Search Menu

US College Soccer At The Crossroads

Share

As the level of professional soccer in the US improves and financial interest increases, there’s good reason to revisit the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules that restrict student soccer players from developing as fully as their foreign counterparts.

Traditionally, US athletes are groomed in higher education to represent that value and prepare for post-sports careers, and accordingly, Division I college soccer has been the primary feeder to a professional career and the national team. Now, however, the new Major League Soccer (MLS) youth academies will train, fund, and sign players early, encouraging early withdrawal or possibly bypassing college altogether. MLS is also turning away from colleges and heavily recruiting more skilled foreign players to staff the starting eleven.

So although the NCAA’s stated mission revolves around athletes’ “well-being, safety, and academic progress,” its restrictive regulations put college soccer players at a competitive disadvantage – with the likely consequence that the best players will leave college, and that fewer college educated players will represent the US on the national and international stage.

To avoid this failure of its educational mission, the NCAA could allow Division I soccer to model traditional development programs and: 1) relax regulations restricting season length and coaching contact; 2) allow increased student athlete contact with the professional environment; and 3) increase the number of soccer scholarships. Individual colleges could also broaden their vision by employing international coaches with valuable professional qualifications, but by virtue of their cultural background, no four-year degree.

“We cannot be Germany, we cannot be England, we cannot be Brazil,” said Sasho Cirovski, head coach at the University of Maryland, whose Terrapin’s just won the American College Cup for the second time in four years. “College soccer, which is a larger scope of the college experience in America, must be part of the solution in any of the development programs we have.”

The two routes, MLS academy and college, can work concurrently with the diverse American youth to create a competitive international influence. The academies are fully funded by MLS franchises and select young players based on ability, as opposed to wealth or academic standing. The college soccer route favors the affluent with traditional American backgrounds and values, but also provides an avenue for the late-blooming athlete, such as the Revolution’s Steve Ralston, not even a starter on his varsity squad, yet Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s greatest competition for 2008 MLS MVP.

“Most of our athletes don’t mature until they’re 19, 20, 21 years old,” said Bret Simon, head coach at Stanford University, “it’s very hard to predict when they’re 13, 14, 15, 16, who will actually be the best players.”

But to date, the NCAA have treated soccer as the bastard stepbrother of the big three American sports, football, baseball, and basketball, overlooking cultural differences and imposing regulations that restrict players from fully maturing. The failure of this regime is evidenced in the 1998 World Cup, when the US finished in last place, in 2002 only advanced to the quarter finals, and in 2006 were eliminated from the group rounds after losing to Ghana.

Currently, most American MLS players have college degrees and are selected through the January college draft. Overseas, however, most players follow a youth club curriculum and step right into professional contracts at 16. But MLS salaries are not so magnetic (elite developmental contracts start at $12,900 and first team at $33,000), and even then the odds of a professional career are miniscule. In college, a four-year degree is the endgame, professional development limited (even ridiculed), and a year of training crammed into a three-month fall season. Improvements can be made.

1) Accelerate college soccer to a two-season schedule

Currently, Division I schools play 25 games altogether — 20 in the fall, five in the spring, plus playoffs and internationals. Around the world, however, soccer plays for 10 months. How close is the NCAA to switching to a two-season schedule?

“Probably as close as recognizing that FIFA is the world’s governing body for soccer,” quipped Barry Gorman, head coach at Penn State for 21 years.

Tom Jacobs, Director of NCAA Division I Soccer Championships from 1993-2004, now with the United States Tennis Association, responded, “FIFA has no jurisdiction over the American college and university system, . . . not over playing seasons and that sort of thing.”

But in 2008, draft prospects flopped and MLS teams crashed and burned in the CONCACAF tournament. MLS is looking south of the border and overseas for players to make a difference on the first teams, the only teams since the reserves (stocked with college players) were cut for inadequacy this fall.

“Follow MLS?”

“A little bit, probably not as much as I used to,” said Jacobs.

“Follow a team?”

“I don’t follow any one particular team,” said Jacobs.

“Watch the MLS Cup?”

“No, I didn’t have a chance,” said Jacobs.

So, given this kind of interest, it’s not surprising that college soccer, the primary feeder to the national team, is underdeveloped. But why do Division I schools heavily recruit, subsidize, and produce professional football, basketball, and baseball players? Why are some sports allowed more games, longer seasons, more training? Answer: the NCAA looks at each sport differently, there are no across-the-board regulations, and it is this partiality that draws controversy.

