Marcello and Matteo Polisi have turned heads on the soccer field at Simon Fraser University.

On Thursday, the brothers from Coquitlam, B.C., hope to take their game to the next level at the 2021 MLS SuperDraft.

"It's very exciting. Both have professional ability, there's no doubt," said SFU head coach Clint Schneider.

"A lot of people think they're twins, which isn't the case," he added. "They're very distinct in the way that they play and their identity too."

Marcelo, who turns 24 on Sunday, is a defensive midfielder who came up through the Vancouver Whitecaps academy ranks from ages 11 to 19. Matteo, 22, is an attacking midfielder who went into the Portland Timbers system after being released by the Whitecaps at age 15.

Marcello is listed at five foot 10 and 165 pounds while Matteo is 5-10 and 160.

"Marcello is very good at building out of the back. He can defend as well. He's very good in the air for his size," said Schneider. "He's very strong and technically he's gifted as well — (he) can make any pass with his right foot or left foot.

"And Matteo is a gifted goal-scorer."

Matteo was selected to the United Soccer Coaches' NCAA Division II All-America second team in 2019. In three years at SFU, he scored 36 goals and added 18 assists in 52 games.

Marcello was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a freshman in 2017. He started all 49 games he played over three seasons with six goals and seven assists.

SFU fullback/centre back Chris Guerreiro, another product of the Whitecaps residency program, is also available in the draft. In all, 12 of the 174 draft-eligible players are Canadian.

Expansion Austin FC has the first pick in the draft, which has been reduced to three rounds from four, followed by FC Cincinnati, Houston, D.C. United and Atlanta United.

Vancouver has two picks in the first round: ninth overall and 23rd (obtained in a December 2018 trade that sent Erik Hurtado to Sporting Kansas City). Toronto will go 18th in the first round.

CF Montreal, formerly known as the Montreal Impact, traded its first-round pick to Austin FC in the deal that brought Canadian defender Kamal Miller north of the border last month.

it's a draft like no other given the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic has played with college schedules in 2020. There was also no MLS combine, which traditionally gives teams one last chance to evaluate talent ahead of the draft.

Five players signed to Generation Adidas contracts will likely go high, given their talents and the fact that their deals with the league don't count against the salary cap. They are University of Washington centre back Ethan Bartlow, Wake Forest forward Calvin Harris, Virginia midfielder Bret Halsey, Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka and Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira.

The draft-eligible list includes another set of brothers: American twins Matt and Ben Di Rosa from the University of Maryland.

With teams more and more focusing on their talent from their own academy and homegrown players, who come with a salary cap break of their own, the draft has diminished in stature in recent years.

Witness Montreal in 2020, its first draft with coach Thierry Henry at the helm.

The club had four picks and only used one, taking North Carolina defender Jeremy Kelly ninth overall and then promptly trading him to Colorado for US$75,000 in general allocation money. Montreal had previously traded away its second-round pick and elected to pass on all three of its picks in Rounds 3 and 4.

Toronto also has the 45th, 64th and 72nd overall picks Thursday. Vancouver also picks 36th and 53rd while Montreal holds the 63rd and 65th selections.

Four Canadians went in the top 20 of last year's draft led by Syracuse's Ryan Raposo going fourth overall to Vancouver. Wake Forest fullback Alistair Johnston was chosen 11th by expansion Nashville SC, Syracuse defender Nyal Higgins went 19th to Toronto and Connecticut forward Dayonn Harris was selected 20th by Real Salt Lake.

Johnston became a regular for Nashville, making 18 appearances including 15 starts last season, and is currently in camp with Canada in Florida. Raposo saw action in 15 games (two starts) for the Whitecaps.

While games hard to come by these days, the Polisi brothers have been working out together to maintain their fitness.

"it's extremely exciting," said Marcello. "(I'm) just hoping for the best. Fingers crossed. And hopefully all the work that I've put in over the years can come to light."

The two brothers, who have a close bond along with older brother Luigi, have played together on a number of teams. Luigi played soccer at UBC.

"it's nice playing with someone in the middle of the park that you know so well and you've played with kind of growing up all your life, practising together and things like that," said Marcello. "So it makes it really easy and, at the end of the day, it benefits the team."

Matteo went to Europe as an 18-year-old, training with Birmingham City and Derby County in England and FC Nuernberg in Germany. He can also play up front but usually lined up behind the striker at SFU.

"I love scoring and assisting goals, providing something for my team in the attack," he said.

SFU has had two players taken in the draft since it joined the NCAA in 2010. The San Jose Earthquakes took Mamadi Camara in the second round (46th overall) in 2019 while Jovan Blagojevic went to the Vancouver Whitecaps during the third round (54th overall) in 2015.

Canadians eligible in 2021 MLS SuperDraft:

Don-Junior Bobe, forward, Repentigny, Que., Fairfield University.

Sameer Fathazada, forward, Toronto, Fordham University.

Chris Guerreiro, defender, Coquitlam, B.C., Simon Fraser University.

Joel Harrison, defender, Langley, B.C., University of Michigan.

Kyle Hiebert, defender, La Salle, Man., Missouri State University.

Noah Jensen, midfielder, Courtice, Ont., Oakland University.

Ryan Khedoo, midfielder, Brampton, Ont., University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Marcello Polisi, midfielder, Coquitlam, B.C., Simon Fraser University.

Matteo Polisi, midfielder, Coquitlam, B.C., Simon Fraser University.

Kareve Richards, defender, Brampton, Ont., Mercer University.

Brendan Skinner, defender, Surrey, B.C., Western Michigan University.

Terrel Smith, defender, Burnaby, B.C., Santa Clara University.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 201