Monday Morning Centerback: Enough about what the College Cup wasn’t and what college soccer isn’t

CollegeCupClash (AP) 

Maybe it was all the hype coming into the Final Four about Wake Forest and its loaded quad. Perhaps it was the talk about how deep the upcoming MLS Draft is and how well represented this Final Four would be in that draft next month. Whatever the reason, this year's NCAA College Cup had more buzz than past years and the event essentially failed to live up to the hype.

While that may be true, it seems as if there are a number of American soccer fans who want to use the Final Four, and the three goals in three games it produced, as some sort of indictment of the college game. Complain about college soccer if you want, but a few bad games does not negate the fact that college soccer is still an important tool in the development of pro soccer players in this country.

As long as MLS continues to go slow in establishing a real professional player development system in this country, college soccer will continue to have its place and without it there would be countless prospects faced with few options and little chance to develop into the quality professional players so many college products have become.

Is college soccer an ideal system? Of course not. Limited numbers of games and practice hours make it far from the ideal, which would be full-blown professional academies like the ones seen around the world, but the fact remains that nobody is running up to fund those types of development initiatives. In the meantime, college soccer remains a FREE feeder system for a professional league still in its infancy and an ideal vehicle for soccer players who want to keep pursuing their professional dreams after high school.

It should also be noted that not all college soccer is ultra-defensive and lacking in creativity and crisp passing. This weekend's match-ups were what doomed fans to some sloppy and, at times, ugly soccer as much as the state of college soccer itself. All three match-ups involved one superiorly-skilled team against an offensively-inferior opponent that was going to have to rely on defense and counterattacking to win.

In only one of those instances did the defensive team win, which was North Carolina, a team that counterattacked Wake Forest all night and frustrated the Deamon Decons enough to disrupt their normally free-flowing attack.

Don't blame North Carolina for playing that way (and credit to the Tar Heels for disciplined defending and showing great heart in upsetting the defending champions). Blame Wake Forest for not finishing any of its chances. Blame a team that dominated all year but failed to win either the ACC Tournament or NCAA Tournament. Much as it did in the ACC Tourney, Maryland did what Wake Forest couldn't, finish chances, which is why the Terrapins trophy case is more crowded this year while Wake's collected only dust.

Would it have been better for the college game if we had seen a Wake Forest-Maryland game? It would have certainly been more entertaining for the non-partisan fans. Anybody who saw those teams do battle in an early-season match won by Wake Forest (4-2) remembers some great attacking soccer by two teams loaded with talent. It would have been great to see that match-up on Sunday, but Wake Forest failed to get there. That isn't college soccer's fault. That is Wake's fault.

And since when it is a surprise to see a soccer tournament have ugly, defensive-minded games? This happens from the World Cup on down and anyone surprised to see teams playing more cautiously or more defensively in a single-elimination tournament format must not watch too many tournaments.

Rather than looking at what College Cup wasn't, and using that to indict the college game, critics should look at the quality players the college game has developed and continues to develop, and realize how fortunate we are to have college soccer. When players like Marcus Tracey, Ike Opara, Omar Gonzalez, Sam Cronin and Graham Zusi make the next step to the pros the American game will be that much better for it, and if those prospects can emulate the professional successes of recent college products such as Sacha Kljestan, Chad Marshall, Maurice Edu, Brad Guzan, Bakary Soumare and Marvell Wynne, we will have no choice but to acknowledge that, for all its flaws and inadequacies, the college game is still doing something right and still has a vital role to play in American soccer.

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52 Responses to Monday Morning Centerback: Enough about what the College Cup wasn’t and what college soccer isn’t

  1. Mike22 says:

    The final was a bit boring but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of the two semifinals. Yes, there weren’t many goals, but the games were still interesting and entertaining, I thought.

  2. beckster says:

    Ives – well said. I totally agree and will continue to watch college soccer – both men’s and woman’s – especially in the ACC which has to be considered the a cut above the rest for both groups.

