More than 75,000 student-athletes play soccer on nearly 3,000 teams at the college level. It is the second largest college sport, trailing only football, in terms of the number of athletes participating annually, making it an integral part of not only soccer in the United States but also college athletics in general. As soccer has grown overall from a fan and media standpoint the attention to college soccer within the college sports community has grown as well. Finding college soccer on TV or online has never been easier with ESPN3, Big Ten Network, SEC Network and PAC-12 being just a few of the broadcasters covering the sport. Additionally, most large schools are now covering all of their games online and on local sports networks.
College soccer still matters! The death of college soccer hasn’t been a topic of conversation like it has been in high school soccer but the conversation about the declining importance of developing athletes for the professional and international stage within the American soccer pyramid is a topic.
In the women’s game, it’s undeniable that college soccer is still integral in the development of female stars. All 23 players on the 2015 United States team that competed at this summer's Women's World Cup in Canada saw their careers go through an NCAA school. Many players from other countries also went to college in the US during their careers.
On the men’s side, many of the elite soccer players are forgoing college to move directly into Major League Soccer systems or to play internationally. However, that percentage is still small. The majority of Academy players will move on to college soccer. As outlined in our story on the MAC Hermann trophy and the pros, college soccer stars still have an impact on the professional game in the US.
In an article done for the U.S. National Soccer Players website, Dynamo President Chris Canetti stated the following, as it relates to why the MLS SuperDraft still matters, “Identifying players through our own youth academies and USL Pro affiliations is the future for MLS player development, but the MLS Draft serves a great purpose in finding players to build a roster, especially if a club has a top 10 pick. We have a top 10 pick in 2015 and are looking to find a player that will make an impact on our club this season. We hope we can find later picks that can be developed into valuable players over the years.”
Peter Vermes from Sporting KC added the following about some of their recent college selections, “(Matt) Besler and (Graham) Zusi were both great players coming out of college and each played in a World Cup last year. We drafted Espinoza and he has played in two World Cups and an Olympics. Dom Dwyer scored 22 goals last year. All have been tremendous additions to our club.”
Does it really matter if all you care about is how the US Men’s National Team does? It seems to mean less and less every year as MLS homegrown players and international players with US passports take over. Still, nearly 50% of the US Gold Cup team from this past summer spent some time in college. Possible changes to college soccer, including a full year format, are being discussed within NCAA. These changes may or may not have an impact on the long-term place of the men’s game within the American soccer ladder in terms of development.
There are many other reasons why college soccer and college sports in general are important, including the value of education and the bridge that the college environment provides between adolescence and adult life that isn’t necessarily gained from going directly into professional soccer. College sports rivalries are the biggest rivalries in American sports, as important as many professional derbies in leagues across the pond. The environments at these games (and to a lesser degree what can be seen on TV) make for amazing experiences. It’s conference championships, it’s state or border bragging rights, it’s houses divided, it’s the difference between a successful season or a failed one, no matter what your record.
In a country where recent reports put obesity at 1/3rd of the population and 50% of the population with diabetes or at diabetes risk, athletes that compete at the college level with or without aspirations of playing professionally are instilling in themselves healthy habits that have the potential to leave them with a lifetime of benefits. In addition, these athletes are balancing school, family and friends with their sport and should be applauded for the effort, dedication and commitment. Not to mention that these, too, are positive traits. The statement being made here isn’t that an athlete who has a chance to play professionally should absolutely go to college first but to point out that college soccer is still very important for many reasons, more than are listed here, and the more than 75,000 athletes and nearly 3,000 teams should receive your attention.
With college soccer in full swing, we’ve taken the time in our September issue to focus on the college game because while most of the national media attention is on professional and international soccer, we think college soccer deserves it. They deserve it from all of us.
The September issue includes an article from former North Carolina Tarheel National Champion, Yael Averbuch, on her championship experience; interviews with Becky Burleigh and star players from the University of Florida; an article on the differences between college and pro training with legendary coaches, Schellas Hyndman and Randy Waldrum; and articles on making the transition to college soccer and what an injured player can do to support the team. These articles along with many more await you! 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.
Here’s to Amplifying Your Game,
Amplified Soccer Athlete