PORTLAND, Ore. --- Portland Pilots standout Benji Michel has signed a homegrown contract with Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer, and the junior forward will forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility to join the professional side. Michel has regularly been among the nation's leaders in goals scored while on The Bluff, and this year he was named an All-American.
Michel becomes the third Pilot in two years to head to MLS, joining Paul Christensen and Kris Reaves. Christensen was selected by Atlanta United FC in last year's MLS draft, and Reaves signed a homegrown contract with FC Dallas.
"I just want to thank the University of Portland for giving me the opportunity to attend their college," said Michel, who originally came to The Bluff from Orlando, Fla. "I want to also give thanks to the Athletic Department at UP. The coaching staff, trainers, and teammates helped to keep me healthy and constantly pushed me every day to reach my goal of going professional. Lastly, I want to give a major shout out to our fan base, Clive's Army. You've truly made my experience unforgettable. Pilots Til I Die."
Michel ends his career with 31 goals in three years, eight assists, 70 points, and 12 game-winners. He ranks third all-time in Portland program history in game-winners, and he's 12th in career goals.
"Benji improved exponentially in our culture and program here to develop into one of the most dynamic attacking players in the country," Portland head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said. "I couldn't be more proud of Benji to sign his first MLS contract. Benji came to campus with a great work ethic and desire to improve each day to reach his full potential. He had great preparation before coming to Portland playing for Mike Potempa. Each year in college, Benji improved and came back stronger adding elements to his game while developing into a team leader and someone who helped drive a winning culture not only on the field but in the locker."
This fall Michel he led the Pilots this season with 11 goals and was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-America Second Team. Michel is the first Pilot to be named an All-American by the United Soccer Coaches, which was previously known as the NSCAA, since Nate Jaqua in 2002.
Michel opened the year by scoring a goal in six straight games, and he was named Top Drawer Soccer's National Player of the Week on Oct. 1. He ranked third nationally with seven game-winners, and he scored the only goal during Portland's 1-0 win over UCLA in the NCAA First Round.
Michel was also named to Top Drawer Soccer's Best XI Second Team, he was tabbed to the All-West Region First Team, and he landed on the All-West Coast Conference First Team.
Previously Michel earned all-region honors as both a freshman and a sophomore. He was named First-Team All-WCC all three seasons, and he was recognized as the WCC Freshman of the Year in 2016. As a sophomore, Michel notched a hat trick during a home win over Fairfield to become the first player to accomplish that feat on Merlo Field since 2003.
"I saw lots of growth as a young man as Benji displayed tremendous passion and competitive grit while getting better technically and tactically with his movement off the ball," Carlin-Voigt added. "I've personally enjoyed working with Benji daily as he thrived under pressure and grew into a player able to change the game at any moment. We promised him during the recruiting process that we could help develop him into a professional in our program and credit to Benji for working hard both on and off the field to achieve his boyhood dream. On behalf of everyone at the University of Portland, I want to congratulate Benji."