College Soccer: Simply Unreal

By Paul Gardner

As college finals go, Notre Dame's 2-1 win over Maryland was quite a good one. Good, that is, within the limitations of the college game. Whether those limitations are imposed by the NCAA or whether they represent the way that the Division I coaches want things to be, I am no longer certain. It doesn’t matter anyway: The limitations are there, they have been there for decades.

Evidently, the NCAA and the college coaches are quite satisfied because no meaningful move to change things has been made within living memory. Smug satisfaction seeps out of the college game into the real world. Where it meets an increasingly chilly reception.

Viewed from the outside, college soccer has an air of theater to it, an artificial construct where the rules -- rather, the realities -- of regular life do not apply. The rules, in this case, are those of FIFA, which the colleges have steadfastly refused to adopt. But the differences have narrowed over the years, almost imperceptibly, and this is not the problem these days.

The ludicrously short college season has been under criticism for years, but nothing is done about it -- indeed, it seems that under the Byzantine NCAA rules, nothing can be done. But again, we are not getting to the root of the college problem.

We get nearer to the truth when we compare the realities of life at a pro club with that at college. That comparison is worth pondering. Not in terms of which is “better.” The important thing to realize is just how different the two worlds are. Among the pros, the young players are in serious competition with each other to be one of the relatively few who make it to the top level. They do a lot of training and they play a lot of games. And they come into contact with the pro game -- by talking with, by playing against and alongside, older and far more experienced players. An element that is completely absent from the college game.

At pro clubs, almost anywhere in the world these days, young players will also run into players with totally different backgrounds, players who bring a variety of styles and approaches to the sport.

The gap between the pro scene, with its harsh competition, its varied influences, its non-stop devotion to the sport is planets away from the lotus fields of college soccer. If college soccer has slowly edged away from the all-white, suburban athlete image that it carried into the 21st century, it has not moved nearly far enough.

In theory -- on paper, that is -- there is plenty to be said for the more humanist approach of college soccer. But in competition with the worldwide pro approach to the business of producing star soccer players, it’s a sure-fire loser.

The limitations of college players are by now well enough known -- though far too rarely acknowledged. They are trained to perform and succeed on the college stage, to produce a final just like the one we’ve just seen. As I said, by no means a bad final. The first half, certainly, was nothing to write home about, but that is hardly a fault limited to the college game. Things livened up for a while when the goals were scored -- but on the whole the action was scrappy -- the word is not mine, it was the word used by Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark.

There was more urgency in the second half, and that is the point at which the college game exposes itself. More urgency, but with no sign of heightened skills to match. The game simply got more frantic. All three goals resulted, as seemed inevitable, not from any flowing soccer, but from set plays.

This was college soccer played somewhere near the top of its potential -- competent players, good field discipline -- but for all that, soccer with an empty, almost soul-less feel to it. There has to be more to this sport than hard running and midfield battling and obvious passing.

One player -- for me, one player only -- stood out as a different presence who could bring something unusual, something creative to the field: Maryland’s Tsubasa Endoh. The player with, I suppose, the most exotic background -- he’s from Japan. The MVP award was shared between Notre Dame’s Harrison Shipp and Maryland’s Patrick Mullins, the two players most hyped before the game and both of them Hermann Trophy finalists.

But ... does winning the Hermann mean anything? Mullins was the 2012 winner of the trophy, so the most recent Hermann winner to enter the pros was the 2011 winner, Andrew Wenger from Duke University. A look at Wenger’s two years of pro life reveal just how difficult it is for a college player to make any impact in the pros. In January 2012 Wenger -- he departed Duke after three years -- was at the absolute pinnacle of the college game, the Hermann winner, and then the No. 1 pick (by the Montreal Impact) in the MLS SuperDraft.

Since then . . . well, to put it charitably, not very much. In 2012 Wenger played in 23 Impact games, but started only 7, scoring 4 goals. This year, the stats were 24 games, 8 starts and 1 goal. The stats are hardly impressive, but the truly sad part of the Wenger story -- the story of 2011's top college player -- was to watch him in action, which I did as frequently as possible. A player simply out of his depth, clearly not ready for pro action. And at age 23, he’s left it late to start learning the intricacies of the pro game. Certainly not those of a goalscoring forward, which was his strength in his final college year. Before that he had been a central defender.

