In a landmark accomplishment for the program, three Cal players were selected in the first round of Thursday's MLS draft in Philadelphia, headed by Golden Bears center backs Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean, the No. 2 and 3 picks.
Birnbaum went to D.C. United, and Dean next went to Vancouver. Ryan Neil was the 18th pick by Real Salt Lake.
Cal's Alec Sundly was selected by New England in the second round, giving the Bears four picks in the first 31.
"This storybook season continues to grow," Cal coach Kevin Grimes said. "It was the most players by any school in the country picked in the first round today, which goes to show the significance, and it also justifies what kind of season we had.
"What an amazing year it was for Cal soccer -- a season for the ages."
The banner draft came after Cal held the No. 1 ranking for six weeks last season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament for the third time.
Thursday's draft opened with drama, as D.C. United, which had the No. 1 pick entering the draft, and the Philadelphia Union swapped positions in the top two spots.
The Union selected heralded Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake before D.C. United got its man, Birnbaum, a dynamic 6-foot-2 defender considered the most MLS-ready player in the draft.
Birnbaum, a first-team NSCAA All-American and a Hermann Trophy semifinalist, was unfazed by the last-minute trade.
"I heard rumors about D.C. maybe trading their No. 1 pick, so I wasn't too shocked," said Birnbaum, voted MVP of the recent MLS Combine. "I was going to be happy wherever I landed. I'm happy I'm at D.C. now."
Birnbaum, a fifth-year senior who scored 10 goals last season, described the draft as a "great experience" and felt being a part of Grimes' program prepared him well for MLS.
"He's one of the best coaches in the college game, so he's given me all the tools to be in this position," Birnbaum said. "I'm just excited to take the next step."
D.C. United's back line could use some help after letting in 59 goals last season.
Grimes thinks Birnbaum will be up to the task.
"He's great in his consistency and his attention to detail, all the nuances and all the requirements it takes to be a great center back," Grimes said. "Furthermore, his aerial game is pretty much unmatched at the college level. "
The 6-foot-3 Dean, a junior Generation adidas signee, has a rare combination of speed, skill and size.
"He's extremely talented and gifted," Grimes said. "His combination of skill and athleticism is probably unmatched in the draft. He's left-footed, and he can play a couple different positions. His upside is really amazing."
Neil's stock soared during the MLS Combine, where he was third in the speed test and played well in scrimmages.
"He showed his best assets at the combine, which are speed, attacking flair and crossing," Grimes said. "I think with most MLS teams, these are some elements that you just can't teach at this stage. You can't teach speed. You can't teach skill and crossing abilities."
1. Philadelphia, Andre Blake, g, UConn; 2. D.C., Steven Birnbaum, d, Cal; 3. Vancouver, Christian Dean, d, Cal; 4. New England, Steve Neumann, f, Georgetown; 5. Montreal, Eric Miller, d, Creighton; 6. Dallas, Tesho Akindele, f, Colorado School of Mines; 7. Vancouver, Andre Lewis, m, Portmore United (Jamaica); 8. Seattle, Damion Lowe, d, Hartford; 9. San Jose, J.J. Koval, m, Stanford; 10. Toronto, Nick Hagglund, d, Xavier; 11. New England, Patrick Mullins, f, Maryland; 12. Colorado, Marlon Hairston, m, Louisville; 13. Chicago, Marco Franco, d, UC Irvine; 14. Columbus, Ben Sweat, d, South Florida; 15. Philadelphia, Pedro Ribeiro, m, Coastal Carolina; 16. Houston, A.J. Cochran, d, Wisconsin; 17. Portland, Schillo Tshuma, Maryland; 18. Real Salt Lake, Ryan Neil, d, Cal; 19. Colorado, Grant van de Casteele, d, Notre Dame
20. Chivas USA, Thomas McNamara, m, Clemson; 21. Seattle, Jimmy Ockford, d, Louisville; 22. New York, Chris Duvall, d, Wake Forest; 23. Los Angeles, Kyle Venter, d, New Mexico; 24. Toronto, Daniel Lovitz, m, Elon; 25. Philadelphia, Kevin Cope, d, Michigan State; 26. Portland, Taylor Peay, d, Washington; 27. Philadelphia, Robbie Derschang, d, Akron; 28. San Jose, Joe Sofia, d, UCLA; 29. D.C., Victor Munoz, m, UCLA; 30. Vancouver, Mamadou Diouf, f, UConn; 31. New England, Alec Sundly, m, Cal; 32. Houston, Mark Sherrod, f, Memphis; 33. Colorado, Jared Watts, m, Wake Forest; 34. New York, Eric Stevenson, m, Akron; 35. Colorado, John Berner, g, SIU Edwardsville; 36. Portland, Aaron Lang, m, UC Riverside; 37. Montreal, George Malki, m, Cal Poly; 38. Kansas City, Adnan Gabeljic, f, Saint Louis