  3. bellbj8 says:

    i will say one thing, schuler from UNC, and spent a year at Peddie School in NJ, is a flat out STUD on the field… killed it on the ODP circuit and now he is wreaking havoc on the wing at UNC, too bad he isn’t a Generation Adidas guy

  4. Matt says:

    How often do the final and semifinals of a knockout feature flowing attractive soccer?

    Games in that situation are almost universally boring, whatever the level. Italy vs. Brazil in the WC final anyone?

  5. Matt says:

    How often do the final and semifinals of a knockout feature flowing attractive soccer?

    Games in that situation are almost universally boring, whatever the level. Italy vs. Brazil in the WC final anyone?

  6. FC Uptown says:

    Can they change the game’s rules to reflect the real game – substitutions, timeouts, backwards clock? That isn’t asking too much I dont think.

  7. Pat says:

    I do not like watching college soccer though I live between soccer powers Clemson, USC and Furman. Referees allow defenders to butcher forwards without Red Carding them. Therefore, the game is mostly about athleticism rather than skill. I watched the 1st 10 minutes of the championship and turned it off after watching defender after defender for UNC kick it (not pass it)forward.

    However, college players can make it in World soccer. The leading scorer in Germany did play 1 year of college soccer.

  8. FC Uptown says:

    Can they change the game’s rules to reflect the real game – substitutions, timeouts, backwards clock? That isn’t asking too much I dont think.

  9. Pat says:

    I do not like watching college soccer though I live between soccer powers Clemson, USC and Furman. Referees allow defenders to butcher forwards without Red Carding them. Therefore, the game is mostly about athleticism rather than skill. I watched the 1st 10 minutes of the championship and turned it off after watching defender after defender for UNC kick it (not pass it)forward.

    However, college players can make it in World soccer. The leading scorer in Germany did play 1 year of college soccer.

  10. BFBS says:

    I think a very specific complaint American soccer fans have about college soccer is that aside from a shortened season (which is inevitable), it also operates under different rules than FIFA’s: unlimited substitutions with players coming back in and timeouts. As such, as I think Greg Vanney pointed out in an article by Andrea Canales some time ago, the college game a) looks very different and b) does not teach players to think and concentrate as much as it would have had it been subject to FIFA-like rules.

  11. joe says:

    My biggest gripe is yeah some of those kids are very talented and will no doubt be good players in MLS, but why in the hell do they have to play at such a frantic pace? Why don’t the coaches encourage the kids to try and slow the game down and keep possession? Maryland was the only side who I saw try to dictate the pace at all. The other three sides played at 100mph all the time.

  12. soccerroo says:

    Ives is right with a few exceptions probably out there.

    The one I saw back in 94 with Brazil v Holland in the world cup quarterfinals.

  13. Modibo says:

    I think that one of the reasons for the frantic pace can be found in the liberal substitutions rules. It’s like indoor soccer – if you can have your players go onto the field and run like hell, they’re going to play more frantically and more physically.

    Still, like Ives said, this is essentially a FREE developmental system for MLS (and USL, etc). Fewer players will be getting into MLS next season due to the demise of the reserve system, but that’s all the more reason for MSL and its fans to appreciate NCAA and other leagues.

    Part of the problem is that in Euro systems, fans can follow players as they go through the youth development ranks. In MLS, you don’t know who your team is going to draft. So it’s not as interesting for MLS fans to follow the college game.

  14. Kartik says:

    Very well said Ives. Ironically I’m working on a similar post for my blog. I’ve heard nothing but moaning and complaining the last three days about the college game. If we had a real academy setup in MLS or USL it would be different, but college soccer serves a real purpose. I’m going to link your post when my blog is done.

  15. HIncha Tim says:

    I agree with those posters that suggest that the NCAA needs to change college soccer rules to reflect FIFA’s. The free subsitution rule totally changes the game. Teams can platoon lines, like in hockey, and it totally changes the tactics of soccer, both on the individual and collective level.

  16. kpugs says:

    Anyone–media, fan or otherwise–whining about 1-0 results or even THINKING about using a couple of 1-0 games to analyze the American game as a whole, doesn’t know a single thing about this sport. Period.

