Welcome to SoccerNation’s “Ask The College Coach” column. In this series we take questions from soccer parents from around the country and have real, currently employed college coaches answer. If you’re interested in having a coach answer your question, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask the College Coach”.
Dear Mr. Jaye- Thank you for this great resource you provide. I have a question regarding what club my son plays for. We are about 2 hours away from the nearest USSF Academy program and our club does not offer this league. Are the chances of my son getting to play soccer in college reduced by not playing on an Academy team? Should we as parents do the drive back and forth? He is in 9th grade. Thank you for any help you can give us.
Father of a Freshman, Illinois
Thank you John. Your question is being answered by George Kiefer, the head Men’s coach at the University of South Florida. USF men’s program is considered annually to be in the top 25 rankings and has been in the NCAA tourney almost every year under Coach Kiefer. His response:
I’m of the opinion that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. There are so many variables to consider. There are plenty of non-academy pockets across the country that provide a great environment to develop players. The Academy, on the other hand, offers you the most competitive league in the country and a guarantee that if you can play, you will be identified by youth national teams, MLS teams and many college coaches around the country. Approximately 8% of all men’s college roster spots each year in college go to Academy players so your chances are incredibly high to be recruited without being in an Academy. If your club offers a great training environment to get better daily and can expose your son to college coaches at tournaments and showcases then you’re in a good spot. The drive can have an impact on your family and his grades by taking up study and homework time so those are also things to consider.
So to tighten this answer up, yes you can become an excellent soccer player in a non-academy setting; you would just want to be sure the club or the coach has long arms to help with the identification. If you do choose the non-academy environment it might make sense to visit camps like www.uscollegesocceridcamps.com because of the amount of college coaches attending these camps and the exposure you get.
Head Coach: Men’s Soccer
University of South Florida