Commentary

Is skipping high school soccer worth it?

Aspirations to play college soccer and hopes of a scholarship are apt to influence many decisions young players and their parents make. We've relayed some of the common questions we've heard from parents to Lisa Lavelle, president of The Sport Source, which has spent more than 20 years in college counseling for student-athletes.

By Lisa Lavelle

My son got invited to play on a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. But that would mean not playing high school ball. His school has a good, successful program and is very much fun for him. He also enjoys his current club. But we're told his chances of getting a college scholarship will be much better if he plays for an Academy team. Should upping the possibility of a college scholarship be the key to our decision?

You pose an interesting question that really comes down to honesty. The U.S. Development Academy will not guarantee your son will get recruited or be offered a scholarship. When it comes to recruiting, players who are playmakers and game-changers are recruited. So let’s look at what Academy means.

According to U.S. Soccer, The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an everyday environment designed to produce the next generation of national team players.

When it comes to rosters and playing time, there is no limit on the number of players that can be rostered as long as each player starts a minimum of 25% of the club's games. Each Academy club plays approximately 30 league games, including six games played at Showcases. The season begins in September and commences with Finals Week in July.

Based on these facts, if your son is getting more exposure and game time playing for his high school and club team with success as you have indicated, you need to consider whether you want to risk reducing his playing time.

Mathematically speaking, with all the Academy organizations, it is interesting to read that U.S. Soccer showed only 45 clubs reported national signing day players and the total for 2015 was 357.

From an expensive school like IMG with two players -- leading the pack was New York Red Bulls with 23 players headed to the collegiate ranks -- here is the list:  and you will notice not all signed with Division I programs.

Talking to college coaches, they tell me of the Academy players they tried to recruit, the majority did not meet NCAA or NAIA Eligibility. For those kids, being told you are the best or you will be highly recruited by top Division I schools only to find out, you are only eligible to play at the NJCAA level, is sad. Now, these kids must earn enough credits that are transferable to a four-year college if they want to play and earn a degree.

When it comes to playing professionally, U.S. Soccer noted that since Academy began in 2007, fewer than 100 players are playing professionally.

If your son enjoys where he is playing, then leave “Academy” out of the equation and focus on exceeding NCAA and NAIA Eligibility requirements. Encourage him to show interest in colleges that meet his academic and athletic goals. A spot on a college roster is just like getting a job -- you must be talented and qualified, so create a player resume and send this to the college coach, and take “un-official” campus visits. These visits will give you a chance to talk to the coach and tell his story.

Make sure your son is honest with his goals academically and athletically and be sure to size himself up as a player to the current roster, and don’t take a “wait and see” approach or hope the team coach or club will do it for you.

Long after your playing days have come and gone due to old age, injury or retirement, your education will last a lifetime.

Further Reading:
The College Process: Be Prepared, Proactive and Persistent

(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com.)

45 comments about "Is skipping high school soccer worth it?".
  1. Mark Torguson, July 14, 2015 at 3:18 p.m.

    Excellent article and well overdue. Fewer then 100 pros since 2007? That is a poor record, if you are taking the area's top players, that number should be much higher, after all this program was designed to create pro players (not college players). How about if Academy and MLS paid the transfers fees mandated by FIFA? This would spur the development (over winning) at the younger age groups and encourage club to develop and move onto Academy/MLS clubs

  2. Jim Broswell, July 14, 2015 at 3:47 p.m.

    Wow - what stunningly bad advice. Let me see if I can figure it all out. Your kid may not get good grades if he goes to the Development Academy so don't go? Your kid might not get on the national team, so don't go? The Developmental Academies only put out 100 players so they aren't developing players! Red Bulls has TWENTY THREE players going to college programs. Find somewhere better than that. The only reason there isn't more players succeeding is because of bad parenting and bad advice. Our best players have a huge thumb on their foreheads holding them back and down - mediocrity has become the norm and everyone talks themselves into justifying it. And this author has one of the hugest. - and has been doing it since 1989. PUT YOUR KID IN ACADEMY IF HE HAS THE TALENT!!!!! How do you develop a talent pool when the best kids are superficially held back by people like this - you dilute the pool then criticize their ouput. Ridiculous. Just acknowledge who is doing a good job. Good grades and being on a developmental academy roster is absolutely the best chance scenario for college. IN THAT ORDER - get good grades - if the developmental academy is making your grades suffer, it is not worth it!!!! To say anything else is absolutely clueless.