    If you have a problem watching 0-0 ties or 1-0 wins, go find a new sport and shut hte hell up.

    (P.S. Anyone else but me having trouble posting comments in firefox?)

  17. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Everything that is “wrong” with college soccer can be fixed by one simple step: getting it to adhere to FIFA rules regarding game play, particularly by eliminating breaks and the largely unlimited substitutions.

    Players forced to pace themselves over a full 90 minutes will have to rely more on skill in response, and less on sprinting until they puke, coming off for a rest and going back in. The college came would begin to look like the rest of the soccer world and it would become an even more valuable second path to the professional game, especially for ‘late bloomers’ who aren’t snapped up by academies at the age of 16.

  18. kahlva says:

    Totally true Ives.

    But it was still a boring to watch. Which I think is what most people were saying. They weren’t knocking the fact that the college game is important to MLS. They were saying that the soccer wasn’t great.

  19. Travis says:

    Look I get the complaints about the rules, but college soccer isnt FIFA…it’s the NCAA!!!
    Is it any different then college baseball using aluminum bats?
    College football using a smaller ball then the NFL?
    College basketball with differences in length of game and three point line? All of these rules changes effect the transition to the pro game just like the liberal substitution rules in college soccer.

  20. undrafted says:

    for future notice, Marcus Tracy has no “e” in his last name. That misconception is becoming widespread on many boards.

    Fortunately, few top programs use platoon tactics. They mostly use it to cover weak links on their 9.9 scholarship roster. Frisco isn’t ready to embrace the college game so let’s hope better choices will be made for the next few years. The wind was part of the limited beauty of the final but it was disappointing that more players couldn’t adapt.

    For its many faults, NCAA programs invest huge money in allowing young players to both play and get a degree. I agree with the sentiment that we shouldn’t spurn such an offer. Hopefully the emerging MLS youth systems and college soccer will complement each other until pro soccer here is on an entirely higher level. The fight should be for reform not elimination of college soccer.

  21. Matt Mathai says:

    @Modibo: re: your comment about fast and frenzied soccer. It might be that coaches are trying to make their players be able to think faster, not just play faster. i would think that it’d be easier to slow down once you’ve developed the ability to play quickly when needed.

    In general, I agree with your point. Watching ping-pong soccer isn’t a lot of fun.

  22. kczealot says:

    Please please please just change the sub rule to match Fifa’s… is it that much to ask?

    They should use a modified version in high school as well. Just give them 5 instead of 3 and all is well.

    Then I feel like I could enjoy the sport at those levels rather than just “who has the faster forwards who can recover their energy fastest on the sideline” – sigh

  23. TimN says:

    As I mentioned on the other thread, I’m amazed how some can overlook guys like Brian McBride, Eddie Pope, Maurice Edu, Gregg Berhalter, etc. and claim the college game is no good and a waste of time. I’m sure I could name others if I sat and researched it. Bottom line, the college player pool is still something the MNT and MLS need to look to for talent.

  24. Trent says:

    Americans are probably spoiled after watching the Columbus/Chicago Eastern Conference Final. There will probably not be a better American soccer game for quite some time.

  25. kczealot says:

    TimN

    I have never felt like the MNT and the MLS should shun the college player since that is where the majority of our players go after high school. I DO feel though it is a poor training ground to teach our future stars. Yes they get touches on the ball but why have them learn one way for four years just to change the rules a couple months later that they will use for the rest of their lives? Why not be like every other college sport and use the same basic rules all the way up?

  26. Scott A says:

    The fact that those other NCAA sports have different rules from the pro sports doesn’t make it right

  27. Zach says:

    I think if the NCAA changed their idiotic rules to match FIFA’s, and gave the players more than one day off between the Semi-Final and the Final, everyone would be a lot happier.

