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Two Bisons score major-league win in MLS draft in December

Lipscomb was the only school with two top-10 selections in the 2024 draft, and Spicer’s pick is the ASUN Conference’s first No. 1 draft pick and Lipscomb’s first ever MLS selection.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 

Malachi Jones (left) and Tyrese Spicer (right) with ASUN Championship trophy

Malachi Jones (left) and Tyrese Spicer (right) with ASUN Championship trophy after the title-winning game against Bellarmine University.

Lipscomb soccer capped off 2023 with a major-league win for two student athletes, with soccer forward Tyrese Spicer, junior, tapped as the first overall draft pick at the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft in December. He was picked up by Toronto FC, while forward Malachi Jones sophomore, of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, was taken No. 8 overall by New York City FC.

Lipscomb made history as the only school with two top-10 selections in the 2024 draft, and Spicer’s pick is the ASUN Conference’s first No. 1 draft pick and Lipscomb’s first ever MLS selection. Both Spicer and Jones have signed with their respective MLS teams, but plan to continue their studies at Lipscomb in sports management and engineering respectively.

The dual drafting was widely reported in international media including CBS Sports, ESPN, USAToday and MSN, among many others. In a statement released to media by Toronto FC, general manager Jason Hernandez said: “Tyrese possesses a unique combination of technical and physical qualities that align with our player profile and tactical blueprint. He also has a resilient mindset and a drive to improve, which makes him a great fit for TFC.”

Tyrese Spicer (left) and Malachi Jones (right) Portrait

Spicer (l) and Jones (r)

Spicer, 23, from Trinidad and Tobago, finished his college career with 29 goals and 18 assists over 57 matches. He was named a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American and a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist. Spicer earned the ASUN Player of the Year title for men’s soccer in fall 2023 and was All-ASUN three times in his Lipscomb career.

Spicer told media at the draft that he has dreams of eventually playing for the Trinidad and Tobago national team and playing in Europe.

“There were times that I struggled, honestly,... but I overcame that and I got the opportunity to go to Lipscomb, and the coach there, Charles Morrow, really helped me out. He took me and guided me and helped me direct myself on the right path to where I'm at right now to be able to even get this opportunity right here,” said Spicer, as reported in multiple media outlets. 

Now it may be possible one day to watch former Bisons Spicer and Jones play live locally as Toronto, NYC and Nashville soccer teams are all in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Jones scored five goals and ranked third in the nation with 19 assists this season at Lipscomb. He led the ASUN in total assists and assists per game and earned United Soccer Coaches All-Region First Team Honors this year in addition to being named First Team All-ASUN for the second-consecutive season. On the national stage, Jones ranked third in the nation in total assists and assists per game.
Spicer told The Tennessean newspaper that he and Jones “have a real special connection.”

“He always makes everyone feel at home. He always puts in the extra work to get to know you as an individual and show you how much you are loved,” Spicer said of Jones, as reported by Jacob Shames in The Tennessean.

“People underestimate Lipscomb,” said Spicer, to Nashville’s WSMV news. “We strive for big goals. We are very small, but I think the culture of being small and driven like me, drives me to be one of the best and to try to be one of the top ten. People should look out for Lipscomb, because we’re coming.”

Morrow said there were hurdles to overcome to bring Spicer from Trinidad to Lipscomb during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was worth it for the team and Spicer.

“He had special physical talents from the front end, and after the strength training, nutrition education and other things we can provide here, it really allowed him to elevate his game to a different level,” said Morrow. “He has been very dominant over the past two years, but this year was exceptional. He is very thankful for everyone who helped him to get here, and thankful to God for his talents and abilities.”

Malachi Jones (left) and Tyrese Spicer (right)

Jones (l) and Spicer (r)

Jones was one of eight children adopted by Mike and Haley Jones from Sierra Leone. All the adopted children are biological siblings, seven boys and one girl, who came from a family where the father had died and the mother was unable to support the family. The story of their journey to become a family of 12 is told in the book At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home.

“I’m coming in with expectations to compete for playing time,” Jones said in an interview on the the NYC club’s X (formerly Twitter) account after his signing. “I’m going to push the guys around me. If I’m not the one playing, they better be working their tails off for that opening position because I’m coming here to compete as well.

“I’ve been described as quick and fast. My speed is something that has set me apart, even at the collegiate level, and my ability to manipulate the ball as well,” he said.

Jones also said in that interview that the number 8 is special for him, representing what God can make possible,  as he and his siblings were called “the great eight” during the adoption process, he was drafted as the eighth pick and now he sports the No. 88 jersey for the club. 

Both Spicer and Jones were drawn to the Christian environment at Lipscomb, said Morrow. Having a small-school environment, with devoted coaches and a Christian support system, is a strong attraction for many international collegiate players, he said.

“About a third of our team is international,” said Morrow of the men’s soccer team. “It has been refreshing for those international guys to come into a place where they know they are cared about for more than what they can do on the field.”

In addition, the city of Nashville being internationally known and having its own MLS team has also helped draw good international players to the Lipscomb campus, said Morrow.

“A lot of things work to our advantage to draw high level players,” said Morrow. “We have done a good job supporting that draw and supporting these guys at the highest level so they can compete at the highest level, and some of these accolades are proof positive of that.”