In fact, the history of Hermann Trophy winners over the years is not impressive. Remember Marcus Tracy? Joe Lapira? Jason Garey? All recent Hermann winners, all candidates for the where-are-they-now column.

In a very real sense, college soccer and the pro game in this country misled those players, assuring them that the way to success is through college, and then, via the MLS so-called SuperDraft, to a pro club.

Back in the early 1990s, maybe. Then we got Alexi Lalas, Brad Friedel and Claudio Reyna as successive Hermann winners. But we’ve moved on since then. The better players may well not even go to college these days, while MLS standards have been moving up.

It does seem that MLS has finally taken notice. The hint -- it was not much more than that -- that Don Garber dropped in his State of the League message this year, that the colleges might consider some changes, was still highly significant, as it marked the first time a soccer leader had dared to criticize the college game.

Garber knows, better than most, what the problem is. Because he is repeatedly having to praise the colleges for supplying all these great players. We shall, I’ve no doubt, hear another of Garber’s paeans to college soccer when the SuperDraft rolls around next month. But this one will ring even more hollow than the previous versions. Because Garber knows the SuperDraft -- really a college draft -- is shriveling before his eyes as the talent level declines, and he has now already let the cat out of the bag with his hint that all is not well.

But the truth can no longer be hidden or talked around or simply ignored. The gap between the college game and the real game in the USA is widening. The unreality of college soccer, its fake theater, is now unmistakably exposed.

The new yardstick -- though it is one that should have first appeared at least a decade ago -- is the extent to which the USSF, at last, is beginning to embrace Hispanic players. The younger U.S. national teams are now showing a pronounced tilt toward Hispanics.

Of the 20 field players on Tab Ramos’s latest under-20 roster, 9 are Hispanics. Hugo Perez, on his under-15 roster, has 12 Hispanics among the 16 field players.

There will be those who know no better than to attribute those totals to the fact that the two coaches involved are both themselves Hispanics. Very well then, how about the under-17 team and its decidedly non-Hispanic coach, Richie Williams. In April, Williams’s team -- that included 6 Hispanics -- became the first U.S. team ever to fail to qualify for the U-17 World Cup.

Just last week we got a look at Williams’s revamped team -- in which 10 of the 18 field players are Hispanic. The team beat England 5-1, and Brazil 4-1.

Garber may want to compare those figures with what goes on in the college game. In particular: How many Hispanic players did we see in the Notre Dame-Maryland final? Including all the subs -- none. Not a single one.

How can there be that big a gap between the college game and the real game? Well, I repeat, it no longer matters why. The gap is undeniably there, it is getting larger, and it is plain that the college people -- whether that be the NCAA or the athletic directors or the college coaches -- have no interest whatever in changing anything.

I have great respect for the two coaches involved in this year’s final -- Bobby Clark, a wonderful gentleman, so intriguing to listen to, and Sasho Cirovski, who showed great sportsmanship with his words of praise to Clark after the game.

But both Clark and Cirovski have to know that they are living in an unreal, dream world. And in propagating their fanciful Latino-free soccer, they have lost touch with the American game.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has only to make the comparison, to look at the college rosters, and then at those of the USSF’s youth teams. And he will know where his league should be looking for future talent.

He may then want to look a little closer at the Hispanic names on the U-17 team. He will find that two of them are already committed to foreign clubs. For the moment, that’s it -- just two players. But it is a stat that suggests that MLS -- though well ahead of the colleges in this area -- has yet to fully accept the contribution to be made by Hispanic players.
35 comments about "College Soccer: Simply Unreal".
  1. Thomas Sullivan, December 16, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

    Mr. Gardner again provides laser insight that cuts deep. Maybe it hurts too much for some. Please keep it up.

  2. Miguel Dedo, December 16, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.

    The usual negativity from Paul Gardner. ----
    The NCAA soccer semi-finals and final produced several great goals. I could not enjoy the MLS final and one of the MLS semi-finals because they were played in a way that I feared players would suffer serious injury. The college players displayed more respect for each other -- less of the win at any cost that particularly Kansas City brought to the MLS tournament. ----

    NCAA finals versus MLS finals? NCAA produced better goals and displayed play more in the true spirit of the game.