  28. northzax says:

    TimN: use Edu, fine, but using Pope, McBride and Berhalter as examples of good players coming out of college is a bit disingenuous, they really had no other serious options at the time (McBride graduated high school in 1989, I think, where else was he going to ply his trade? going straight to the Rampage? where was Pope supposed to go in 1991? remember, the USMNT was an afterthought and a joke, without international contacts, players had no choice but college, might as well get an education for hopefully a reduced cost, then maybe play a few years of USL for fun before settling down to a professional career as an accountant or coach. now, with Gen-Ad and MLS, you can make a realistic decision to give soccer a try and not sacrifice all the potential for your future. Heck, even most good soccer schools are pretty good universities, would you seriously recommend someone turn down Duke, CArolina, Notre Dame, UCLA or UConn for a minimum wage job with no guarantees?

    NCAA soccer will continue to be more like NCAA basketball or baseball than football. the truly prodigious talents will never step into a classroom, but most future professionals will.

  29. Mike Caramba says:

    For the most part, I agree, Ives. I feel like the fans who scream for a better youth system are the same ones that are demanding a promotion-relegation league structure. Obviously a good youth system is something everyone wants, and promotion-relegation is a discussion worth having, but it blows my mind that anyone out there thinks we have the infrastructure in place to execute these operations. We’ve taken small, positive steps, and as long as we continue on this path, I don’t think anyone has anything to worry about. Good piece, Ives.

    PS My one problem with the college system (and it’s not really with the college system) is that it seems like some US Soccer officials don’t see the problems the rest of us do. I’m sure I’m overstating it, but whenever I hear them talk about how we need “American coaches who understand the American system,” it rubs me the wrong way. I feel they should be saying, “we need good coaches who can better the American system” (note: good does not necessarily = foreign-born). Obviously college soccer is unique to the States, but it seems like a temporary fix more than a permanent solution. And I also think a foreign coach would be able to learn the American system pretty easily. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

  30. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Travis;

    I would argue that only the aluminum bat approaches the magnitude of the changes created by college rules. The worst is that hitters are able to drive balls of the thin part of the bat near their hands, whereas wooden bat would explode. This creates bad habits and leaves pitchers reluctant to pitch inside. Fortunately for baseball, it has a massive development structure (the minor leagues) for correcting those flaws.

    The substitution rules in NCAA soccer have a far more insidious effect, changing everything from the types of players selected (speed/endurance over skill), the tactics used, etc.

    It is absolutely correct that it is not the NCAA’s job to create professional soccer players. But adopting the rules that the rest of the soccer playing universe uses would actually encourage more good players to pick college over development professional contracts and inspire more cooperation on potential financial support from professional leagues. It would be the ultimate win – win.

  31. Stanley Villa says:

    “””Fortunately, few top programs use platoon tactics. They mostly use it to cover weak links on their 9.9 scholarship roster.”””

    NOT. They all do this, from college all the way down to the U-11 “competitive” (sic)game (AYSO does not do this). In fact, it’s much worse than what we saw at the N$CAA this weekend. I’ve reffed games where teams would substitue 5 players at a time. Also, the play MD did with resting the lone striker for 15 minutes or so in the second half with a one goal lead, then bringing him back on (the #7) with 15 minutes left, to run around like a chicken with his cut off amongst the opposing back 4, is standard college fare.

  32. Stanley Villa says:

    like a chicken with his head cut-off, I meant to say up there.

    It is important to add here that we are touching on the very core reasons for the failure of US Soccer to produce players.

    One, is the use of unlimited substitutions and too large of roster sizes. Two, is pitting the fastest, tallest, smartest, most physically developed kids against one another from a very young age and expecting them to improve from this, when only the opposite occurs, players learning to unload it immediately or get immediately tackled or hauled-off the park by a substitute.

    Combine the two and what you get is what we say yesterday: Players who just get the ball and lump it forward, one footed with no technical ability. It’s been the same now for almost 50 years, since the decline and fall of the “ethnic”, urban, Catholic soccer leagues in the 1950′s, but I digress.

  33. Stanley Villa says:

    It is important to add here that we are touching on the very core reasons for the failure of US Soccer to produce players.

    One, is the use of unlimited substitutions and too large of roster sizes. Two, is pitting the fastest, tallest, smartest, most physically developed kids against one another from a very young age and expecting them to improve from this, when only the opposite occurs, players learning to unload it immediately or get immediately tackled or hauled-off the park by a substitute.