  3. Mark Banfield, July 14, 2015 at 4:08 p.m.

    Not bad advice at all, a very good article in fact. Let's see, try to get a student ready for playing in college by telling them they can't play in school? Brilliant. How to prepare these high level athletes to play for an educational entity (that they want THAT entity to pay for) and all that entails while prohibiting them from learning the skills necessary while doing just that in high school. Maybe if they learned how better to prepare IN the school environment, they would have more success when they got into the college environment. I'd love to see a followup study on how many of those Academy kids that signed, transferred in their first two seasons since they didn't have to deal with the "in school" issues that come with playing on campus. We have three Academy teams in this area and Baltimore Celtic has done better than most of them using exactly the opposite approach. Well done Quaranta!!

  4. Paul Cuadros, July 14, 2015 at 4:13 p.m.

    What's the goal here? A full scholarship to college? Just playing in college? Playing professionally? Those questions need to be answered as a family first and then seek the pathway that can reach your goal. But understand, few universities offer full scholarships for soccer. Understand you will still have to pay money for college. Understand that playing DI will require a huge time commitment from your child while still maintaining grades. If you ask yourself real hard honest questions about your kid's ability that may answer whether soccer is a profession for him or a pastime. If a pastime, have fun and play high school ball and see what comes from there.

  5. Ric Fonseca, July 14, 2015 at 4:24 p.m.

    To Paul Cuadros: Thank you for hitting the nail on the head with a sledge hammer! It seems to me right now, that perhaps we're trying to develop similar situations as college basketball's "One and Done," or in football "Play three and then you're free," syndromes. Heck, give the kid the opportunity to play HS ball and club, and hope to get noticed to play ball, NCAA or NAIA. BUT, what bothers the beejesus outta me, is that the author has painted NJCAA as "sad" is demeaning and it seems to me that she doesn't know just what kind of level of soccer is played at the community/junior college level is like, so I take very serious issue and challenge her to debate the benefits of playing NCJAA. So I say to Ms. LaVelle, don't knock and demean a program until you've actually experienced it!!!

  6. Jim Broswell, July 14, 2015 at 4:34 p.m.

    mark banfield - what are you talking about. Kids are still in high school AND playing for a developmental academy. What are you trying to say? They are still balancing school and soccer - and some are also traveling for practices. I don't get your point at all.

    Paul - excellent point. If a full scholarship is the goal, play another sport. Soccer programs will look for academic scholarships for a good student, but soccer scholarships are really limited. Don't count on a full scholarship to play soccer even if your student is the best player. My comment was simply to play in college, not to get a scholarship and i should have clarified that.

    An additional point - if your child is not at all academic oriented, then why not play developmental academy - it is the best shot for going straight to pro soccer and at least they learned work ethic even if they do not make it to the pros. And if they are not a good student, junior college was in their future anyway...

  7. Lona K, July 14, 2015 at 6:19 p.m.

    Lisa, excellent article. Glad you posted the statistic about how many players are playing pro. Also, how many players are playing D1 ball WITH scholarship. Your last sentence is what I have told my son, who by the played for a D1 championship team, and my grand children that getting an education (degree) will never be taken away from them. However, playing the game may come to an end abruptly but having a degree will never be taken away from them.

  8. Lona K, July 14, 2015 at 6:27 p.m.

    Lisa, there are examples where players have left college early because of the MLS teams that have the right of their academy players have signed them to a pro contract only to send them to the minor league for development. Support for staying 4 yrs of college then turning pro, will show that there are more players finishing college that are on the senior team. For one thing just the physical development, especially the upper body is better after 4 yrs of college.

  9. Philip Carragher, July 14, 2015 at 6:49 p.m.

    I have a couple more thoughts. Play high school soccer (unless you're set on playing pro ball). In HS soccer you get to play in front of schoolmates (much better looking than the geezers in lawn chairs at academy games) and you'll probably save buckets of time by cutting travel times to/from practices and matches. This can help your ACT/SAT scores and GPA (not so tired from excess travel/practice/lack of sleep) so problems with academic eligibility decrease. If you have to play D1 be ready for the physical risks: injuries, bad injuries, are much more prevalent than I had initially imagined (my boy plays D1).

  10. Gus Keri, July 14, 2015 at 6:59 p.m.

    Deficient statistics is harmful to this discussion. You can't put out statistic information to prove a point without doing a proper study. You should compare the numbers of players from the academies vs. high schools that go pro; and use percentage, not absolute numbers. Does soccer academies affect the player's school academic performance? Use their grades before and after they joined the academies. I wish someone will do a good study to compare the two and then give advice to parents after finding out their priorities; professional soccer or good college degree.

