"It hasn't sunk in yet": Moïse Bombito's looks back on wild 18 month journey from Junior College to MLS
As he begins his first season as a professional, Moïse Bombito is just trying to take it all in right now.
The Colorado Rapids' #3 overall pick in the 2023 MLS Super Draft, the 22-year-old from Montréal has just been taking things day-by-day this preseason, as he lives out his childhood dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
Of course, that being a dream of many youngsters, it’s not exactly anything new for a young player to be experiencing that feeling, but for Bombito, it’s a dream that feels a bit extra special, as he’s taken a long and winding journey to get to where he is. And that’s no exaggeration.
Less than 18 months ago, he was playing in the Junior College ranks in the US, plying his trade for the Iowa Western Community College. There, he was truly living out a reality straight out of “Last Chance U”, as he was battling to get noticed at a level where many don’t emerge from, playing in a league with players who were just desperately trying to stay in the game in some capacity.
Yet, that didn’t deter him. Instead, he kept on working, earning a transfer to Division 1 side University of New Hampshire after winning a National Championship with Iowa in 2021, and from there, he exploded last fall, emerging as one of the best college players in the country with UNH.
As a result, not long after he had celebrated one year since his championship with Iowa, his professional dream had all of a sudden become a reality, with MLS expressing interest in him participating in their draft, despite him still having a year of eligibility.
Now, a few months later, he’s a professional, battling to make a name for himself against MLS Cup winners, World Cup participants and players who have played at the highest level of the game on the Rapids roster.
There, he’s left to constantly pinch himself, as after even being close to quitting the sport altogether, it’s been everything he ever imagined, and then some.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Bombito recently told RDS’s Nicolas Landry in French. “In my head, I’m just playing for fun, but I feel that by the end of the season, I’ll realize that it’s happening, that I’m living out the dream I’ve had since I was a kid. And it all happened just like that, one year I’m playing Junior College, hen I went to Division 1, where I thought I’d stay for two years, and then I’m getting drafted into MLS as a third overall pick. It just all happened so quickly.”
The biggest surprise of this journey for Bombito? How quickly it all happened, too.
Not only was he playing Junior College less than 18 months ago, but he had planned on taking a slower route toward being a professional, as well. Especially once he transferred to UNH, which is one of the top teams in NCAA, he thought he’d spend two years there, maturing his game while battling for minutes on a top team.
Instead, he managed to grab a starting spot right from day one, and he never looked back, playing 16 games in 2022, helping UNH keep a strong defensive record while scoring four goals, as his team made a decent run to the Round of 32 at the College Cup.
From there, the calls started pouring in, including one that offered him the vaunted “Generation Adidas” contract, which is a program in which MLS will sign some of the best underclassmen in the NCAA to a contract, one that doesn’t count against the cap of an MLS team who drafts them.
As a result, one day, as he continued to prepare for his second year with UNH, he got a call that changed everything, jumpstarting that path toward the professional dream he’dalways been chasing.
“In my head, I thought I’d be playing Division 1 for two years, and then at the end of the second year, I’d look at my options,” Bombito told RDS. “But then my agent told me “look, we might get you a Generation Adidas contract, keep your ears open”. Then, the next day, they called me and told me that I got an offer, and that my college life, it’s over! And I didn’t even believe them, but then I got a contract in my email, and it became real.”
Even then, with the contract in hand, things weren’t so sure for Bombito at the draft. As a Generation Adidas player, he was pretty sure to be picked, likely in the first round, but given his lack of experience at the D1 level, he figured he’d have to wait a fair bit to hear his name called.
Because of that, he planned to have a lowkey night watching the draft, which came on December 21st of last year. He knew he would probably get selected, so he prepared himself for what his reaction would be, but other than that, he didn’t plan too much fanfare, as some who get drafted higher up might do.
But then, Bombito, who describes himself as a curious soul, searched his name online, and realized that there was buzz around his name as a potential top-10 pick. Realizing that, he was shocked, but also excited, as he processed what that meant, understanding that this draft night was set to be even more special than he thought.
Yet, despite that, even he couldn’t be prepared for what was to come that day.
“I was told as a Generation Adidas player that I’d be likely drafted in the first round of the draft, and I thought ‘hey, that’s pretty good’,” Bombito explained to RDS. “But then, as curious as I am, I went online, and I saw mock drafts putting me in the top 10. And I was like ‘woah, that’s incredible’, that’s exceptional, in my head, that means I’m among the top 10 college soccer players in the US.”
“When I saw that, I prepared a bit in my head, thinking about how I’d react if I was drafted in the top 10, how I’d call my parents, etc. Then, on draft day, I watch the draft, they call the #1 and #2 picks, and then it comes to Colorado. There, they announced a centre back, Generation Adidas, from the University of New Hampshire, and I was speechless.”
Despite the rush of being drafted that high, however, Bombito has kept his feed on the ground this preseason for the Rapids. A fresh face in a veteran locker room, he’s just been eager to learn and absorb knowledge like a sponge, picking up what it means to be a professional athlete.
And that approach has served him well. Those at the Rapids have only had good things to say about Bombito’s performance this preseason, as he quickly impressed the brass there with his work ethic and attitude, showing incredible humility as a youngster.
“Yeah I’m very thankful for my entourage, they’ve helped me keep my feet on the ground,” Bombito said. “Yeah, I got drafted 3rd overall, but you come to the pro level, these players have lived this for years. They live the sport, they train every day, they’re doing video sessions, so you’re coming into a new world, you’re a baby in this gigantic ocean, so it was important that I came in with humility.”
But now, Bombito is ready to take that next step. Having had a strong preseason, where he saw a lot of minutes, he wants to now turn that into minutes at the MLS level.
He understands those might not come away, as his team has a veteran centre back group, but he’s confident that he has what it takes to crack that unit and make a difference.
Therefore, he’s doing what he can to make that happen, and is prepared to do anything he needs to help him with that quest.
Even if that means a stint with the second team to get minutes, he’s eager to make that jump, and then, from there, the sky's the limit. CanMNT, Europe, beyond? It's all on the table for him.
And given what it’s taken for him to get to this point? You wouldn’t put it past him being able to make that jump to the first team sooner rather than later, as he continues to live out a dream that has endured the sort of twists and turns that would’ve sunk many others, but not the happy-go-lucky youngster who grew up in Laval.
“I’m not sure what the coaches are thinking yet in terms of my plans to get minutes, but I’m ready for my opportunity,” Bombito professed. “No matter if it’s the second team, or with the first, I’m ready to take it on, and make the most of that opportunity.”