    Combine the two and what you get is what we say yesterday: Players who just get the ball and lump it forward, one footed with no technical ability. It’s been the same now for almost 50 years, since the decline and fall of the “ethnic”, urban, Catholic soccer leagues in the 1950′s, but I digress.

  34. HIncha Tim says:

    Stanley Villa,

    Although I don’t know about the soccer leagues in the 1950′s, I agree with what you said about the lack of emphasis on technique in coaching youth soccer. At the end of the day, all high level soccer players have excellent technique.

    @Modibo: re: “It might be that coaches are trying to make their players be able to think faster, not just play faster. i would think that it’d be easier to slow down once you’ve developed the ability to play quickly when needed.”

    I disagree. In almost every sport and soccer is no different, you must learn good technique FIRST at slower speeds, and then as you master technique you increase “pressure” comensurate with the skill. Putting a player in a high pressure situation before they have adequate technique does not develop technique, it stunts it. In youth soccer that’s why you have “kick and run” and a whole bunch of players who can run and kick but do nothing else, so will never be high level international soccer players.

    In a spanish language interview Manuel Pellegrini, the coach of Villarreal, addressed this issue:

    Question: Can one play futbol today without speed? For example without speed but with good skills?

    Pellegrini: It depends on how you define the concept of speed. There is a mental speed, a speed of defense. The ideal is to always have speed of reaccion, physical speed which is fundamental in todays game. But technical skill continues to be the most important.

  35. undrafted says:

    Stanley Villa, you ref games between top college programs?

    In the middling programs platooning is widespread, but many of the top college coaches play their core 8-9 players for the bulk of the game. Sure they use some subs, but it’s not exactly hockey.

    I’m for conforming to the 3 sub rule. The NCAA seems set on keeping the frequent subs so good luck on that. My point is that unless teams get 15-20 scholarships to hand out, subbing the weak links at least in some ways boosts the standard of play. It does make for some bad habits in tactics but the better coaches have figured how to limit that and seem often to have a gentlemen’s agreement to not use “line changes” against each other.

    College soccer has bigger issues. With the Friday/Sunday type scheduling and no reserve games for underclassmen, the frequent subbing is in many ways a necessary evil. I used to not think so but have now put the issue near the bottom of the list of what college soccer needs to change. Competitive spring games, increased scholarship limits, many BCS schools without programs, and lifetime tenure for mediocre coaches are among the much bigger issues.

  36. NCDoubleNay says:

    Why is the NCAA sticking with their current rules?

    Are the coaches happy with the satus quo – what’s the obastacle here – is it a simple bureaucratic issue or are there people on some NCAA commission responsible who are holding this back?

  37. HIncha Tim says:

    Stanley Villa,

    Although I don’t know about the soccer leagues in the 1950′s, I agree with what you said about the lack of emphasis on technique in coaching youth soccer. At the end of the day, all high level soccer players have excellent technique.

    @Modibo: re: “It might be that coaches are trying to make their players be able to think faster, not just play faster. i would think that it’d be easier to slow down once you’ve developed the ability to play quickly when needed.”

    I disagree. In almost every sport and soccer is no different, you must learn good technique FIRST at slower speeds, and then as you master technique you increase “pressure” comensurate with the skill. Putting a player in a high pressure situation before they have adequate technique does not develop technique, it stunts it. In youth soccer that’s why you have “kick and run” and a whole bunch of players who can run and kick but do nothing else, so will never be high level international soccer players.

    In a spanish language interview Manuel Pellegrini, the coach of Villarreal, addressed this issue:

    Question: Can one play futbol today without speed? For example without speed but with good skills?

    Pellegrini: It depends on how you define the concept of speed. There is a mental speed, a speed of defense. The ideal is to always have speed of reaccion, physical speed which is fundamental in todays game. But technical skill continues to be the most important.

  38. northzax says:

    Stanley:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I have to quibble on things like roster size and AYSO rules as the reason the US doesn’t produce top players. we produce players who are good at what we teach them to do, which is basically get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, play kick and run and score on set pieces. but really, there is little else that organized organized sports can teach.