  11. BJ Genovese, July 14, 2015 at 9:14 p.m.

    Transfter fees... or what the rest of the world calls a development fee which is typically 10 percent of the transfer can make a big difference. Then maybe "some" coaches dont have to worry so much about big tourney trophies to pad the resume and keep kids in the club. Ive heard many a coaches preach development over winning and then on Saturday here them yelling at there players to boot the ball "forward" to there ringer. The epitome of a coach preaching develoment over winning then preffering to take guest players over there own team takes the cake. But its not about winning right?

  12. R2 Dad, July 14, 2015 at 9:24 p.m.

    With the exception of keepers, top prospects in this country are now trying their hand at the professional level before going to college--like all their international peers.

  13. Amos Annan, July 14, 2015 at 10:13 p.m.

    STOP the insanity of Academy teams. They are there to make money for adults, not provide opportunities for youth.

  14. Soccer Madness, July 14, 2015 at 11:35 p.m.

    AMOS, right!! The best way to go pro in USA is play USSDA?? How many of those few few players that go stright to pro from USSDA get substancial minutes on 1st team ever??? And we are talking about the freakin MLS!! Which level is comparable to Germany's 3rd division and Mexico's 2nd division.

  15. Soccer Madness, July 14, 2015 at 11:46 p.m.

    Jim, nobody here is arguing that putting the best players to play each other is a good thing. What Mark and a few other a pointing out is that USSDA was supposed to be more than college placement. We had MRL for that. What really changed with USSDA?? Just the age groups going calender year?? If you are to compare USSDA MLS or not to oh lets say Mexico LIGA U17 U20 teams the differnces are extreme. For example, U17 and U20 teams are "forced" to play U15 and U18 players 765+ minutes every season or face a big fine none of them seem to want to pay. That forces clubs to keep challenging their best players that have the best shot at making it pro. That also motivates the ones next in line to catch up. Liga MX found it neccessary to implement these rules that force clubs to develop top level players even though these very clubs invest in their own Academies and directly profit from them turning pro. Now go to any USSDA roster and check to see how many players are even playing up 1 year. You wont find any playing up 2 years. To say they are committed to develop the best and to actually do it and show it are 2 different things. All we did in USA was change age to calender year and call it a fancier name to give it exclusively to the "richest" clubs so they can use that power to even make more money than what they used to.

  16. Miguel Dedo, July 15, 2015 at 8:45 a.m.

    Important! "Signings" often involve no financial support. The player and parents get the pleasure to tell friends "Terry has signed with Penn!" and some assurance that Terry will be admitted to Penn. Play soccer because you enjoy it - and because you enjoy bragging that you are on a "development team" or whatever team. Participating is such programs as an investment in "scholarship money" is a stupid investment. Buy a lottery ticket to win money. Play soccer to enjoy playing and bragging about where you play.

  17. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 8:52 a.m.

    Miguel, thats what most in USSDA realistically do. Brag.

  18. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 9:51 a.m.

    Amos and Soccer Madness - you couldn't be more wrong!!! The Developmental Academies are absolutely delivering better soccer development and a better pool of players. Local gigs protecting their fiefdoms are the ones making promises that they NEVER keep (club soccer) - and then putting down the better programs to protect their income. They are the ones that are holding youth back. To make the statement that DA's are about money is like saying that the other alternative is NOT. That is simply and absolutely untrue. They are all in it for the money - and one actually delivers better services - so be WISE with your money.

    High school soccer is NOT about money at all. But you get what you pay for. There needs to be a mechanism for students who have the ability to play elite soccer and cannot do so because they are financially cut out. This diminishes our pool of talented players more than anything.

    One more thought - a high school chess coach would not cut a kid from "playing time" because he attends classes with a chess master a few times a week instead of attending chess club. That choice would be lauded. So why are high school soccer coaches making it impossible to play high level DA soccer by making attendance mandatory for elite players? Parents are a nasty bunch when they think their child is being treated unfairly - and the unfairness is all in their minds. A child who earns better opportunities in soccer is not celebrated - he is jealously benched by the jealousy of other parents because he missed high school practice. If understanding high school coaches were the norm for children who play at the elite level, that would have gone a long way towards some sort of dual commitment. But when high school coaches are more interested in the appearance of fairness rather than actual fairness, elite players suffer and have to go elsewhere. Chance of injury when a player becomes a target due to skill level is a secondary consideration that cannot even be addressed at this point because of the first non-cooperative circumstance.

  19. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 9:54 a.m.

    Oh and Soccer Madness - as you ignored in my first comment - we dilute the player pool by choosing mediocre programming as the norm for elite youth players, and then complain that the DA's are not producing? Please. That is absolutely a lame and transparent argument. Gus has the point - these stats are bogus. The author uses raw numbers and no comparators that would bust her argument wide open.