  3. umberto polizzi, December 16, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.

    so what route should kids take to get noticed, high school then college does not seem to be a good route for kids to get to the MLS???? are only kids from familis who can afford to send thier U-10, U-12 U-14 to California to get exposure getting noticed.

  4. Allan Lindh, December 16, 2013 at 3:20 p.m.

    Paul Gardner correctly diagnoses the problem. Doesn't mention one clear easy change, the substitution rule. College game is too mindlessly fast, crash, crash, crash. Even the NCAA could implement the most important change -- 3 subs, no return. Slows the game down, more space, more time for skill. Would make room for more real soccer. He as always, however, ignores the other side of the coin. What do players who go to college get out of it? Four years of soccer, a college degree, and a way to make a good living away from soccer. What do MOST players get out of soccer who go pro after high school? Absolutely nothing. They don't make the grade. They don't have a career, any real world skills, they are scre*ed. And they have lost their college eligibility. The solution is obvious, which is why it will never be implemented. USSF and NCAA cut a deal. Out of high school let a kid join a pro team, at the lowest level, subsistence pay, nothing more. Give him two years to try the waters. And so long as he doesn't make anything more than board and room, LET HIM KEEP HIS COLLEGE ELIGIBILITY. After one or two years he can make an informed decision about his pro prospects. If he then chooses the college route, he will bring great skills to the college game. College soccer will get better. Pro soccer in the US will get better. And the kids who won't ever make a living playing soccer, have a shot at a better life. And since this is a blue-sky fantasy, the kids who choose a two-year trial period in pro soccer, they don't just get board and room, they get obligatory college prep classes, pitched at an appropriate level. Because no one wants to tell the truth, many Hispanic kids high school preparation doesn't qualify them for college, often leaves them without a High School degree -- poor schools, and the the reality of their socioeconomic situation leaves them ill-prepared for college, or life in the modern world. USSF and the NCAA could cut a grand bargain which would be far-sighted, and far better for all the kids involved. But I am not sure than anyone involved ever spends must time thinking about what might be best for the kids, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds.

  5. ROBERT BOND, December 16, 2013 at 3:22 p.m.

    Hispanic players & fans are the future of US futbol......the pros will start finding any of the standouts like they do in basketball......the kids in the soccer-mom set don't play every day, or even watch soccer much.......

  6. John Soares, December 16, 2013 at 3:27 p.m.

    Not a bad article... but too many complaints with few solutions offered.
    This final was "at least" as fun to watch as the MLS final. Better teams don't always produce more "enjoyable games. College soccer has it's problems, no question. However simply introducing more Hispanic players will not solve anything. Wouldn't these "saviors" be playing for the same coaches and same system that now exist and you disagree with so much!? The change needed is more basic, simpler and yet not easy. It's the coaching philosophy that must change.... Yeah, good luck with that. The biggest/best change in the U-20 and U-17 teams was the coaches that brought in FIRST a new system and then the players that would make it succeed.

  7. Bob Escobar, December 16, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.

    Great article, Mr Gardner once again proved he is the best in the business, he tells it like it is, no buts, ifs, etc....the 'bigger" problem is in the youth coaching, mostly British with very little knowledge of the "joga bonito" game, most of them "only" understand the play "hard", "hustle", "give it all" mentality, consequently this is pass onto the "college" game....will it ever change? nope, never, why? the college game is seen as "another" activity besides, football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and wrestling. College soccer is just for the "parents" of the players to see them in action and "be happy", nothing else. I commend the universities for providing an education for these kids, because in America, an education is more important than playing MLS, which consequently a very few "college" players will achieve. As for the college games to watch. it is painfully to see so many "skilless" players running around like chickens without a head. As for youth coaching making changes at the top, it'll never happen, Hispanics coaches will "always" be seen as "inferior", why? ask the fools that have been in charge of the USYSA for the last 40 years, they are happy, so I guess "everyone" else must be happy.

