Here we are on the eve of the 2009 College Soccer season and you’ll never believe it, but I am actually a defender of college as a method of player development for certain types of players. I agree with an awful lot of this article over at Pitch Invasion says. The point I agree the most with is one made by Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski:
Notice how he uses the phrase “NCAA Division I top 20.” That’s key, because there is a massive difference between the top of D1 and the middle and bottom. I always stress to people that for the most part I am defending that “top 20” or so that can in fact develop pro players. Look at some of the top programs in the US, they are “pro-style” teams with sophisticated offenses (not just pounding it towards the tall foreign guy up top). Sure, there are some tactically retrograde programs floating around the top of college soccer (Akron, Kentucky, and Creighton immediately come to mind, though I might be out of date), but many of the top teams play an attacking, reasonably attractive variety of soccer.
I especially agree with the point the author makes regarding developing the sport in smaller and more alternative areas. Without the college programs currently in place, creating new fans of the sport, how many fewer soccer fans would there be in places like Albuquerque, Charlottesville, Omaha, Indiana and many others where pro teams are some distance away?
Of course, there are huge numbers of flaws with college soccer and they’ve been addressed a million times in a million places. That said, the best in college soccer is not nearly as bad as people make out. And, if you live in the right place, you might a great little game in front of a nice atmosphere. This weekend alone there are quite a few decent matches which, if students are in town at the respective schools, should be played in front of decent crowds.
This Friday alone, these include St. John’s at Indiana and Notre Dame playing Wake Forest (both in Bloomington) as well as Maryland hosting UCLA and Portland hosting Virginia. It would take a lot of fingers to count the number of good pros that have come out of just those schools.
My point is, if you happen to live near a decent program, go see a college match this season. You’ll be annoyed for sure (the subs, the clock, etc.), but you might just be entertained too.