“The rules and such in football and basketball have been liberalized for Division I to provide opportunities for players to prepare for professional sports. Money has driven that,” said Doug Williamson, Assistant Director of Coaching Education and Development at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). “What the NCAA has done with soccer is to turn in the other direction. They’ve limited the time that coaches can work with players — they’ve reduced it. So we’re at pretty much, in terms of the number of weeks a college coach can work with players, we’re probably at one of the most restrictive times in our history.”

“Let’s be honest,” Williamson continued, “the relaxing of Division I football regulations and Division I basketball regulations — some of these schools 10 years ago were playing 26, 27 games, they’re now playing 36, 37 games in basketball – there’s no educational philosophy there, that’s about money. That’s about putting people in the seats to bring revenue into the college and university . . . [Soccer coaches] who do a great job with their players are being hamstrung by the restrictions placed on them by the NCAA. We’ve got some exceptional coaches, coaches of great quality, but if those coaches aren’t allowed to coach it doesn’t matter how good they are.”

“As a soccer person, I agree 100% that we should fashion a calendar with a split season fall and spring,” said Stanford’s Simon. “The big lure would be to play 10 or 15 games in the spring and 10-15 games in the fall. You’d take a month or two off in the winter like professional teams do and then in the summer the guys could join their summer teams or take some time off and it would resemble a professional model.”

Cirovski and Simon fought for split seasons, and were turned down. Currently, Division I soccer coaches are allowed 20 hours per week with an athlete within the 132 days of the season; pre-season consists of 21 practices before the date of the first contest. This is in stark contrast to the year round, 24/7 immersion of their foreign counterparts. How can college players compete with this advantage when they graduate?

Gorman has a plan that supports two 15-week schedules and academic priorities. “If you can have cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track, why shouldn’t we be able to do something along the same lines with soccer, especially when you consider that those sports cross gender lines and soccer does the same thing . . . Play your game on a Saturday or Sunday so the kids don’t miss class time and during the five-day school week only practice three days. That serves two purposes: 1) it allows the student to be a student — it gives them time to focus on academic stuff, and; 2) from a soccer standpoint, it gives them a chance to rest and recover. Collegiately, we’re being asked to pack the game into three months.”

Cirovski, who has sent over 30 players to professional leagues, including Maurice Edu, Taylor Twellman, Robbie Rogers, and Chris Seitz, uses individual skill building and pick-up games to work around the severe restrictions. “Last year, 20 of my 21 returning players spent the entire summer taking summer classes and playing soccer probably six to seven days a week,” said Cirovski. “They played amongst themselves, volunteer workouts, but they played pick-up probably four or five times a week at night under the lights after it cooled off a little bit . . . But we would like a slightly longer season.”

Gorman bends the rigid schedule to help move players into professional careers. “We’re having them defer for a semester and having them come in January so then they can train with us and use the limited amount of time in the spring and not lose a year of eligibility. At the tail end of it, we’re looking to graduate players in December so that if they’re attractive to the MLS they can graduate in December and be free to go with an MLS team if they’re drafted . . . And if a player graduates in December, [agents] can take him over to Europe in the January transfer window and have him try out for teams.”

Simon would like soccer to expand throughout Division I schools, noting only two schools in the Southeast Conference, Kentucky and South Carolina, offer men’s soccer, and thinks relaxing NCAA rules in Division II and II schools would also improve the level. “Absolutely,” agreed Gorman, “it all comes down to the individual institutions. Much in the same way as an institution can have its own academic standards, they can also impose their own requirements on their own athletic programs.”

2) Allow increased contact with professional soccer

In Britain and Europe, the developmental program is more closely aligned between the professional and youth player than in the US, and directors claim immersion of young players in the professional environment is essential to development and education. The NCAA however, requires players maintain amateur status, so soccer players develop quite differently in the US, although college players sometimes train with MLS, USL, and PDL leagues. But Simon feels there is a “significant difference between doing that and playing in a professional culture year in and year out.”

“The NCAA Division I top 20 experience is a professional environment,” insisted Cirovski. “You play games that matter. You play games in front of thousands of people. Winning and losing matters.” The average University of Maryland weekend crowd attracts 5,000 and though at eight dollars per ticket soccer doesn’t break even, the growing numbers do make investment increasingly viable. The investment in football programs has drawn broadcasters, which draws endorsement rights (which compensate coach salaries), and promotes attendance and brings revenue back into the colleges.