  8. Basil Jach, December 16, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.

    Phil Gardner all he talks about the latino player the best soccer in the world is played by the Germans Europeans ,a lot of latinos can't get in to top American schools like Notre Dame or Maryland, last year at the Academy showcase playoff's a team from Texas made up of entirely of latino players, most of the players had grade point averages in the 100's that why they are not playing for the top college programs. this weekend the team from England, Brazil and Portugal did not bring in there best players. until these so called great latino players win a major tournament they have nothing to talk about

  9. Brendan Coyne, December 16, 2013 at 3:48 p.m.

    Racism has no place in sports. To deny their is a racism issue in this country is foolish.
    The counterpart to racism is prejudice. We also need to ensure that we do not "pre-judge" based on race, or other socio-economic indicators. For example, we would not want to presume Hispanics to be better than others in soccer. We also need not pre-judge whether or not Hispanics are not smart enough to get into and play soccer for ND, Maryland or any other college.
    So, when we say there are not any Hispanics or other races of people represented at the ND-Maryland game, how do you know this? Have you seen the little box they check when they register for school? The one that says, American Indian, Black, Hispanic? I think not. You just can't tell from looking at the kids or their last name, especially these days. You may be right in this instance, I don't know, but what I do know is that I went to school with many people who looked white and had "white last names" but who had a Hispanic parent or even Native American ancestry.

    That said, the purpose and only purpose of going to college is to get an education. When we lose site of that or when it becomes a means to become a professional athlete, then we are talking about something different.

    I don't have to point out that both Maryland and ND are sought after schools and that even those who get top grades may still be unable to get into some of these schools let alone get scholarships to play soccer. Of course there are programs to address this issue with certain underrepresented races (and this is not bad, imo).

    To not recruit the best possible "student athletes" is to the detriment of these schools. But, I have to say this, one should not plan to attend college and play intercollegiate athletics just for the chance to play pro sports later on... That would be a wrong priority. You go to college to learn (especially academically). This is the only purpose of college and it is what it is set up for. Everything else should be on the fringe. (It's a crime really that the money made off of these programs comes at the expense of students who may or may not get their chance to play in the pros, but that is a different subject matter).

  10. Joseph Pratt, December 16, 2013 at 4:17 p.m.

    Paul's article is long on smoke but short on fire. What, exactly, are the differences he harps on? He keeps referring to a big gap, but never describes it, other than his now shopworn lament about the lack of Latino players. Why on earth would any college coach purposely ignore players who could help them win, assuming that the kid can get into the school? That is more likely the crux of the matter, as Allan Lindh points out. And speaking of Mr. Lindh, I think his suggestion of a two-year trial is a great idea. Note that in college squash this has been the case: players recruited to the Trinity powerhouse in some cases had tried the pro squash circuit, but because they didn't win any money, or very little (and there is very little of it in pro squash anyway), they retained their amateur status and were able to play college squash. This essentially amounted to the equivalent of the pro trial.

  11. eric olmstead, December 16, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

    I need to sign up for the Cliff Notes for 99% of Paul's articles.....good god get to the point man. Change the sub rule in college and that will make it as good as its going to get. Remember....with college soccer programs the vast majority of the players need the academic chops to get into the schools and stay there. These are not football and basketball programs where they are spoon feed academically for 4 years and every trick known is used to get them into the school. The college game is what it is suppose to be.....STUDENT ATHLETES. Notice the first word. The vast majority of college players are never going to collect a check for playing. They are going to get some ,most or all of their college costs paid for, have a great experience and then go on to read excruciating long pontificating articles by Paul for the rest of their lives like the rest of us. The MLS Academy programs are where the "soccer only" focus needs to come from. They do not care what your high school grades are nor what you scored on the SAT....their only requirement is they are looking for the best of the best soccer talent and now they have made those programs free of charge so being poor has no bearing on playing top notch soccer like it did for so many years in the pay to play big clubs. Paul...please take up golf so you have less time to pontificate.

  12. Gole goal, December 16, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.

    I agree with this article in full. Here is a link for all to look over, it will give you insight on the injustice against brown players in the college game.

  13. Stephen Peck, December 16, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.

    I believe that this is an interesting topic BUT from a longevity position in College Soccer the expectation is that the majority of you team will be white. It is ashame to say that and it should not be like that in the supposedly enlightened area of Higher Education. I have had the experience of being told that I did not have enough players of the Caucasian persuasion. I had a roster of 24 players with the following make up: 8-African-American decent; 8-Hispanic decent; 8-Caucasian decent. The administration actually told me I did not have enough players that looked like them and since it was obvious I would not change my recruiting tendencies that my contract was not being renewed. They obviously covered this up in later discussions. The college system in the US has and will continue to be anti-color in sports were it is felt Caucasian should dominate the roster. Unfortunately for those of us that would prefer the progression of the game regardless of the nationality of the paricipants will just have to be happy with watching on TV.

