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UB's Cicerone becomes first Big 4 player invited to MLS Combine

A record-setting career at the University at Buffalo has opened doors for the Bulls' Russell Cicerone.

The 2015 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and four-time All-MAC selection was chosen to participate in the Major League Soccer Combine, which unites roughly 70 of the nation's top college players for five days preceding the MLS SuperDraft. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich. native becomes the first-ever Bull -- and Big 4 player -- to be selected to the event.

"It's a privilege to get invited to compete against some of the best players in the nation and showcase my abilities," Cicerone said in a message Wednesday. "I'm going there to work hard and try to make everyone proud."

The MLS Combine, which separates invitees into four teams, runs from Jan. 8-12 in Los Angeles before the SuperDraft takes place Jan. 13. Participants take individual speed, strength and agility tests - not unlike the NFL Combine - but also play matches against the other three squads.

Cicerone finished second in UB history in both goals (42) and total points (106), leading the Bulls to two straight MAC title games as an upperclassman. He led the nation in scoring for roughly half of the 2016 season, buoyed by a five-goal outburst against local adversary Daemen College. The UB talisman trained previously with MLS sides Columbus Crew and New England Revolution in spring 2015.

Cicerone spent the 2014 season playing with local NPSL side FC Buffalo - scoring eight goals, which remains tied for third in club history - before spending the last two summers with the PDL's Michigan Bucks. The electrifying winger won the 2016 PDL finals MVP award as the Bucks captured the league title.

The Bulls' senior has signed with an agent, Ally Mackay of Global Premier Management, who will represent him in dealings with MLS clubs leading up to the draft.

See the initial list of 53 college seniors invited; the pool will expand as Generation Adidas players (NCAA Division I non-seniors), foreign entrants and additional college seniors are added in the coming weeks. The player pool is determined by a committee of MLS and NCAA Division I coaches.

How hockey-crazed Michigan built Russell Cicerone into a likely soccer pro

*Data available on the web only dates back to the 2002 MLS Combine invitees

Email Ben Tsujimoto, who represents himself in all his dealings, at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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