Cambridge, Mass., native on Jan. 10 to a homegrown contract through the 2026 MLS season with an optional extension to 2027. The 2022 UnitedHealthcare Revolution Academy Player of the Year has played with his home club since the Under-13 level, including nine appearances with the Revolution II, New England’s MLS Next Pro affiliate. Panayotou did not need to enter the draft as the club already owned his MLS rights.
Panayotou said his familiarity with the club helped ease his transition to the pro league.
“It feels like I played for this club my entire or most of my life,” Panayotou said in an interview with The Hoya. “Even though I’m sort of in a new situation with a new team, I feel very comfortable, very at home.”
Panayotou said his decision to play his first year of NCAA eligibility with Georgetown for the 2022 season was instrumental to his development.
“I cannot say enough good things about the school and about the soccer program,” Panayotou said. “I think the college game is a physical one. It is fast. The teams defend well. They want to win. So I think now, going into my first season as a pro, it won’t be anything new.”
Rocha and Stojanovic will have to impress during the current preseason to earn a contract with their respective first teams.
“My goal isn’t to be with the second team forever,” Stojanovic told The Hoya. “I want to sign the first team deal as soon as I can.”
Rocha said he is equally as ambitious in his career goals.
“I would be lying if I said I did not want to be one of the best players in the league,” Rocha said. “First, I’ve got to get on the team. And then I have got to be trusted with the team.”
Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese has now coached 35 players who were ultimately drafted or signed with an MLS or top European club since beginning his tenure in March 2006. Wiese said he is proud of his players’ success.
“Our guys come here with the goal of becoming professionals, and I’m incredibly proud of how hard they’ve worked to make those dreams a reality,” Wiese wrote to The Hoya. “Especially for a player like Aidan Rocha who paid his dues behind some future pros, worked hard and got his degree, that’s what we hope to see with every player that comes through our program. I wish them all luck and am excited to watch them at the next level.”