Cirovski hasn’t found MLS to be a better training experience for his players, however. “Our players have trained with MLS teams in the past and with PDL, and they’ve come back and said that their pick-up environment in the summer is by far better than any of the other alternatives . . . Most MLS teams can only have one or two practices in the course of a week because of their crowded schedule.”

“I don’t think having an apprentice shine your shoes makes a better player,” said Simon. “A lot of our professionals spend a lot of time on video games and going out and partying. Does that make you a better player? No. What part of the professional experience really makes a difference? To me, it’s the competitiveness of training and the possibility of losing your job. If you’re playing with and against very talented players you either sink or you swim. Improve and get better, or you’re out. In college there’s a comfort level — ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen? I don’t get as much playing time, maybe I don’t start this game, if the worst thing happens I still get my college education,’ — it’s not the same as losing your job.”

“Yeah, I think the NCAA should have a formal relationship,” asserted Simon. “In the summer we have players here who will train with professional teams, will run an exhibition game with the Earthquakes. We go to the games, we’ve hosted them, they’ve trained on our campus, I think there are a lot of ways we can work together to further the sport and forge connections so that our players see that level and are around that level.”

“It’s cooperation,” stated Gorman. “We have a beautiful baseball stadium here on campus and obviously our collegiate team plays in it and it’s used by the State College Spikes, the summer league pro franchise. There’s a system where you have a collegiate team and a pro team playing in the same venue . . . If that can work, why can’t it work in the sport of soccer? The college coach’s wing has to be on one side and the pro’s on the other, but you tell me they’re not talking to each other?”

“God gave Ten Commandments, but the NCAA have given ten thousand with a hundred thousand interpretations,” sighed Ireland native Gorman. “The NCAA comes out with rules and regulations and all you’ve got to do is wait a month and then there will be a waiver for American football, a waiver for basketball, a waiver for baseball. It’s because those groups have a lot of administrators who are former athletes in those sports. Rather than we in soccer fighting against each other, we should be doing everything in our power to help develop the sport at all levels.”

Todd Leyden is the President of the NCAA’s Eligibility Center, where student athletes certify their academic and amateur qualifications in compliance with NCAA standards. He says the five biggest issues for soccer players concern: organized competition, permissible expenses, competition with professionals, agent issues, and recruiting services. Soccer is challenging because the leagues, clubs, and competitions outside the US aren’t designed to protect the amateur eligibility of the athletes, yet more international athletes want the Division I experience and Division I schools want quality international student athletes. Consequently, Leyden notes, “We have more cases of penalties in soccer than any other sport.”

“The number of cases with penalties is probably less than a couple percent of all players that come through the system,” continued Leyden. “If you relax the rules, it’s for that couple percent. The real question is what does the membership want that amateur rule to be, and they’re looking at that in light of the continued changes in recruiting practices and what’s happening in the world. I mean, these academy programs didn’t exist a couple years ago so now they’ve got to think well, what are the implications?”

Leyden claims that over the last seven years, the number of international student athletes participating in three sports has “gone up roughly from about 2.2% to 5.5%, to 6%, to 7% between men and women. The number of international students has increased fairly dramatically . . . It provides an opportunity for student athletes in the United States to get exposure to the cultures and values and the playing abilities of those athletes recruited from international locations. But the other thing in soccer specifically, is coaches will say they’ll go to international players to look for difference makers, those one or two players that are going to make a significant difference or an impact on the field and also can contribute to the academic and campus experience.” Successfully recruiting difference makers raises the profile of individual athletic programs, puts seats in stands, teams in championships, and attracts other student athletes. Typically, those international difference makers are offered scholarships, but the NCAA allows Division I soccer programs only 9.9 scholarships.

Some rules exclude soccer players raised in cultures that cultivate the very practices the NCAA prohibits, such as training with professionals. “The NCA has a rule that you cannot participate on a pro team or with a pro player, well a pro player is somebody that’s deemed to receive more than actual necessary expenses,” said Leyden. “So, if you’ve played with somebody, then there’s an impact and you might have some sort of penalty that would limit your NCAA participation.”

Division II also has a problematic rule about organized competition, concerning “what did you do once you got done with high school before you participated in college?” explained Leyden. “What they’re trying to protect against is those students that delayed their enrollment but then gained an advantage by continued organized competition, regardless of what level that competition was.”