    There are three major sports in the US, right? (no, I am not including NASCAR as it is not a proper team sport) baseball, football and basketball. only one of these sports is really star driven. Baseball is a perfect youth development sport because it has basically been technically perfected, at least on an individual skill level. there is a right way to swing a bat or pitch a ball, and few modern successful players deviate from that ‘right way’ very much at all. There is also zero creativity at the individual level, there is a right decision and a wrong decision for every circumstance (do I throw to first or second, do I try and advance or not? so I swing? do I throw a curveball or a breaking ball?) Baseball is perfect for rotisserie because it really should be played by robots. a manager wants each of his players to make X decision at Y point. you don’t choose, you are told, based on certain formulae. a cognoscenti knows what a certain manager will do on a certain day, with a certain lineup against a certain team, based on history and numbers. the long season makes it a race to the median, everything averages out. Ty Cobb would recognize a game played today, and probably use much the same strategies. it’s about repetition, you throw the ball until you get it right, then you throw that way all the time. besically, at least.

    Football is also the perfect game to teach most players in an organized setting because frankly, who wants to practice in the back yard against the next Ray Lewis? you learn to tackle, hit block etc? while expensive, it is a relatively easy game to teach at the youth level, all you need is a faster kid as running back and some big kids as linemen. Again, there is remarkably little individual creativity in the game, everyone’s destinations are planned in advance, and the number of players allowed to select what they are going to do at any given time is pretty limited, if at all. There are rules, there are offenses that work, there are defenses that work, etc.

    Basketball is actually the sport most similar to soccer, in that you need to play it both recreationally and on a team to really be good. you need both the structure provided by the team and the creativity you get from playing informally. no one will teach you no look passes, or how to drive the key. just as no one can teach you to beat someone off the dribble, you have to learn that yourself (mainly because no one will stop a whole team practice to dedicate it just to you. practice is for plays, off the ball movement, passing, coordination, technical skills. you learn the flair that makes the difference between a great player and a good one spending hours a day shooting hoops, or playing small ball soccer. that’s where the ball becomes a part of you, an extension of your limbs. until that level of informal soccer is played by kids in this country, we won’t be a ‘great’ nation. we will produce some nice players, and some proficient players, from academies and youth programs, but not the organic greatness.

  39. HIncha Tim says:

    northzax,

    I agree with almost everything you say, with the exception that organized soccer in the U.S. cannot produce those creative, skilled players. I agree, they cannot based on the majority of youth soccer development models that follow football, baseball coaching models.

    What soccer youth coaching needs to do in the U.S. is:

    1) Teach INDIVIDUAL skills (confidence on the ball) not one touch passing early on.

    2) Get kids confident enough on the ball to take defenders on 1 on 1 with ball, or as a defender, hold the ball against pressure.

    2) Have kids play a lot of “pickup” soccer. (No parents/ coaches close by or commenting. In a society where parents want everything organized this just means making a date/time/place for kids to get together (safely) to “practice” without parents (if a coach is present just let them play and say nothing).

    3) Have kids play small sided games until 14-15 years old.

    4) Fewer tournaments and league playing and more informal playing.

    5) Play futsal.

    6) Encourage schools to provide space/balls to play soccer at recess. (kids will play if given the opportunity).

    It can happen, if coaches realize what is important. At a young age especially, playing WELL is more important than winning, and if you play WELL, winning more often than not will take care of itself anyways.

