Franco, the Big West Conference Defender of the Year in 2013, when he led the Anteaters to the Big West regular-season and tournament titles and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16, becomes the highest pick in UCI program history.
Franco, a second-team All-American and first-team All-West Region honoree, is UCI's first first-round selection in the MLS draft. He helped UCI produce 10 shutouts and allow a conference-low 77 shots on goal in 2013.
"I'm speechless right now, Franco told Chicago-Fire.com. "It was hard to believe — a dream come true. I've been wanting to be drafted since I was little and the dream is happening now."
UCI Coach Chris Volk, who was an assistant under George Kuntz during Franco's tenure with the Anteaters, offered praise and congratulations to his former player.
"Marco is a very intelligent and skillful player," Volk said. "Being selected in the first round by the Chicago Fire is a tremendous accomplishment. He has earned this opportunity through his hard work and determination. Marco personifies the type of student-athlete that UC Irvine continues to help prepare for playing opportunities after college. We are extremely proud of Marco and wish him the best as he embarks on his career as a professional soccer player."
Franco joins 11 other Anteaters to be drafted by MLS teams, the fourth taken in the SuperDraft.
He is the first UCI player taken in the SuperDraft since David Sias went No. 43 overall in 2009 to the Chicago Fire. The last six UC Irvine selections have been taken in the Supplemental Draft.
The SuperDraft continues on Tuesday, with Anteaters Enrique Cardenas, Tarek Morad, and Christopher Santana considered to be potential picks.
— From staff reports