“Basketball is becoming more international,” said Leyden, “tennis is very international, there are other sports, too, that are becoming very international, so it’s something that the NCAA is looking at in light of the international arena.”

3) Increase the number of soccer scholarships

Division I colleges are allowed 9.9 scholarships, with the decimal resulting from the application of Title IX, which helped launch the US women’s success in international soccer. As the majority of men’s scholarships go to football, baseball, and basketball, many talented soccer players without independent funding can’t find their way into college and hence the draft, the current route to MLS. Although soccer gets 9.9 scholarships with an average roster of 26, football gets approximately 85 with a roster of 100, and simple math reveals a disparity that Simon describes as “traditional.”

“I’m not satisfied at all,” said Cirovski. “I’m fighting to get an increase in scholarships. Our argument is simply that men’s soccer has the lowest number of scholarships as a percentage of the starting line-up and the lowest number of scholarships as a percentage of the roster size of any men’s team sport in the NCAA. We’d simply like to get to 11 at least. We’re simply asking for a 1.1 increase.”

4) Recruit seasoned international coaches by waiving a baccalaureate for professional experience

Neither the NCAA nor the five accrediting bodies for higher educational institutions have degree requirements for athletic coaches — it’s simply left up to the individual institution. Yet, regardless of World Cup and veteran coaching credentials, by virtue of cultural background in that foreign players forego academic for professional training, US colleges do not employ foreign coaches for want of a four-year degree. But colleges develop an athletic identity in a specific area “because of the success of a coach in identifying or attracting players,” said Leyden, and like a notable player recruit, a veteran international coach presents opportunities to a college looking to develop an attractive soccer program.

“I don’t know of any college that doesn’t require at least a bachelor’s degree even for their part-time coaches,” said Williamson. “There’s credibility with the faculty, there’s understanding of the educational process, there’s an assumption that if you have a college degree you embrace the educational mission of the institution . . . A lot of colleges and universities are now requiring either a U.S. Soccer B license or an NSCA Advanced National diploma in addition to the college degree, but one of our diplomas wouldn’t cut it without a college degree.”

“To go through a lot of the coaching qualifications today, it’s almost like getting a degree,” reasoned Gorman. “My answer to that is – get [the Advanced National diploma] accredited – and the NSCAA has done a good job working towards it. It’s part of that lobbying from above.”

There is a general premise that a foreign coach unfamiliar with the layers of academic bureaucracy might short-circuit and actually implode. “The college system and why it is and how it is, and the recruiting, and what you do, and the NCAA rules — for someone outside that sphere who has not been involved, it’s completely odd and doesn’t seem sensible — to some of us on the inside it’s not sensible,” explained Simon. “I spend 10% of my day training players. Most of my time is involved in other stuff to do with the university, whether it’s recruiting or fundraising or whatever it might be. It’s a different animal.”

Division I soccer coaches are allowed only two full-time assistants although basketball has four, plus graduate assistants. College soccer coaches make a wide range of salary depending on division and school; a top Division I coach might make as much as $125k per year plus $50k in endorsement money, Big 10 Division I $90-100k plus camp money, but Division II and III schools might pay only between $20-35k.

There are two sides of this argument because coaching and playing are two different things; there are excellent coaches without remarkable playing experience and former excellent players who can’t coach. “When you look at the requirements of players and the requirements of coaches,” explained Williamson, “the technical proficiency, physical fitness, tactical awareness, psychological competitive skills that you need to be a player, and then you look at things like leadership, communication, teaching methodology, observation skills, intellectual skills in understanding the game — that list for coaches is very different than for players.”

“What does a bachelor’s degree got to do with coaching soccer?” twice retorted Steve Nicol, former Liverpool defender, current coach of the New England Revolution. “First and foremost, experience. And I think you have to be able to translate that on the field and in your training. What you think is the right way to do it and the wrong way to do it, and why. I think you have to be able to relate to your players while you’re asking them to do something.”

College Soccer: has the NCAA failed?

Although a two-season schedule, increased contact with the professional environment, and more scholarships are likely routes for improving the quality and keeping the best players in college, a spokesman for the NCAA responded, “our membership, which includes the soccer committees for all divisions, have not had discussions about expanding men’s soccer to a two-season schedule nor allowing increased contact with the professional leagues.” But if discussions have not even begun, some kind of leadership and vision within the NCAA appears to be lacking.

“We are going to need to find a way to develop more young players in this country,” Sunil Gulati, President of the US Soccer Federation, told Paul Gardner in World Soccer. “While I think that is certainly a positive social decision, attending college at that age does put many of our talented young players behind their international counterparts during very important developmental years.”

To play in the MLS Cup this year, New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero requested an extension on a 20-page paper for a class called “The End of European Empires” at the University of Pennsylvania. His stated career goal after soccer is to be a history professor or diplomat. Most soccer players in other countries typically do not have the choice to contribute on these varied levels. But as the level of soccer in the US improves, unless the NCAA aligns its soccer programs with those of the rest of the world, it may turn away the best athletes that represent educational values and turn out fewer college-educated US soccer players on the world’s stage.

Comments (27)

  1. College soccer failed a long time ago…

  2. They need a two season system. As a college coach it is impossible to develop player properly if they can only train with you 3 months a year.

  3. A very well researched and written piece.

    Does the NCAA have an obligation to help the USMNT program? Certainly not. Should it?

    The coaches in the piece argue that NCAA soccer should do more to prepare the college player for a professional career, but that’s not the mission of the NCAA.

  4. This is very long.

  5. “Only” advanced to the quarterfinals in 2002? Are we kidding here?

  6. If the Academies become successful in their ability to prepare young men for a professional soccer career then the NCAA will have been a willing participant in many of these athletes NOT getting a good education.

    American soccer is happening, its about time the folks who run the NCAA realize that they need to change as well.

  7. Even though I don’t even follow American “football”, I understand why our entire North American society favors the pointy ball. Just look at ticket sales!!!!
    Whether we like it, or not, the majority seems to favor the gladiator-like players. Even though they allegedly have “college degrees”, they still manage to embarass themselves (and our society) by their “mastery” of the English language when interviewed (Even though they were born and raised here!!!)
    Please, do me, but specially my son, a favor, don’t mess with the education system. But by all means, continue to procure equity in scholarships and improvements in athletics as written in the article.

  8. Excellent read.

    But is the answer to raise soccer to the “standard” of the cash cow sports, or is it to maybe focus our universities on education again? Why is “higher education” serving as a professional athlete factory (among its myriad other faults)?

  9. Of course its not palpable that Universities be connected to pro athlete development, however reality is what it is.
    I would like to see the NCAA adjust its policies so that our athletes can get a college education while chasing a Pro dream. Remember that a high number of athles don’t make it in the pro rannks. When its all said and done at least they will have an education if their dream crashes.

  10. ““Only” advanced to the quarterfinals in 2002? Are we kidding here?”

    This kind of jumped out at me too. L.E., making the quarterfinals in the World Cup is a good thing for countries that aren’t in Europe or South America (and even some of them).

    As for the rest of the article. I’m sorry to say it, but perhaps we should realize that NCAA will not be able to provide the sustained talent pool for professional soccer in this country. The MLS sees its future in the academy system and given that Major League Baseball has survived for this long without fully relying on the NCAA, so can soccer.

  11. The US advanced to the quarter finals in 2002 because of the Monsoon rains. The cup was played earlier, most of the top teams had many injuries and the European league players were tired. NCAA is not the problem. The system needs to reach out to the international community here in the US and integrate true footballers with the priveledged core of middle class players that occupy the US Soccer scene.

  12. While I agree with some of what you say what’s best for pro teams isn’t always best for players. Most of these guys are not going pro. In College soccer they get to play at a very high competitive level and still get an education. Read some message boards or interviews from kids coming over from the UK to play in college. A lot of these guys were seen as washed up at 16 they see college soccer as a fantastic opportunity. The grass is not always greener.

  13. NCAA is supposed to provide a path for attaining undergraduate success, not a pro contract. It comes down to a player’s football IQ. Any true baller can always go back to school later on in life. The MLS is a Semi-Pro League so there is a chance for one to complete college and find a career in such a mediocre league. However, the real footballers need to forget college to make it in the pros. Every baller knows this. The Americans are struggling to accept this reality that football is the game of the people. They are still calling it soccer. No wonder they suck at this game. LOL

  14. Sigh.

    You started out well there, Mespo, then degraded into some truly godawful tripe. Do we really need to rehash the association football = soccer etymology lesson? And I’d be interested by what qualifies as “sucking” in your world.

  15. Mespo, showing your true colors as a hater is not helping you! Your last message seems to also demonstrate your lack of knowledge about attaining a higher degree education. Even though my son is first generation US and happens to be a very good soccer player AND student. FYI, he will be going to a university in North Carolina on a combination of academic and athletics Scholarships. He learned (when I hurt my back playing) that any idiot can earn a living kicking a ball… Although, if the person who was hurt, is able to continue to provide for his family, he is not such an idiot! Explanation for the mentally chaallenged: because he is capable of earning a living as a PROFESSIONAL in another field.

    Unless you want to be reminded of the many foreign nationals in the EPL, your country’s WC record, etc. etc. etc. You definitely need to chill!!!!!

  16. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone across the pond! We still love you!

  17. Big V & Full back are both missing my point. I support the NCAA and its purpose of guiding student-athletes to a 4 yr degree. However, you must admit that there is not enough ball time for most players to develop into top level pros after college. Some of them will make the Semi Pro teams of the MLS and may still find a way to the foreign leagues but the true ballers must gamble on skipping college to make it big. I’m not hating on American soccer but you both know that most Americans are not ready for this game. Becks is not even worthy of playing in MLS. He sucks!!!!!

  18. i play soccer in college and i completely agree with the article….the ncaa doesnt seem 2 care much about college soccer…and i believe if we dont change the the college soccer system then the US wont catch up with the rest of the world with the quality of soccer..

  19. I am from birmingham, England, and am going to the states to play college soccer this august. I can’t wait for the opportunity and I believe the standard is better than some think. I have been at pro clubs here and also at semi pro clubs in their first teams. I know of a lot of players as well that get released from professsional clubs here in the UK and head to the states for soccer scolarships… why …..because you train everyday , and one you have been training everyday for a number of years it gves you the best chance to develop and then come back here and sign pro for a club or sign pro in the usa. I can’t wait to get started and I truely beleive that once I have done my 4 years in college I can make it pro.

  20. Nathan,

    Good luck to you! Contact me at eisenmenger@soccerlens.com and let me know how it goes. It would be interesting to follow up on your experience.

  21. I am a student from the UK and have played for the first team of my University. I was expecting more competitiveness and spirit having grown up in North America (Canada). I am now looking to transfer my credits to the US to finish my degree and hopefully play soccer. I am not looking for a scholarship. Would appreciate recommendations and advice.

    Regarding the topic, around the world professionals come through youth ranks of professional teams (Europe, South America..) and why should the US try a different approach?

  22. I totally agree with Nathan from Birmingham. I am 17 and I am also going to the states this august to play soccer, im from wales and the standard here is not as good as in other parts of the uk. I have been with 1 or 2 semi-pro sides over here and truely believe that with 4 years of solid training, playing more ‘continental’ football, and playing with better players, i can reach my potential and succeed. I honestly think that ‘soccer’ in the USA is ‘under-rated’ and that there is a fine line between players that play in the so-called best leagues i.e La liga and the under-rated leagues e.g. MLS. Cannot wait to get out there and get started!

  23. TH and Alex,

    Stay focused when you’re here in college, perhaps your biggest challenge :) Good luck to both of you. D1, 2, and 3 coaches always looking for the special player with the best attitude. Bring what you have and make it better.

  24. There are some basic fundamental problems with US born college soccer players versus international college soccer players.
    1. As a ex US born college soccer player, growing up I never played pick up games just for fun versus my old teammates that grow up in Trindad and Tobago. Most international college soccer players will tell you that everyday after school they played soccer on some of patch of dirt that they called a field and they played club ball. We Americans learn to play soccer only through club ball interaction. So by the time we Americans get to the age of high school and are looking to play at the college level, we are at a disadvantage, technically when we are compared to our international counterparts. That is why we see more and more of our college coaches recruiting international players. We American also lose the creative part of soccer growing up unlike our international counterparts due to the lack of pick up games when we are small. American college players dont realize the value of pick up games until they are in college and are competing for a starting 11 position or just for some basic playing time. By that time it is almost to late to be seriously considered to go pro unless you are able to get on the All American list atleast twice or be a first team conference player at least 3 times before you get noticed by the UPL or MLS.
    2. The second problems is that we in the US do not have the facilites to spur pick up games at the youth level. And soccer is mostly not even offered at middle schools across the nation as a sport like basketball or football. This is part of the reason soccer doesnot get some of our best athletes because we lose them at a early age to basketball and football and even baseball. This goes for all Americans not just blacks or whites. Now, I am in my 30′s and I have noticed that our latino population’s childern are becoming more Americanized and you see more of them playing American football and basketball especially in the west coast. Whereas if they were in the old country you would not see them play anything for the most part but soccer.
    3. In regards to the 9.9 schlorship rule. It sucks. In order for a soccer player to get anything close to a full scholarship is that they would have to have some type of national exposure meaning that he or she would have been at some part of their highschool career part of the US youth National Team or pool member. Even when I was in high school in the mid 90s, just being able to say hey, I was a all state select team for 4 years and made my highschool conference team all 4 years and played club soccer including being in the north/south game my senior year did not warrant a full schlorship to big time schools like UVA, N.Carolina, S. Carolina and even some lesser known Divison 1 schools simply because of the scholarship rule. Thus forcing the coaches to make a dollar out of $.15 when trying to recruit and keep 22-26 players on his roster.
    So to all inspiring soccer players unless you can put that your are a National youth team player or pool player on your soccer resume dont expect a full ride. If you attended IMG soccer academy in Florida, that might be a substitue for not being a national youth team player for some Divison I coaches. I know for a fact that full rides for IMG Academy players have been offered but I could not tell you the percent. But I can tell you that if you meet the academic requirement to the college or university that you would like to attend by all means go to that schools soccer camp as much as you can. You will have a better chance of getting on the soccer roster because you will be a familiar face to the coaches and will be easier for you to tell them that you want to be apart of the soccer program. However, this is a kind of put all of your eggs in one basket philosphy because you have to be 100% sure that you want to go to that school and that you meet the shool academic entry requirments, from there the coach will make sure you get the school’s acceptance letter. But if you are a B and C student and you want to play soccer at Duke, don’t even waste your time going to their soccer camp unless you just want to go for the heck of it. P.S. not disrepect to Duke University or its soccer program. It is a very prestigous school to attend and has one of the best college soccer programs in the nation.
    4. Most international college soccer players dont go home for the summer because of the cost to fly, etc so they stay on campus and play pickup games and go to summer school. So you do as they do if your money and parents allow. This will make you more competitive for the fall season when you are completing for playing time against your old and NEW teammates. Plus going to summer school makes your last semsester as a senior that much easier. For example, my last semsester in college as a senior, I had two classes. How sweet is that? ;)
    5. Finally, to all soccer players aspiring to go pro. Unlike basketball, football and even baseball. Soccer is not that well televised unless you watch fox south or something equal to that. As a result a lot of players get drafted to the MLS or USL because their name is in the record books as a multi year All American or for the USL a multi year all conference player or a standout US National youth player. I have seen first hand the best around player not get drafted and the player with all the stats get drafted or selected to a all conference team or all american team. Europe and latin america do not rely so heavy on stats as America does. They rely on the eye test, how well you play from game to game and how much your team rely on you as a player. So preferably you will need to make the All American team your sophmore and junior year so that you will have a higher chance of being asked to come to the MLS combine where USL coahces will also be the sping semester of your senior year. Your sophmore and junior year are the two most important years to make a name for yourself locally and nationally. So typically, I would redshirt my freshman year and just practice with the team and get use to the college style of soccer through practice. Work on building my leg muscles and abs by going to the school gym 5 times a week. Make sure that I watch and analyze in the stands all the home games. By your sophmore year, you should be a force to reckon with and at least should make the all conference team.

  25. R. Quaresma,

    Thank you for sharing all this.

  26. The USSF president needs to be firm and tell NCAA to play year round and be aligned with the FIFA calendar or else college players, coaches, and referees cannot be involved with the USSF.

    College soccer should do promotion and regulation. Again USSF should flex its muscles for this to happen. … See More

    USSF must ask itself what is more important the development of American soccer or upsetting a cranky chancellor.

  27. I am sixteen years of age and just finishing year 12, the comments and articles are of great interest, as I have been selected to apply for a soccer scholarship at one of the Colleges in the States, that offer a Sports Medicine or similar Degree and also has strong soccer influence. I have played soccer for the past six years and have been the national striker for the past two years in our age group, currently under 18s. although I am still only 16. I have also represented at state level athletics, in 200,400,800 mt. and was the club champion in the little athletic association in under 9, 10 and 11years. I am the current college all round athletic champion under 16 at Pacific Lutheran College Sunshine Coast Australia.I believe I could compliment and make contribution to most College’s or Universities in both the sporting and academic areas if given the opportunity. Advice would be welcomed.

    Bogart