  20. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 10:44 a.m.

    Jim, most of the USSDA clubs existed and operated before USSDA similarly to what they do now. Most clubs (USSDA or not) put other clubs down to protect their income. Why is that? Because the system is designed that way. Cause and effect. USSDA has to prove they are better given that status. How do they do this?? By developing pros at a much higher rate. Not by promoting they have better college freakin placement!! They use that USSDA status to do pretty much anything they want. 1. Poach the areas best players. 2. Charge more and more $$ every year. 3. Generate a higher income 4. Get more donations. All this and you can only promise what was already there before USSDA was a thing?? Of course people are going to say that USSDA is all about the money because it is very clear. To say it is ok just because they have better college placement makes no sense. For me it comes down to USSDA being a better option than what we used to have. And I am disappointed to say it falls way short of what I myself thought it would be. Better services?? Pay $5,000-$10,000+ a year to have a minimal chance at a partial college scholarship is being wise?? Its like saying Wendy's is great because McDonalds and Burger King suck and you get what you pay for. If you keep lowering your standards as a customer you will always find something better. ANything is better than High School soccer. That doesnt make USSDA even decent. People keep saying there needs to be a better mechanism to get poor kids to play elite soccer but fail to see that with current system that will never be fixed. Thats like asking the banks without regulation to not screw people over but not demanding that laws be passed to force them. We see how that works. DA is making it more impossible than H.S. coaches for poor kids to play "elite" soccer but easier and safer to trash H.S. coaches. I got news for you. H.S coaches cant do anything to a player for going DA but a DA coach can easily ruin any player's career with the power they have in each region. The jealosy of parents you speak is seen at a much higher rate at the DA level and it is much more catered to. H.S. coaches get paid by the High School and not by the parents. DA coaches, on the other hand have their salaries depend entirely on how happy the parents are. I've seen it first hand how parents get together and get the DA DOC fired by threatening to leave.

  21. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 10:53 a.m.

    Jim, so you believe that DA's not producing btter and more quality pros is because of non DA clubs?? LOL. That is a mediocre excuse at best. Fact is there has never been a higher concentration and better promotion for a specific soccer system than USSDA in USA. USSF is strictly enforcing it as only avenue for a top player to make National team. This alone, along with the higher profile coaching, should mean we should producing a much higher number of pro players and a better level of them. We are not. Actually, MLS is looking for more and more ways to spend most of their money on foreign players and forcing more and more of our homegrown players to have to pick college over pro because contract offers are getting cheaper and cheaper. Is that also Non DA clubs fault?

  22. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 11:16 a.m.

    Poaching players? Thanks for the confirmation that you subscribe to the notion that local clubs "own" area players and want to stand in their way when they want to play players of their own level. You are disillusioned - you own no one until they sign their commitment. If you cannot deliver what they need, they go somewhere that will - and they EARNED that advantage. They NEED to play at an elite level with ever increasing speed of play with similarly talented players in order to develop. No clubs can deliver this - only a cooperative umbrella of multiple clubs that collects the most elite players and brings them together. Your history lesson doesn't change that that umbrella currently resides with the DA's - those who are most vocal AGAINST that umbrella are keeping our elite players from what they earned - the right to play together. Soccer is a great game at all levels. What isn't fun is when wildly divergent talent levels have to play together. That is when the elite players are physically decked on a regular basis - it is unsafe for elite players to be playing on a mediocre team with mediocre players against mediocre opponents. If the DA fails, it is due to the undermining done by local clubs who mistakenly think they own players even when the player has outgrown the club - and if the DA system fails, then another umbrella will be formed and that too will be attacked by the small minded and mediocre and their internal deficiencies and blind spots used against that entity as well as they claim their best players and stand in the way of their development. College placement rather than pro is really important to a lot of kids - and the DA does it best. Title IX ensures that there are limits on how many sports receive scholarship dollars - so if a sports scholarship rather than an academic scholarship is important to a player, soccer is not the way to go. You are not investing that money towards college, but rather towards your child's character development and work ethic - which directly translates to college success. The fact is, if you are both academically gifted and able to roster on a DA, you are set to get into a better college than just your grades would get you, AND the school will look for your academic scholarship for you - nothing wrong with using DA's for college. The internal problems with the current DA system are not a parenting problem - it is not a parent's job to withhold opportunity from their kid in a disillusioned attempt to "force" the DA to clean up their act. Who in the world denies their kid the best opportunity because the best opportunity should actually be better? Nonsense. Those in power at the DA level are hurting their pool of players by not figuring out a way to develop talent at the lower socioeconomic levels.

