Commentary

A player’s perspective: Should college soccer change its format?

PSP readers will know Carlo deMarco from his Philadelphia Abroad updates on how area players are faring in the pros. Carlo is also a sophomore midfielder for the University of Massachusetts men’s team, joining the team after playing at The Haverford School in high school. Today, he shares his thoughts on the proposal to expand the collegiate Division I men’s soccer soccer season to a fall-spring schedule.

In the next two years college soccer could change dramatically.

The NCAA is considering a proposal to make college soccer a year long sport. The first half of the season would be played in the fall, and the second half would be completed in the spring, making the National Championships occur some time in June. Lastly, teams would only play one game a week, doing away with the existing two- or three- game weeks.

Those behind the bill have three main reasons for the change. First and foremost, the new schedule would alleviate strain on the players during the Fall, both physically and mentally. One game a week would give adequate time for the players bodies to recover, and less traveling would mean missing less class time. Second, stretching the season out would increase player development. Rather than cram all of the training into four months, play would be competitive and skill specific throughout the entire school year. Finally, a national championship in the Spring would make college soccer more relevant. The game can be played in June when it is warm and sunny, not December when it is cold and windy.

To the soccer purist, this seems like a great idea. College soccer is constantly being accused of its differences from the professional game, and a plan like this would be the perfect solution. US soccer is getting better and better, and eventually college soccer will have to change to keep up. A great deal of young players debate forgoing college careers to pursue their professional ones, and college soccer wants to provide a suitable home for such candidates.

Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Not quite.

Lets begin with the problems of the schedule alone. If this plan were to pass,  college soccer would be the only NCAA sport who’s season would last the entirety of a year. That means there would be no offseason, forcing players to be in peak shape 24/7. Also, with a break in the winter, teams could lose some of the interest or desire they had in the fall. Demanding that a college athlete keeps an “in season” mentality for the course of eight or nine months is unrealistic. Also, a spring season already exists. Teams can compete in up to as many as seven friendlies, and come early March, can practice five times a week.

Another issue are the claims for player development. The coaches feel that adding more practice will make their players better. But in reality, it won’t. The reason why professional coaches feel players digress in college is due to the way the game is played. College soccer is predominately a physical and direct style of play. Additional practice time isn’t going to change the way coaches coach, and will not lead to more developed players.

The final problem with the whole plan are the hopes that this will make college soccer more relevant. If anything, this will make the sport less relevant. Just as the players would be at risk for losing interest, so would fans. The College Cup stands alone in December for major sports events. Yes, it isn’t ideal soccer weather on the East Coast, but why not have it on the West Coast? Additionally, by making the championship occur at the end of the Spring, it has to compete with lacrosse and baseball, the number three and four most popular college sports respectively. It will be impossible to intrigue the everyday fan during that time period.

Odds are, this plan won’t actually go through. The NCAA has a laundry list of problems they are currently dealing with, and this one’s most likely towards the bottom of that list. When it is addressed, I believe the NCAA will have a tough time making the change, primarily due to the differences it will have from every other sport. College soccer already has a solid foundation of fans who have been following the game for years, and rather than worrying about how to attract new ones, the NCAA should focus on satisfying loyal ones.

5 Comments

  1. Don’t club players have a 10 month season when 16 or 17 and balance school work with sometimes quite rigorous course loads? If we agree college soccer isn’t going anywhere and will remain a ‘developmental’ part of many players lives and we agree US Soccer aims to compete at the highest levels internationally and we agree there is a large hole in a huge majority of players development between 18 and 22— it seems aligning college soccer with ‘professional’ models is in our best interest. If you knew you were receiving cutting edge coaching (which in and of itself is part of the problem I concede) and US Soccer funded the growth of the game collegiately wouldn’t it be worthwhile. MLS and US Soccer and NCAA all need to coalesce with MLS providing the infrastructure of education at the D1 level IMO.
    .
    Good article sir.

    • I like this player’s perspective post very much, and yet I’m going to go with Joel on this one. Please remember in most of the world (the world that regularly opens up a big ol’ can of whoop ass on the Yanks), university is for people who who want to study and earn a degree. For the rest of the world, college football is more like a Friday afternoon frisbee toss around for us. If you want USA College Soccer to become completely irrelevant, don’t change.

    • Agree with you, Joel. I see more advantages than disadvantages. The current schedule is a total joke with sometimes 3 games in a week. Stating that College soccer is predominantly a physical and direct style of play and will not change, is a grand speculation. I think it will change as more DA players join the system. Talking about DA players: they play for 10 months; so why should it suddenly change in College?!

  2. Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and
    tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go
    over the same topics? Thanks a ton!

  3. A huge problem is that many big universities simply don’t field a men’s varsity team due to Title IX issues. The more teams you have playing varsity soccer, the higher the profile of the game among college sports and the more ubiquitous soccer will become in the U.S. overall. The NCAA, with all the rules they have defining Division I, II, and III, have done their best to stifle soccer’s spread across the college landscape.

    I would love to see a big American university without a varsity men’s soccer team (e.g. Texas, Texas A&M, etc) sue the NCAA because they are barred from “dipping a toe in the water” by fielding a D2 or D3 team. They are forced to either field a Division I team or no varsity team at all. That is a disgrace and serves to hold back the spread of collegiate soccer in the U.S.

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