Tesho Akindele couldn't have predicted this success one year earlier.
Starring for the men's soccer team at the Colorado School of Mines, merely making it to Major League Soccer was an accomplishment in its own right. In the history of MLS, only one player had ever risen from NCAA Division II soccer to become Major League Soccer's Rookie of the Year.
Make that two. On Monday, Akindele was voted in as the league's AT&T Rookie of the Year following a strong season with FC Dallas.
Akindele's ascension has been gradual throughout the MLS season. He ended the year with seven goals and three assists, but appeared in 26 matches and started 18.
He was at his strongest toward the end of the season, including after rookie award voting had finished. In the knockout round of the playoffs, he scored the first goal in a 2-1 over Vancouver.
In three playoff games, Akindele played every minute.
The Rookie of the Year award isn't something Akindele was expected to contend for at the start of the season. He only played 15 minutes in the first 10 matches of the MLS season, but the door to playing time opened after Dallas changed its attacking style following an injury to Mauro Diaz. Akindele was favored for his versatility in multiple different formations, which FC Dallas utilized throughout the regular seeason.
The best game of his young career game on August 16, when the forward notched a hat trick against San Jose.
Akindele's success has implications that run far beyond his MLS career. The young star has come out of nowhere to position himself as a prospect for the U.S. men's national soccer team. With the new four-year cycle ahead of the 2018 World Cup just beginning, Akindele has a great opportunity to polish his skills and gain international experience -- if he gets called up by coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
But Akindele has an interesting choice to make. A native of Calgary, he has already been solicited by the Canadian national team. Akindele declined to join the team on its first overture, but he could likely align himself with the Canadian team at any point.
If he decides not to play for the U.S., that is. Akindele hasn't decided which country he wants to represent, and that could be because he's holding out hope of joining the American team, which figures to be much more relevant on the international stage. But Akindele's decision could come down to whether or not he gets an offer from the USMNT -- and whether he has a chance to contribute in a significant role.
Even so, it's a great problem for Akindele to have. In less than a year, his soccer career has gone from merely possible to downright promising.