  23. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 11:17 a.m.

    Lastly: Parents who can afford it with children who earned the better opportunity are absolutely spending their money better at the DA level - their costs are comparable to club soccer. It is their travel costs that are astronomical. And that travel cost doesn't go to the club - it goes to hotels and gas stations - so your lumped sum is disingenuous. In addition, of course disgruntled parents wield their power - how's that any different from anything else. High school coaches are not paid enough to listen to it - so the fact that they are not paid by the parents directly doesn't change the fact that HS programming will always cater to the mediocre at the expense of the elite players.

  24. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 11:40 a.m.

    They are losing players from the talent pool for a number of reasons - this article focuses on individual parenting choice. All of the things that affect the player pool could be the subject of other whole articles. And there are no easy solutions to any of it and no $ to fix it. And - let's face it - it is more fun to win and be a star with minimal effort at mediocre HS and club soccer for some talented kids - which is a fine indvidual choice, so long as it is actually a choice and not something the local club did by obscuring the way things actually work and the fact that they put the team at a lower competitive level than the talent of the team would allow just to win. Most parents couldn't even tell you what level of league soccer they are playing and what the levels of tournament play are for their team. Their kids go home with a trophy and so no questions asked - and then they find out too late that they can't get close to playing college soccer even though they were a local superstar. Other things that diminish the talent pool at the DA level:

    Football;
    Loss of low SES children in pay to play system;
    Bias against latino coaches and style of play;
    Bias of brawn and speed over foot skills;
    The standard business games and politics that are a fact of life;
    Parent coaching - and no $ to fix the problem;
    Early developing kids (bigger kids) favored and given better opportunities early on, and then they stop growing early too - and the overlooked smaller kids give up the sport and grow to be super coordinated 6 foot men and are a total loss to the sport.

  25. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 11:59 a.m.

    Jim, They need much more than that. For the top 5-6 players from each age group, they need to play up 1-2 years for your same reasons. We dont see that. Under current system we will never see that. We glorify the top 4-8 DA teams that make Semi and Finals even though they usually have the older rosters of all. Thats delivering?? We never hear the media talk about DA clubs developing pro players or who is the best at developing individuals. Delivering? Depends on what you call delivering. DA provides no umbrella. They are not required to. They will come in to any club and take their best team at no cost to them and with little to no promise of improvement to those players. Not required to. All they are required to do is be competitive at their respective ages. Thats it. I expect much much more from a system of that category. We have different opinions as to what delivering is. My players will play D1 without USSDA. Its actually very easy at cost much less. Thats delivering. Anyone can deliver that. AN ubrella would require for DA clubs to first acknowledge the area's top development clubs that feed into them. Most wont even do that. Then it would require for them to financlially support in some way those clubs that are helping them market themselves as the best. Being that most MLS Academies are free, they should have no compettion what so ever vs non mls Academies. None. MLS DA's should be able to play an entire U15 rostered team vs DA U16 teams and laugh about it. MLS DA's should have U13 and U14's playing up as starters in U16 division to accelerate their development to sooner get them on their pro team. Thats delivering to me. Dilusioned?? What is dilusioned is to accept that "everyone" is in it for the money and to expect for every youth club to couragesly just give up their best players to their local DA club. What is sane about that thinking? Rules must be put in pace that will benefit those youth clubs somehow from doiung so. To bitch about is dilusional. I am not advocating in every youth club's favor. I want to see DA succeed but it wont the way it is being run. Unrealistic. AN umbrella gives you shade and protects you from rain and hail. Its not meant to hang you out to dry after it doesnt need you anymore. An elite player can play up 2-3 years in NPL, MRL, etc. and probably develop even better than playing their age in DA.

  26. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 11:59 a.m.

    How can you sanely blame local youth clubs for undermining USSF backed organization?? They make up the rules that all have to follow. If it fails it will be a direct consequence of their rules. A parent's job is to do what is best for their kid. ANd that could be to play up 2-3 years at the next level. For example. NPL U15 that played Regionals and finals are mostly next year's DA U16 mostly. So if you are a top U13 and couldnt get into ur local U14 DA team you should try and play for another club's U15 NPL team. Why because that DA will stick you on NPL U13 promising you DA the following year. A top U15 is better off playing NPL U17 if not going to get full minutes on U16 DA. Not to mention, freeedom to do all the top tourneys like Dallas Cup, Surf Cup, Disney who are very well scouted by top colleges along with being able to freely pursue pro tryouts in other coutries. Looking harder into these situations is better parenting than just blindly following what you are told is best. Your last sentence is a big red flag that people should look at as undeniably being part of bigger development problems all together.