  40. Ron says:

    To “blue-sky” for a moment, I wonder if it might not be a good thing to pare Division I mens soccer down to 24 teams, say, 2 12-team conferences, something like that. Give each of these 24 teams 22 scholarships. That would concentrate the top talent and raise the level of play. ALso it might develop a higher number of players to play iun MLS or abroad. Just thinking “out loud”…

  41. northzax says:

    Hincha,

    thanks, I meant to mention the need to play smaller games at younger ages, less focused on tactics and winning and more focused on skills and simply playing. we’re too focused on winning individual games and or tournaments at young ages. until about U-17, it shouldn’t be about winning a state title, or a regional title, or whatever (that is perfectly acceptable for a school team, of course) it should be about maximizing individual development. anyone think Arsenal cares if their u-13 team wins? not really, the whole point is to maximize individual ability for the senior team in the future. sure, winning is nice, but playing league games instead of tournaments allows for a longer view.

    as a good developmental example, look at JayVee teams at any school that has a really good varsity (in any sport) you don’t see a lot of seniors playing JV, because they can’t continue to develop and help the senior team in the future. I guarantee you no one remembers my year as a JV goalie at a soccer powerhouse, 22 games, one goal conceded. never made varsity though, even though the back up goalie never played a minute my senior year, he was a freshman, better future upside. that’s how it works. in many youth programs there really isn’t a reason to invest in three years down the line, everyone involved is gone.

    people want to win, reasonably, no one wants to lose. and in a smaller gene pool of players, the team that wins will attract more and more. do you want to be on the U-13 team that wins, or on the developmental squad for the U-17 team that wins more? sure, the latter is better, but without the credibility of winning more at the higher level, and developing players to get there, few people will sign on and stay. this is why having the club affiliation is great, you have the promise of deferred gratification, and the credibility of professionals. look at a program like the Red Bulls, who had three academy grads in the College Cup final this year, what parent is going to tell the U-14 coach that he doesn’t know what he’s doing? a rare one. who’s going to jump ship because another U-14 team is winning more games, or they don’t like their position? be kinda stupid, right? U-14 coach Stan Lembryk isn’t going to be fired if his team loses every game, but he will be fired if he doesn’t feed better players into the U-15 and U-16 squads. Just as those guys won’t be fired if they don’t win their respective tournaments, as long as they produce good players for the next level up. and so on and so forth. eventually, your role is to produce players and cement bonds to the community.

    The youth systems in St. Louis just did sort of the same thing, creating a real pyramid. the more we have of this, the better our produced talent will be.

  42. John says:

    Ron–very bad idea.

    1. Reducing the number of teams and number of players would mean guys like Clint Dempsey never get a chance to shine.

    2. As good as Wake and Maryland are, one of the phenomena we see now is that guys drafted in the 3rd and 4th round from small school turn out to be good players in MLS.

    3. I don’t think the problems with college soccer are that the talent is too spread out (and ergo, by concentrating the talent you’d get a higher level of play). I think that by having a limited season, by having coaches that tend to encourage kick-and-run soccer, by having coaches that have a great deal going coaching a college program and doing summer camps (and thus have no encentive to try and coach overseas or be a pro assistant), I think those things have more impact on holding down the quality of play. And that said, I think college soccer has a deeper talent base than it did 10 years ago and 10 years before that.

  43. MQRIII says:

    I agree with most of what has been said here. For whatever reason, the players produced by NCAA soccer lack the skills to play anything but kick and run soccer. One of my co-worker’s sons plays on the UCONN team. Since she knows I’m a fan, she invited me to go out to one of their games. First, I had no idea that they didn’t follow the FIFA rules, which was absurd. Second, not a single player out on the pitch really had the skill to break down the defense. I saw a great game played between the two boxes, but when either team got possession in the other team’s end, no one really knew what to do next.

    Personally, I blame it on the way we pick kids and coach kids on the youth level. Pretty much all the emphasis is placed on kicking the ball ahead to the striker who is the fastest kid on the team. I concur that more “pick-up” types games are needed to teach the individual creativity that is needed to really needed to attack a defense.

  44. HIncha Tim says:

    northzax,

    You are spot on in your analysis. I hope that you are currently coaching youth soccer, or if you are not please do. Start at the youngest level 7-8 years old and mold the kids’ play the way you want. The kids will love playing more because they will be doing things on the field that they see on tv so they will have more fun, and they will want to play at recess and after school on their own! And believe me, when they do play in that odd tournament, they will blow away the competition more often than not, and you will have parents coming up to you wondering how they can get in your program.

    As Arsene Wenger said, “At a young age winning is not the most important thing… the most important thing is to develop creative and skilled players with good confidence.”

