The role of universities in America's developing soccer culture

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The MLS superdraft is coming up in a week, which recently led Matt to muse on the current and future role of the draft in our professional soccer league. As he noted, the academy system and USL league provide alternative sources for stocking MLS rosters. But I would argue that the MLS should keep the country's universities as the central component of our recruitment system. Soccer academies like RSL's Arizona program exist because high schools in the United States just do not develop soccer talent the way that they do for basketball and football. Consequently, the academies make a lot of sense right now but I would prefer to see them funnel kids into university teams, rather than directly into major league contracts. I'd argue that a college education and a university-minded development program will help us create a superior soccer culture.

Granted, the celebrity status of American football/basketball stars does tend towards generating prima donnas who face immense social pressure, even at the college level and despite the positive effects of college education. But I can only imagine that this situation would be even worse if our young basketball and football players were funneled into the NBA/NFL through a system that did not include sitting in classes to learn about literature, math, and biology—to say nothing of ethics classes. I think that this is also reflected in soccer cultures of European and South American countries that develop amazing talent but lack some degree of sophistication.(e.g., Wayne Rooney).

It also bears keeping in mind that in American soccer, even if a player DOES land a contract with the top-level teams, this does not guarantee their life-long financial security the way even a two-year NBA contract can. For all those aspiring players who will never get into the MLS, or make much money if they do, I hope we recognize that a college education is as beneficial for their future as it is for the rest of America’s youth.

Finally—we need well-educated people. Homegrown soccer talent WITH the professional credentials and trained thought processes necessary to coach/manage/develop our teams further. Cassar played at the university level and got himself educated; I don't think he'd be the same coach without that. Garth Lagerwey is an even better example, as one of the most ambitious and talented managers in the MLS. He got his degree while playing at Duke University and then went to Georgetown Law after retiring from playing Soccer. As Nat Borchers nears the end of his playing career, there has been a lot of talk about coaching in his future--and guess what? he's gotten himself not only a BA degree but a Masters along the way.

Soccer is meant for the masses. When we attend games, we do so without class distinction because we're all in the same RSL family. But that doesn't change the fact that we need ambitious, savvy, disciplined coaches and managers to elevate the status of soccer within the United States. And I think we want a classy, thoughtful stock of players. In the end, I believe that the hope of a college education is part of the American dream and that it is part of what has helped us excel in so many areas including sports. I'd like to see American soccer contribute to, and be benefited by, that full American ideal.

FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of RSL Soapbox editors or staff.