  27. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 12:06 p.m.

    Jim, dont you see what is wrong with you just said?? The very best players in the world 99% of them would never be able to afford the travel costs for their child to compete at the "next level". Is that parent's fault?? Is that bad parenting?? SO for the few that see this and can afford it is it bad parenting to stay away fromDA because it is on its own purposely diluted?? Why would I want my kid to comform to a system that mostly only has the better kids that can afford it?? Thats dumb. Why would I blindly support that type of system that shows no signs of improving itself?? We should be able to actually see changes being made to include that strong dempgraphic. Not just believe promises. My lump sum is disengenious?? Why would I not include travel costs in my sum if entire point is that a player cant afford it?? So price is not outrageos as long as you can afford thousands of dollars more to travel?? LOL H.S is worse. No argument. But at least they dont promise that they will develop better players. We had college players before DA. The only measuring sticks to evaluate wether DA is doing what it prom ises to do will reflect at the pro level and the National Team's results. How we doing there?

  28. Jim Broswell, July 15, 2015 at 1:05 p.m.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...yada, yada, yada... My kid is going to college. This is about parenting choices - not about fixing the DA - I was pretty long winded about that. It is a diluted pool but it is still by far the very best pool - and clubs (which cost just as much) are purposely obscuring that fact and using high school soccer as a carrot. Travel costs are the result of finding other suitable players and teams at the DA team's level - geography is absolutely a barrier to development, and so extensive travel is an absolute fact of elite soccer. You are being totally disingenuous when you lump it in. Not sure why anyone cares about elite players leaving an open spot on the high school roster for Joe Mediocre - he would be cut otherwise, and then soccer is over for him four years earlier, while shaving off the elite players hurts no one's opportunities. All this 'caring' about other people's kids seems to be about keeping the elite player down so forgive me for questioning your motivation for attempts to destroy DA soccer by making it seem like less than an opportunity than it really is. I think I will get out my Dr. Seuss book "Yertle the Turtle" and remind myself how fiefdoms work. My kid is not part of the pile on for elevating local egos. It is bad parenting to not truly understand what you are giving up when you give up DA soccer opportunities because you naively trust the people who are intentionally obscuring the benefits (to elevate their local soccer program). It is also bad parenting to not understand that soccer is not a scholarship sport from a very early point in time and that you need academic success to be NCAA eligible - pay attention!!!!! It is NOT bad parenting to understand what DA is all about, its costs, its logistics, its success stories, its limitations, what it will provide for your child and his particular circumstances, and then decide for or against it. Using this article to decide would be bad parenting - it has nothing helpful for a parent and makes scary sinister suggestions like "DA soccer = bad grades" and "your kid won't get playing time" that are not supportable. And by even suggesting the alternative in the same article, it glosses over how very, very hard it is to get your kid looked at by colleges if he isn't rostered with a DA at this point in time. If you give up playing at a DA, you are most likely giving up playing college soccer. Which is absolutely a fine choice too - there are some sketchy costs/benefits analyses for all student athletes - just make sure your choice is a deliberate one rather than one you fall into by trusting the wrong "experts."

  29. cisco martinez, July 15, 2015 at 1:14 p.m.

    Playing in Youth academies does not guarantee a college scholarship, although it may help. Being a former soccer athlete/assistant coach for a top division 1 school, playing on a good team in big tournaments, ODP, playing well in high school, academy teams, and yes knowing a coach that has connections can lead to opportunities of receiving a college soccer scholarship. However, even if you do get a scholarship that does not coincide with being a professional.

  30. K Michael, July 15, 2015 at 1:17 p.m.

    Interesting, provocative points by all. I am of the belief that the DA does indeed have, in aggregate, the best training environment in our country, both for potential D1/D2 play, and for professional development. That said, a non-DA club with great coaching can provide the same results. It primarily comes down to the talented kid's passion for the game, how often he plays for fun outside of training, and the club's philosophy (is it win-now kick-n-run emphasizing the early pubescent big kids; or is it play-through-the-lines emphasizing touch and tactics?) The DA is probably still 5-7 years away from producing pro-level players more consistently. And that should be expected. The first generation of organic players are 9-15 years old. Organic meaning they watch soccer on TV, they play pick up games in the yard, street or playground. The weather's off, they go to the basement and juggle or play "pretend" games wall-to-wall barefoot; they argue with their classmates Ronaldo vs Messi; they show off different pick-up moves. Of course, players that are older do these things; but its the numbers and concentrations now. This first American organic generation are just beginning to hit DAs, ODPs, and local top clubs. Couple this with US Soccer's "Futures" initiative which finally, and formally, recognizes the small-kid/late bloomer with talent dilemma and now has a program to ID and keep these kids so that the next American Messi or Giovinco isn't cast aside at age 13 because he cant play kick-n-run and gives up the sport. Things are definitely changing for the better whether DA or not. This rising tide of talent that is mostly pre-pubescent will lift all ships. Couple that with the fact that a slow trickle of former pros (not just college players) are beginning to enter the coaching ranks as they retire, this will provide the better coaching that these kids will need to compete globally. Just my opinion for what its worth.

  31. Kent James, July 15, 2015 at 4:31 p.m.

    K Michael, I hope you're right about the rise of "organic" players. As for the DA v. HS debate, rather than getting into the differences in coaching and fees (Soccer Madness and Jim Boswell are covering that ground), I think the article is really addressing the issue of what sacrifices should my child make in order to get a college scholarship? And I think the article generally answers the question appropriately; the few players who are good enough to go pro will definitely benefit from foregoing HS soccer and playing in the academy, but most players are not (nor ever will be) good enough to go pro, so if they are happy with their current HS/club set-up, don't push them to go to the Academy system in hopes of getting a scholarship.

  32. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 4:36 p.m.

    Jim, what is a academy player in usa is a B to C level player in europe mexico. You are right. Putting the best players together will help develop them better. That alone will help.just for that reason Ussda status is not needed. That is all it offers. It concentrates more of the top talent together for easier recruiting by colleges. Cool. My problem is it offers nothing more. Especially to very top players in each age group. Placing all the best 98s together helps the weaker 98s in that group. How does it help the stronger 98s to improve in that same group? Afterall what you correctly point out is top players need to play and practice at their own level. Problem is you seem to imply that an entire team of 98s benefit equally from opracticing with and against each other. A top 98 gets the same out doing DA as a mid level 98 would get out of doing local club top level soccer development wise. That's the ooroblem. Again, Ussda are catering to the majority and party to play loyals over honestly developing their very best and very few pro potential players. What level does ur kid fall in? That would answer a Lot for both of us

  33. Santiago 1314, July 15, 2015 at 5:37 p.m.

    My club has had Sports Source come in and give a “Primer” to the Parent’s and Kids about the College Scholarship “HUNT”… Very good information for the High School Freshmen- Sophomore Level… Truth is; Unless you are a “STAR” player,(They will be spotted and recruited by ALL)… The “Coach/Director” and their Networking Contacts is the most Valuable asset in finding a Scholarship for the “Middle of the Pack Player”...Doesn’t matter whether it’s Academy, Club or High School…The other sad Truth is; Most of these kids Quit College Soccer within 1-2 years…Some of it is the Pyramid of Natural Selection, but it is more so to the Fact that the Parent’s wanted the Scholarship more than their kid…Wanting to "SHOW OFF" to the Neighbors...***College Soccer is DEMANDING*** Time Consuming, Compressed, Mostly Unfulfilling, and far too Frequently Poorly Coached and Less Skilled Teammates and Opposition than their High School age Club Team…Make sure to pick a school you like for "Other than Soccer" Reasons...

  34. Corner Kick, July 15, 2015 at 8:23 p.m.

    Everybody has great points. I think that everybody is talking about high school and Santiago, you actually said something I wanted to say. Have any of you watched the college game? Soccer Madness, Jim, Kent, K Michael, Cisco Martinez, Mark Banfield, Amos, Gus, R2 dad, Mark Torgonson, Paul, Lola, BJ, Philip and Rick? The style of play is awful. Poor coaching and below average play. I do think that some of the better players don't qualify academically, so you see a downturn in quality. High school like college soccer play wayyyyyy too many games in a short period of time. 3 and 4 games a week. When do the players get a chance to train? I don't live near an Academy team, but my clubs fees are $3,700 a season to give you full disclosure. I do have a friend who has a kid that plays at a USSDA team he has only played in 6 of the teams 27 games. He says that their are always college coaches at training sessions and at games so if that's what your looking for, the exposure is there. His kid got a partial scholarship, while my kid hasn't played in front of many college coaches at training or in games and in high school. I don't think clubs overall can compete with that kind of exposure. I do think that the college game will be changed once the NCAA folds and a new collegiate league starts up. It's on the horizon. I say within 2 years we will see a new league that may help to shape a better product and hopefully better development of our players.