  45. garbaggio says:

    That game was horrible.

    This is the blog where I’m supposed to complain about Bengals v Redskins, isn’t it??

  46. Jonathan says:

    So many apologists for the college game. Just don’t be surprised at the products of that system. Don’t be surprised at the immense enthusiasm of the future Rossis and Subotics to play for the national team.

    On a more serious note, I can see why dual citizens would rather dream of a pipe dream of making other national teams. With the way the US youth and college systems are, I don’t blame them.

  47. zongzap says:

    I don’t think the sub rule has anything to do with it. How much subbing did the teams in the final four do 2 or 3 players? Big deal

    I was however disappointed in the quality of the final four. In watching the last four teams, plus the final, I didn’t see anybody that stood out. Lots of good players but none that grabbed my attention.

    As a fan or the NE Revolution, a team that has lost 2 starters and one solid player and is holding a bunch of draft picks …. I didn’t see one guy that was better then the three we’ve lost. Our future is not bright

  48. Xander Crews says:

    I’m astounded how many people commenting on this know so little about the college game. The NCAA rules do not permit “unlimited” substitutions or “too large” of roster sizes. NCAA rules permit 18 players on the roster for a tournament game – same as you’d find on the international level. And while there is no cap on the number of substitutions a team can use, there is a limit on their use. Players taken off in the first half can not return the remainder of that half. In the second half, a player is permitted one re-entry.

    Instead of finding the negatives with that system (yes, there are some), why not look at what else it is that system provides: additional opportunities for more players to get touch on the ball. In international soccer, at most, you’d have 14 players get into a game like that. NCAA rules would allow all rostered players to get in and experience that environment.

    And seriously, are we REALLY quibbling about the fact the clock counts down instead of up? It’s not like we’re playing quarters, or changing the length of the halves. It’s still a 90 minute game, regardless of how the clock counts.

    College soccer has been around far longer than MLS. Its job is not – and never will be – a professional feeder league, and doesn’t pretend to be. Its purpose is to give players a chance to continue playing soccer while preparing them for their life AFTER the game.

  49. sack says:

    yeah its a place for kids with no real pro career psooibilty execpt for the fact MLS pays dick and they are all they can afford to hire.

    Academy – pros

    NCAA – regular joes

    case closed.

  50. royce says:

    i agree with a combination of what sack and Xander Crews said…

    NCAA is not a professional feeder league, so,

    Academy — pros
    NCAA — regular joes

    college soccer is not like basketball and football, and should not be looked at as such. soccer is offered far fewer scholarships, and the talent is far more equitably distributed. while the top 25 basketball programs are more or less predictable, the top 25 soccer teams in any given year are almost random. maybe a top 10 would be more predictable.

    finally, unlike basketball and football, walk-ons are an immensely important part of any soccer program, even the top programs. college soccer is mostly an academic endeavor, not an athletic one.

    if folks want to complain about college soccer, either write a check to your alma mater’s or local college’s soccer boosters (or athletic department), or put together an investment group to create a network of development academies across the nation…

  51. KickAboutLads says:

    Of the four teams in Frisco this past weekend, I’ve seen about ten of these players in quality training sessions or friendlies. Much of the football was poor on the weekend, but don’t think that several of these players can’t do the business in MLS when given an opportunity.

    Wake: Tracy, Arnoux, Cronin, Bone

    UNC: Callahan, Adeleye(spell?)

    MD: Hall, Zusi, Gonzalez

    St.J: Soroka

  52. Arnie says:

    College soccer players have to be at least decent students, which sets them apart from the vast majority of humanity on a world-wide basis. Did Messi or Adebayor go to college? This country encourages development of moderate skills in multiple areas, not extreme technical skill in just one. I am ok with that, and I still enjoy the games.
    However, it isn’t perfect….

    Xander, thanks for the clarification about NCAA substitutions.

    It has been stated above, the difference is coaching at the youth level that discourages passing and encourages long balls.

    I also see very little great shotmaking at really any level in this country. The best goals of the year even at MLS where really uninspired.