  14. Alvaro Bettucchi, December 16, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.

    Come on, Mr. Paul.... you, I, and everyone else knows, that the NCAA is there only to protect the three Major sports! They couldn't care less about anything else. It's money that talks. It's finally time that the MLS begins to flex its' muscle, and begin to put pressure on that organization.

  15. Stan Jumper, December 16, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.

    Good programs have diverse talent, as UVA (Claudio Reyna,Tony Tchani and current team which is quite diverse)and Maryland (Omar Gonzalez and Taylor Twellman). But this is college soccer and academics should be first, and soccer second. If you don't like this model then go straight to the pros. However, if you look at the number of players from MLS rosters of kids who have foregone college and don't make it professionally, you may want to reconsider your options. College is a wonderful growth and learning experience, particularly for young adults. You may get a fine education going back as an older student, but it will not be the same as an 18 year old.

  16. James Madison, December 16, 2013 at 8:04 p.m.

    I make apology for college soccer, but, instead of looking at Herman Trophy winners, Paul should look at the Maryland alumni now flourishing in MLS and even on the US National Team, e.g., Mr. Zusi.
    and the Stanford alums from when Bobby Clark was coaching there, e.g., Todd Dunivant. Summer semi-pro stints help a lot, just as they do in the abidged college baseball season.

  17. Dick Schwartz, December 16, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.

    College soccer is truly for student-athletes. It is not set up to be a professional farm system. There are other routes to the pros and USMNT that are much more effective.
    Certainly there are facets of college soccer that need improvement, but the measurement of success should not be production of professional soccer players.

  18. Spence Millen, December 16, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.

    Ah yes, the first Monday, after the NCAA College Cup…today is the day of days – the day that my friend, Paul Gardner, assaults college soccer. You can set your watch to it.

    The horrors of college soccer. The disappointment of the tactics and the rules and the lost potential of college players, most of whom have willfully sacrificed a chance (albeit, only a chance) to play for the $35k per year MLS League Minimum…or roughly the equivalent of an Assistant Manager at Smoothie King.

    And why do these ill-advised soccer players select college soccer? Has MLS not made a compelling enough case to the 4,000 NCAA Division I player pool that they want each and every one of them to skip past college soccer to pursue their dreams of playing professionally?

    Have college coaches such as Sasha Cirvoski and Bobby Clark duped their players into somehow missing the chance to play professionally?

    Paul Gardner: “Smug satisfaction seeps out of the (college) game into the real world.”

    Paul, I ask you, what is the “real world” in your estimation? Is it a real world of (mostly) college graduates using their educations and experiences on the field for the rest of their lives…or is it the “real world” of soccer players who try to become professionals and fail, for all the right reasons, for instance: they’re really not good enough to play professionally.

    Will playing college soccer and getting a degree truly ruin you for life? Will it limit the development of a small handful of players who might have been better off slugging it out in the USL?

    I’m not really sure that picking Andrew Wenger and making him the punching bag of your article is fair…in the real world. Is your gripe not with the soccer powers-that-be that didn’t convince him to avoid Duke college soccer at all costs to give professional soccer a chance? Or, is your true gripe with the Hermann Award selectors, who somehow picked him instead of Austin Berry, Darren Mattocks or Luis Silva? Slapping Wenger around seems gratuitous.

    As for your description of the “soul-less”-ness of college soccer, I’d ask you to consider a larger body of work than the National Championship game. It seems that many a Cup final lacks the typical beauty that fans are used to seeing throughout a long season.

    This year’s final game, goals and celebration that I watched seemed to have a lot of soul, and a lot of joy. This is the kind of joy one feels with a team of friends and comrades that experiences an esprit de corps based upon the sharing of hard work and attainment of successful effort.

    Oh, and they also take college courses...

    Hope to see you in Philly.

  19. Che Guevara, December 16, 2013 at 11:28 p.m.

    So college soccer is set up for student athletes. Why are so many here fine with that even though it is not the same for other sports like basketball and football?? Sounds like a comfortable excuse to me. Afterall its the same organization overseeing all of these sports, correct?? Playing college basketball also does not gaurantee many NBA players but it is certainly set up for development of the college player to succeed at a higher level in the NBA if they have the talent. Its a stepping stone. The system followed in basketball helps the aspiring Pro basketball player conti nue development. Why cant we expect the same at the very least from college soccer??

