Serbian-born Veljko Petković moved to Ridgewood in 2010 and later attended Maspeth High School, while developing his skills on the soccer field with NYCFC Academy. Now, as a junior midfielder playing for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers men’s soccer team, the 21-year-old recently earned the number one spot on a list of the Top 100 NCAA Players to Watch according to TopDrawerSoccer.com, college soccer’s leader in news and rankings.
“When I came to Pitt I was kind of lazy. I didn’t want to defend and I just wanted to dribble,” Petković says. “Now the coaches here have motivated me and helped me take my game to the next level.”
Petković came to the United States in 2010 after his parents won a green card lottery and grew up on Gates Avenue between Fairview and Grandview Avenues in Ridgewood. He played for BW Gottschee and the Metropolitan Oval teams before joining NYCFC’s Academy in 2014.
After a recruiting process that also involved contact with schools such as St. John’s and the University of North Carolina, Petković knew he wanted to go away to school to play for a top program. “It was like a subconscious thing for me to want to get out of New York,” he says. “The experience of being on my own is part of my development.”
In 2019, Petković found his way to Pitt. Although he misses the Colombian food that is ubiquitous in Queens, he says he’s found a great environment to polish his game. He made an immediate impact for the Panthers, appearing in 19 games with 15 starts, finishing second on the Team in goals (6), assists (5), and points (17), while earning All-ACC Third Team and All-ACC Freshman Team honors.
He finished last year’s combined 2020-2021 campaign as one of the most elite scoring players in college soccer, collecting nine goals, which was good enough to rank second in the ACC and eighth in the country. His 26 points were good for second in the Conference and fifth in the nation. Top Drawer Soccer named him their 2020 National Player of the Year.
“Petković is easily one of the best players on one of the best teams in the country and, because he came from NYCFC’s Academy, it would be really interesting to see if he becomes one of the first guys to sign with them after playing college soccer,” says Travis Clark, Top Drawer Soccer’s Director of Content. “I’m curious to see if he’ll be one of the first players to sign with NYCFC after playing college soccer because they really haven’t done that before.”
As of the NCAA College Soccer Rankings on October 3, Pitt stood at number 13 nationally. In 9 appearances this season, Petković has totaled 5 goals and 5 assists for 15 points, earning Team of the Week honors from Top Drawer Soccer and College Soccer News, as well as an ACC Offensive Player of the Week honor.
“A big part of me really wants to win something here at Pitt, like an ACC title or an NCAA Championship,” Petković says. “I have the rest of this season and one more season next year before I graduate and it would be super nice to win something with this Team.”