Markanich twins recount path to the MLS SuperDraft

Nick and Anthony Markanich reflect on their careers as they prepare to play at the professional level.


Wes Sanderson

Nick Markanich (left) and brother Anthony laugh during Tuesday’s 2022 MLS Super-draft coverage at the NIU Convocation center. Anthony was selected 26th overall by the Colorado Rapids and Nick 30th overall by FC Cincinnati. (Wes Sanderson | Northern Star)

By Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

Draft day in any sport is a culmination of years of hard work and determination, mixed with stress and uncertainty. For two NIU senior men’s soccer players, forward Nick and defender Anthony Markanich, draft day meant so much more to their family, school and themselves.

The first brother off the draft board in Tuesday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft was Anthony, who was selected 26th overall in the first round by the Colorado Rapids. Nick was taken four picks later by FC Cincinnati with the 30th overall selection in the draft’s second round.

“I think we saw really good value there with Nick’s ability to move around the box and score goals,” Cincinnati FC head coach Pat Noonan said. “He’s a young player, so we will need to continue to develop him. I believe he’s got a skill set that when you look at the other strikers on the roster, compliments some of those.”

Looking back on the Huskie days

When they first arrived at NIU, neither Nick nor Anthony could’ve imagined the spot they’d be in today. Joining the team in 2018, Nick took home MAC Freshman of the Year honors, scoring eight goals. Nick totaled 15 goals and four assists in his sophomore and junior year. His efforts earned him All-MAC first team honors both years and Mid-American Conference Player of the Year in his junior season.

Nick’s breakout year came in his last season, recording a nation-leading 16 goals and five assists. Nick led the Huskies to a MAC title and a first round victory over Oakland University in the NCAA Tournament. He took home his second-straight MAC Player of the Year honor and was named to the Top Drawer Soccer Best XI Third Team.

“Most of Nick’s development has really been mental,” NIU head coach Ryan Swan said. “He’s always had good athleticism and was always a good goal scorer before he got to NIU. I think just staying focused and engaged in the game and knowing what his roles and responsibilities are beyond just scoring goals has gotten better every season.”

Anthony also had a stellar career with the Huskies. The defender earned All-MAC second team honors in his freshman season and first team honors in the three seasons following. Anthony’s best season came this past year, where he finished with five goals and nine assists. He finished his tenure at NIU totaling 17 goals and 24 assists.

“Anthony really helped transform the program,” Swan said. “He’s a guy who just loves being on the field and doing the hard work. I’ve got no doubt he’ll go on and be a success in MLS. I’m delighted for Anthony and I’m delighted for the Rapids.”

Looking ahead to the MLS

As the draft approached, Nick and Anthony both reminisced about the highs and lows of their college careers, along with what the future holds for them.

“This past season has been one of my favorite seasons and favorite teams I’ve ever played with,” Nick said. “All the memories with our team and everyone being so happy and celebrating when we scored goals and winning the MAC title have been some of the things I will always remember. I’ve been dreaming about being drafted since I started playing and it’s hopefully coming true. I’m excited but also a little nervous.”

Nick and Anthony aren’t the first NIU players to be drafted to the big leagues. Former Huskie Kevin Rodriguez was selected 75th overall by Minnesota United FC in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

The brothers acknowledged that none of their success would be possible without the support and devotion of their parents.

“My family has been a big part of my career,” Anthony said. “Without them I wouldn’t be here. My parents, coaches, friends, that’s why they’re here. They’re important to me.”

“I’m so thankful for them and everything they have done during my career and so happy for what this means for them,” Nick added.

The twins’ father, Anthony Markanich, Sr., especially realized the importance of draft day.

“Just amazing to see things coming together,” Anthony Sr. said. “The sacrifices and commitment and what they’ve given up to become what they’ve wanted and always dreamed for, which is to become a professional soccer player.”

As their careers move into the professional ranks, one thing is for certain: Nick and Anthony have cemented their legacies at NIU. The brothers will proudly represent the Huskies starting Feb. 26, when both Colorado and Cincinnati open their 2022 seasons.