  20. Che Guevara, December 16, 2013 at 11:34 p.m.

    Spence, he didnt assault it. He just voiced out loud what many many of us think as well. I believe that in 20 years most people will laugh at the rules college has for soccer as so many of us now laugh about trying to do shootouts in pro games!! So your logic is "lets not fix whats wrong with college soccer because most of them wont make it pro"?? So why dont we do something similar with basketball and football then?? Why cant we design a proper system that both enhances an aspiring player's development and player safety so more options are available for all?? You know, like basketball and freakin football!!!

  21. Che Guevara, December 16, 2013 at 11:37 p.m.

    Following Fifa rules, spreading out the season, opening up possabilities for top players to try going pro for 1-2 years before going to college without penalizing them are all GREAT THINGS FOR COLLEGE SOCCER!!

  22. Che Guevara, December 16, 2013 at 11:44 p.m.

    I'm sorry but how can "They arent going pro anyways" be the reason we dont look to improve college soccer?? It seems that very few people appreciate watching a group of "comrades sharing hard work" with little to no skill or talent on TV!! It seems like many more would rather watch skill and talent on the pitch no matter if they hate each other in real life!! Giving kids a chance to fihure out wether or not they are pro material before college witrhout punishing them seems most logical and sensible thing to do. That one rule change would undoubtably improve the quality of the game to add even more to that "comradery". Win win for all.

  23. Che Guevara, December 16, 2013 at 11:48 p.m.

    Dont get me wrong, even with all that is wrong with college soccer, it is still a much safer bet than MLS. No doubt but why cant we axk to improve rules and make it an easier decision for our aspiring soccer athletes?? If we are ok with basketball and football in college then why the , take it or leave it attitude with college soccer??

  24. Spence Millen, December 17, 2013 at 8:50 a.m.

    I'm not sure that comparing soccer to football/basketball at the NCAA level is relevant. What I do think is that "discovery" in the USA has improved a lot since the days of College Soccer Weekly. If you are a decent player in this country, chances are that you will have showcased your talent along the way at some or several showcases that would put you on the matrix for both pro and college coaches. With the increasingly rare exceptions, colleges aren't discovering the best players in the country. I suppose that it is when they do that all the frustration with NCAA rules kick in.

  25. Spence Millen, December 17, 2013 at 8:57 a.m.

    But NCAA rules are not put in to make Paul miserable. They are mostly there because colleges and the NCAA have a different set of priorities as it relates to why they sponsor the game in the first place. This is generally the benign NCAA, not the duplicitous basketball/football money machines. Colleges sponsor soccer with the thought of providing opportunities for students to play...which is why they have the expansive substitution rules. As for playing dates and practice times, that is all due to the fact that many of the students have to work 8-10 hours a day between going to class and studying. The NCAA limits competition because soccer isn't their primary business. Is it a pure soccer model? Of course, not. It would be like me criticizing the quality of the teaching at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Sports are first there, academics second. In the NCAA, flip that.

    One thing I do like is when college players actually can get their degrees and then go on to be successful professionally. Would they have been more successful earlier had they come out as 18 year-olds and not gotten an education, yeah sure. But to come out at 22, and make it with a diploma, that's fantastic. I'm not sure what Andrew Wenger's plans are, but I'm guessing that if he can go back and finish his degree, he'll have quite a lot of opportunities through as a result of his matriculation at Duke.

  26. Che Guevara, December 17, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.

    Spence, 8-10 hours of work a day between class and studying are for ALL Student athletes. So what is right for soccer student athletes should be right for the rest of them. Like you said it comes down to money so your point of 'STUDENT ATHLETE" theory is thrown out the window. Fact is NCAA is not looking out for the "student" as its priority with said rules. Once they figure out that Soccer will be a much much greater profit they will undoubtably and without hesitation change the rules to accomodate better players joining their trams for top profit. Therefore you will see teams with 50-90% Hispanics. It's only a matter of time and Gardner and I will be here to say "We told you so".

