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NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament: San Jose Earthquakes academy product Tommy Thompson leads defending champions Indiana University

Though his time with the Academy was short, midfielder/forward Tommy Thompson impressed the San Jose Earthquakes coaches so much that he was invited to train with the first team. He joined the defending NCAA champions Indiana University last spring and, when healthy, has been a breakout star for the Hoosiers. Thompson's next challenge: facing Akron in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament.

Indiana University men's soccer celebrates Big 10 championship
Indiana University men's soccer celebrates Big 10 championship
Indiana Men's Soccer

The San Jose Earthquakes have yet to take advantage of MLS' homegrown player acquisition method, but academy product Tommy Thompson seems a sure bet to be the first signing under the policy. The Indiana University freshman forward had an impressive tenure in San Jose and now is poised to lead the defending NCAA champion Hoosiers into this year's tournament. Thompson has deservedly been recognized for his contributions at Indiana, and perhaps with a good showing in the tournament could vault into the national consciousness.

Profiled so eloquently last spring by the fine folks at Richter Media, Thompson made an impression not only at the academy level with the Earthquakes U18 squad but also with the first team. For a short period before his departure to Bloomington, Thompson dazzled coaches and observers at Quakes training sessions and in the Reserve League. A speedy forward at the youth level, Thompson might best fit in as a professional in an attacking midfielder role -- a classic #10.

"He has a chance to play in the MLS," Quakes general manager John Doyle told Richter Media. "Watching him, he's different. I think he's excellent."

Thompson had been recovering from a knee injury before joining the Quakes Academy, and he experienced another injury this past summer that kept him out of the Indiana line-up for a lengthy spell. However, healthy and back to full fitness, Thompson has transformed a Hoosiers side that struggled in its regular season into the Big 10 conference tournament champions. Indiana would likely have missed out on a chance to defend its NCAA title if not for its conference championship.

The Hoosiers were handed a mouth-watering first round match-up in the NCAA tournament: at 2010 champions University of Akron. The Zips, who were previously coached by current Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, are a top-ten side nationally, but they will have their hands full with unseeded Indiana. The interstate rivals play this Thursday night with the winner advancing to play #9 Marquette University on Sunday.

Whatever Indiana's fate in this year's tournament, Thompson has already served notice that he has a bright future ahead of him. Should the Earthquakes make a play to sign him to a homegrown player contract in the coming year, Thompson could easily be in the mix for minutes with the first team as early as the 2014 season. To date, Thompson has not indicated his professional soccer plans publicly.

Weren't able to watch the Quakes U18 squad last season or the Reserve League team last spring and missed out on the Tommy Thompson show? For a great anthology of Thompson's work in the Big 10 tournament semifinals last weekend, check out these highlights: