Nick Shackelford, The life of a semi-professional soccer player in the United States

The following article is an excerpt from the October issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete magazine. Content contributions come from some of the top professional training, nutrition, mental-game and fitness leaders in the industry. We know you’ll enjoy your experience. Subscribe Today!


Nick Shackelford grew up in Orange, California, where he played for the Irvine Strikers Academy. His youth career included playing three years with the Strikers team that competed in the US Soccer Development Academy, the highest level of youth soccer for boys in the United States. His final year of youth soccer was with the Pateadores Soccer Club out of Mission Viejo. As a Junior, he committed to UC Berkeley. His freshman year at Berkeley, he tore his quad which led to him transferring to St. Louis University. He would end up starting his final three years at St. Louis.

During the summers, he spent some time with the Orange Country Blue Stars of the USL Professional Development League (PDL) playing with college players from UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UCLA and many players like Benny Feilhaber and Quincy Amarikwa who are now in MLS. During the summer going into his senior year he had the opportunity to train with Sporting KC.

A stand-out goalkeeper at SLU, a historically incredibly successful program, Nick ended his career ranking third all-time in wins (39) and eighth in career GAA (0.92). For the love of the game and a desire to make a career of soccer, Nick passed on a job with an advertising firm in St. Louis following graduation. He was not ready to hang up his gloves and boots.

Getting an Opportunity

The transition of college to pros can be similar to getting recruited to college. There are 100 clubs across the country spread between USL, NASL and PDL. Those clubs don’t have scouting budgets like the pros so it becomes a lot about networking and finding ways to get noticed. Nick had coaches trying to help and was able to get a spot at the Pro Direct Soccer Combine in Florida that all of the NASL and USL teams attend. Following the combine and reaching out to clubs, he received responses from Railhawks, Pittsburg, and others, but no firm offers. At this point, he had moved back to California, was putting together a highlight tape and beginning to look at opportunities overseas. He had his bags packed hoping for a call. 

Finally, the Railhawks were beginning to look like his opportunity when, unexpectedly, the Galaxy called. They were putting together a Galaxy II team following their recent partnership with USL and had to pull together a team quickly. Growing up in Southern California, Nick was always a Galaxy fan, especially during the years that Kevin Hartman played for them. He jumped at the chance to play near home and with the Galaxy organization.

Get the rest of this article to read about Nick's time with the Galaxy, additional ventures, challenges, opportunities and more in the October Issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete.