Youth stars bail on college in numbers

The Philadelphia Union's signing of North Carolina recruit Auston Trusty on Wednesday raised to 16 the number of players on the 2015 U.S. Under-17 World Cup team who've turned pro and he is one of growing number of players whom MLS clubs are developing on their newly opened USL second teams. It will accelerate the rate at which players are skipping college altogether.

Trusty was part of the Tar Heels' recruiting class rated No. 1 in the country. But the 18-year-old defender was also one of a handful of players the Union, under new sporting director Earnie Stewart, promoted from the academy program to the Union's first-year USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC, where he has made 13 starts.

“He has really benefited from playing at the USL level this season," said Stewart in a statement, "further showing just how valuable this process can be. He’s now proven himself at our academy, at Bethlehem Steel FC and at various youth national teams throughout his young career."

Union academy director Tommy Wilson said Trusty’s path through the Union program was anything but smooth.

"In his first season with the U16s, he barely played and struggled for consistency," Wilson said. "However, in keeping with our philosophy, we were patient with Auston and we allowed him the time to flourish. He grabbed this opportunity with both hands and never looked back."

Other academy players Mark McKenzie, Anthony Fontana, Lamine Conte, Raheem Taylor-Parkes and Joe DeZart spent the summer in Bethlehem. Playing or training as amateurs allows the Union to evaluate their progress. They, in turn, get a taste of a pro's life before heading off to college or back to high school. Taylor-Parkes will play at Virginia, while DeZart is headed to Wake Forest and Conte to NAIA school Mobile. Fontana and McKenzie will be high school seniors in the fall.

Other MLS teams like Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers are using their USL teams to test their academy players. Left back Marco Farfan, a rising high school senior, is third on Timbers FC 2 in minutes and ranked sixth on the USL's 20 Under 20 list.

Hugo Arellano, who played on the U-17s with Trusty, signed with LA Galaxy II, the Galaxy's USL team in its third season that has 11 players who would otherwise by in college this season. He's also the third player who has turned pro after initially intending to attend UCLA. Danilo Acosta, the highly regarded midfielder, signed with Real Salt Lake, and McKenze Gaines joined German club Wolfsburg.

In February, Virginia listed 2015-16 U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year Weston McKennie as part of its 2016 recruiting class. But FC Dallas and Germany's Schalke 04, at which he has been training, are in a tug-of-war to sign him.

Signing McKennie would be a coup for FC Dallas as MLS clubs are capturing just a fraction of the high school seniors turning pro.

Former U-17s stars like Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) and Luca de la Torre (Fulham) are already receiving first-team minutes in Europe, while other players have signed with top European clubs: Danny Barbir (West Bromwich Albion), McKenze Gaines (Wolfsburg), Brooks Lennon, (Liverpool), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Joshua Perez (Fiorentina) and Haji Wright(Schalke 04).

Pros in Europe:
*Danny Barbir
, West Bromwich (England)
*Luca de la Torre, Fulham (England)
McKenze Gaines, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Brooks Lennon, Liverpool (England)
Ethan Lotenero, Belenenses (Portugal)
James Murphy, Sheffield Wednesday (England)
*Matthew Olosunde, Man. United (England)
*Joshua Perez, Fiorentina (England)
*Christian Pulisic, Bor. Dortmund (Germany)
*Haji Wright, Schalke 04 (Germany)
Kyle Gruno, Leicester City (England)
Callum Stretch, Aston Villa (England)
Jean-Julien Foe Nuphaus,
Hoffenheim (Germany)
Timothy Weah, Paris SG (France)

Pros in Mexico:
Ivan Gutierrez,
*Brandon Vazquez,
*Alex Zendejas
, Guadalajara
Ernesto Espinoza, Tijuana
Jonathan Gonzalez
, Monterrey
Edwin Lara,
Angel Uribe
, Tijuana

Pros in MLS:
Danilo Acosta
, Real Salt Lake
Ben Swanson, Columbus Crew (on loan to Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
*Auston Trusty, Philadelphia Union

*Tyler Adams, NY Red Bulls
Andrew Carleton, Atlanta United (on loan to Charleston Battery)
Chris Durkin, D.C. United

Pros in NASL:
*Eric Calvillo
, New York Cosmos
*Alexis Velela, New York Cosmos

Pros in USL (MLS second teams):
*Hugo Arellano
, LA Galaxy II
*Pierre Da Silva, Orlando City B
Charly Flores, Rio Grande Valley FC
Ethan Zubak, LA Galaxy II
*Eric Lopez, LA Galaxy II
*2015 U.S. Under-17 World Cup team.

30 comments about "Youth stars bail on college in numbers".
  1. kevin g, August 11, 2016 at 7:58 a.m.

    I don't agree with this new process. All these kids need a good education first and I'm surprised that a lot of people don't feel the same way.

  2. don Lamb replied, August 11, 2016 at 8:38 a.m.

    Who says they're not getting a good education. College isn't the only place people can learn things.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, August 14, 2016 at 11:41 p.m.

    All American: So if college were "for everyone" or there'd be "...more Hispanics and black people too...(sic)"
    OMG!!! Your comment is so damned ignorant that defies explanation. As a 40-year college educator, a Hispanic of Mexican origin and someone who has seen more soccer than you, your comment is appalling, ignorant, and so-trump-like! Lastly, if there were some Hispanics and black people that went to college and were honored with the intercollegiate term, "All American," would you fit into this or is this just your sign-on moniker?