  35. Santiago 1314, July 15, 2015 at 9:11 p.m.

    @Corner Kick,...Sank u berry mucho...Great minds think alike... :)...Having Sucked off you parents for many years, I can tell you it is a Catch 22...You got to Pay-to-Play, so you can Play-to-Degree...There are many Fine College Programs and a Fit for each Player...I have helped players get anywhere from 160,000.oo to just "Books"... And the ones who got the less money, where usually the happier...

  36. Santiago 1314, July 15, 2015 at 9:13 p.m.

    p.s. ... Bold Prediction on the NCAA Folding in 2 years... Not sure how that helps College Soccer get the Expanded schedule it needs, "Lucy, U got some Spailning to do".. Edumacatme ...

  37. Larry Chen, July 15, 2015 at 9:58 p.m.

    Here is my 2 cents ..
    When the difference between the top & bottom players is minimized then you have an optimal development environment for the player pool. I heard this tip from the famous Tim Byers who worked in Japan for many years.

    Parents look for this in the player pool. Push for it if your kid is gapping in his current pool.

    Sincerely,
    I'm just a Dad.

  38. Soccer Madness, July 15, 2015 at 10:41 p.m.

    Larry, exactly. For USSDA to succeed in developing better players than non USSDA clubs they would have to move top players up as far as they go. Top elite players tend to expand that gap quicker than others. Does them no good to be the best players on their teams for an entire year or more. So we have basically same set up than we used to have. We just called it something else.

  39. Santiago 1314, July 16, 2015 at 9:47 a.m.

    Yup, Soccer Madness, ... Just like "Shuffling The Chairs On The Titanic"... The Names Change, but the Actors Remain the Same...Lets see; we were in "The League", then we were Blue Division, Then GOLD was the answer... Nope, Got to go Division 1.. Lets go PREMIER, Because the Brits did...Next Up; Super Y...How about US CLUB???... Now USSDA...What a Racket.!!! Fifa got Nothing on us.!?!?!

  40. Michael Kirmse, July 16, 2015 at 5:34 p.m.

    What's disappointing about this article is it only provides one perspective and not the perspective of when the academy is right for the player and family. So now we have many that read this article and say "see, the academy is not a good thing for all players." The academy is right for many players and the competition allows you to play with the best and against the best. If you've ever been at a showcase, you'll see why it is right for many players.

  41. Soccer Madness, July 16, 2015 at 7:31 p.m.

    Michael, I think most here already had their opinions well grounded. Academy should be right for all top players but as to what it promotes it should service the very very best. I'm talking about the top 4-5 players from each group. Those kids should be challenged the nmost of any if what in fact it is designed for is to develop the very best they possibly can. Only way is playing up 1-3 years. Travel aaoccer is right for most of those who play it to. Rec soccer is right for most of the rec kids too. Should not be same layout for Ussda. Ussda should be about developing the best pros and National team players. Raising the standards to their very best players. Not conforming to what is good for most.

  42. Soccer Madness, July 16, 2015 at 7:34 p.m.

    Michael, to add to that go to Europe or Mexico and watch their Academy play. Ask the ages of the players and what division they are playing in. Then come back and tell us our system is right for most. You will notice that the better the Academy the more younger players they play on their teams. In USA you see the complete opposite. The best Ussda teams are older.

  43. Paul Roby, July 17, 2015 at 3:03 a.m.

    Has anyone mentioned the age difference between the programs? My son is a May birth and small for his age. I want him to play DA to be with the calendar year kids who are already bigger than him, but not as much so as the USYS school year kids. In the future probably the school year leagues will wither and die to follow FIFA, but until then it's nice to have options depending on a child's physical development. I'm certainly grateful the DA is here now so my child has that option.

  44. K Michael, July 17, 2015 at 10:42 a.m.

    Paul, that's a good point. The Relative Age Effect is something to always take into account and, up until recently,was one US Soccer's glaring deficiencies. Stories are legion of talented kids born late in a year being relegated to an inferior environment for their development because they "cant help the team win." My observations of my state's ODP and DA programs indicate this RAE is being accounted for and the emphasis is squarely on technical/tactical play. My state ODP director said in an orientation meeting earlier this year, "I don't care if he is 4'2" at age 12, if he is talented, we'll develop him and then when he is 19, he kicks everyone's butt. We don't want to lose that kid." US Soccer DA just convened the Futures Camp in May or so, in which a number of skilled yet smaller due to birth month or being on a later-development path took part in a camp to identify and provide high level training. At the club level, as Paul indicates, this patience is hit or miss; partly due to coaching and partly due to misguided parental pressure to win now. The DA/ODP environment seems to have a more patient approach in aggregate.

  45. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 1:14 p.m.

    That was very SPECIAL K,...(Jajaja)...Let's hope out Messi is in this New Process. .

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