  27. Che Guevara, December 17, 2013 at 12:24 p.m.

    As far as your example with Wenger, yes he has a safer chance at life with a college degree. But why limit his options with unneccessary rules? Why couldnt Wenger have the option of trying to go pro for 1-2 years at the ideal age of 17-18 years old but still be eligible to play college if it doesnt work out in these early years?? Not much of a difference to try it again at 22 or 24 years old. Big difference to try at 17-19 years old because that is when the great majority of pro players get signed. More options equal better decisions.

  28. Allan Lindh, December 17, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.

    One thing everyone seems to agree on is the idiocy of the college substitution rule. Maybe time someone pointed out to the NCAA that soccer played at breakneck speed is freeking dangerous. The FIFA sub rules help prevent injuries, because no one can run 90 mph for 90 minutes. Limited substitution doesn't just slow the game down and make for better soccer, it makes for fewer catastrophic knee injuries and concussions also.

  29. Phil Love, December 18, 2013 at 9:02 a.m.

    I don't agree the college sub rule is idiotic. I think we all agree college soccer isn't the best route to the pros. Few male college players are on scholarship, so most are just playing for the fun of it while they go to school. It's not much fun standing on the sidelines. If you're worried about fresh players injuring each other, maybe the college game should require all the players to run a quick 5k before the game to tire them out. Or, even better, have the refs CALL SOME FOULS to protect the players!

  30. Miguel Dedo, December 18, 2013 at 9:34 a.m.

    Let’s not be too kind to the NCAA about how it treats college soccer. Its QUALITIES (there are many) should be attributed to the coaches and the players. There is an anti-soccer and anti-international prejudice in the minds of NCAA officials. Just as the sports writers of the Washington Post, they fear the growing popularity of something they do not understand and feel they cannot control. They see themselves as defending things ‘really American,’ i.e., football, basketball and baseball.

  31. Gary Parsons, December 18, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.

    Mr. Gardner must have a file with 2-3 topics that he pulls out each year around this time like clockwork. Let me remind him, the players that are in college are mostly players that MLS, with their Academies and Generation Adidas, doesn't want to sign at 18. If you want to write an article about proper preparation for the professional game, aim it at the organization that is responsible for that job. College soccer basically takes players that MLS passes on developing at 18 (that would make a great piece)and gives them a place to play and develop for up to four years at no cost to MLS. Then MLS picks the ones that they want when they want them (and haven't paid a dime for developing)and signs them. Sounds like a great deal to me. Why should anyone complain???? Here's another idea, how about an article on comparing the MLS development system for 18-21 year olds (where they have hand picked the best players at 18 years old and put them in their professional development program) and the college programs who take the leftovers and taking a look at what both programs end up producing. Especially since one organization is directly responsible for and benefits from professional player development and the other isn't and doesn't. Paul, please develop that file of yours. It desperately needs its own developing.

  32. El Chavo Del Ocho, December 18, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.

    Gary, actually MLS do want to sign some but cant offer anything better than the league minimum of $35,000-$45,000 a year. What does college do for basketball and football players?? Arent those systems more adapt for progression for the few NBA & NFL hopefuls?? Are these 21 sports held to another standard and different set of rules?? Dont colleges bend rules ridiculously to get the right minority to play these 2 sports?? IS there serious development going on in College soccer for pro hopefuls??

  33. El Chavo Del Ocho, December 18, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.

    Gary, that is a great point. What do both programs end up producing?? But this only means that MLS cant complain. Why cant college change their system to produce players for better leagues than MLS?? The one thing we cant and should not defend is such a short season, ugly soccer, and senseless rules. Make the game realistic at thye very least. There is no logic in defending these points whatsoever if you want to see the game evolve in USA!!!

  34. Phil Love, December 18, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.

    Since when is the purpose of college soccer to prepare players for professional leagues? The purpose of college football and basketball isn't to prepare players for pro leagues, but that's the best route aspiring players in those sports have. Colleges don't receive anything from pro leagues. Colleges have no obligation to prepare players for them.

  35. Matt Ralph, December 19, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.

    If you actually watch college soccer, which I do on a regular basis, you would know that substitutions aren't unlimited and that most teams typically go about five deep off their bench. The way people describe it here you'd think we were talking about line changes in hockey.

    That said, I'm all in favor of changing the rule to five substitutes and no re-entry. That and having the clock count up with stoppage time added on at the end. They seem like very simple changes to me. A not so simple change would be to create a true spring season, but I'm not holding my breath on that.

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