  4. Richard Brown, August 11, 2016 at 8:14 a.m.

    Kevin you sound like a parent talking.

    Kids want to play professionally and live the dream.

    School can come later it does not have to be now.

    The dangerous part is here in the MLS. Go on a MLS team winning is more important then learning. Can produce right away your in the bench.

    Freddy add was a terrific talent as a kid. Except the coaches here had no idea where to play him. At striker he produced nothing.

    But a left wing mid he would have been something. They needed to bring in a trainer of wing mids to teach him how to use the field correctly.

  5. Wooden Ships, August 11, 2016 at 8:44 a.m.

    Richard, I agree with your assessment, in fact education-learning is a life long process. And Kevin, while I understand your traditional view, the fact is that many, perhaps most, college athletes in this country wouldn't be attending universities-colleges if not for sport. I'd rather they live their sporting dream and once complete return to education when their priorities and motivation are different. As a retired college coach and instructor it was exhausting and frustrating to work with many team sport student athletes that didn't give a darn about academics, research and even attending classes. On a side note, traditional classroom education is slowing changing and its reluctantly admitting there might be better methods.

  6. Eric R. replied, August 11, 2016 at 10:59 a.m.

    I love the college draft in MLS, but I also feel that most players leave their programs (even under good coaches) a little timid. That 17 to 22 year-old-timeframe is SO critical for young soccer players! MLS fans (myself included) often receive to a 22 year old as a "young player". In most American pro sports (football, baseball, basketball) we think of a 22 year old as "young", but in soccer 22 years old is quite advanced. Arsene Wewnger (Arsenal) refers to 24 year olds as "fully formed players". By 22 then, you need to already be playing for the best team you can, not trying to get good enough to go somewhere.

  7. kevin g, August 11, 2016 at 8:54 a.m.

    Then maybe some of these teams who sign such young talent should have some type of educational program given to them within the organization.

  8. Eric R. replied, August 11, 2016 at 10:52 a.m.

    Most teams in MLS do.

  9. cisco martinez, August 11, 2016 at 9:04 a.m.

    I applaud these you men for moving abroad for trying to fulfil their dream of becoming the best in Europe. My only concern is that we need more to play and try abroad and to not just train but make the first team.

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now, August 11, 2016 at 11:04 a.m.

    The faster this trend continues the better. College soccer is a wasteland and is no place for our elite players. It's a great opportunity for non-elite players to play a few more years and get and education but it's a waste of time for future professionals.

    Not only is college not for everyone as a general proposition, there is absolutely nothing stopping guys from going back to school after their playing careers are over. Millions of people go back to school later in life. But you can only play professionally for so many years.

  11. Goal Goal, August 11, 2016 at 11:06 a.m.

    If a youngster is going to pursue this game on the professional level he/she has to give up a lot of things and rearrange there lives so to speak. You have to play young so you delay things until a later date.

  12. Jeffrey Organ, August 11, 2016 at 11:10 a.m.

    The more players who opt out the merrier. The NCAA has made no effort to adjust the way soccer is played in their member schools, despite numerous recommendations by coaches and some athletic directors to make changes. College soccer is on its way to becoming a Club sport, much like Rugby is at many Universities. The only thing university leaders and the NCAA care about is the money they get from Division 1 football and March Madness anyway. Good youth players now have a viable path other than college soccer to continue to play the game and they are taking it.

  13. humble 1, August 11, 2016 at 12:10 p.m.

    The more options for our players finishing high school the better. I would not throw out college soccer any more than I would discard h.s. soccer. More options for players = better. Not long ago young male soccer players finishing high school had almost no options. Men's college soccer is still recovering from the tidal wave called Title IX, which on the other hand, one could make a good case, the roots of women's soccer success we enjoy in this country.

  14. Richard Brown, August 11, 2016 at 1:16 p.m.

    My nephue is going to a baseball college because he thinks if he does well pitching baseball there. He could get a major league contract after his Sophmore year. If he gets it he would grab it in a second.

    I asked him if he goes into the minor leagues now wouldn't it be easier to get a major league contract? Surprisingly he told me no.

    College is not for everyone. I wish for people like that they offer trade school training for them. My daughter moved to Germany in 2002. She graduated Columbia university with honors. It meant nothing in Germany. Instead they asked her what trade to do have?

  15. Richard Brown, August 12, 2016 at 5:13 a.m.

    Here in NYC The better training in HS years is with club soccer rather then HS soccer. But I would never tell a kid not to play HS and just play club. That experience should not be missed even if their training is inferior.

    I played adult club in my HS years not HS soccer.

  16. Wesley Hunt, August 12, 2016 at 10:35 a.m.

    I have always wondered about the mix of serious athletics and education. Most of us in life cannot learn two things really well at the same time. My experience with college was different than most. Not ready for college after HS I began working starting as a construction laborer. I switched to arboriculture and eventually became a top level tree climber by my late twenties. The closest I could come to being a professional athlete. Then I started college going part time and working. It took me 8 years to get a degree in Biology. Finished with a 3.84 GPA. I enjoyed the process immensely but I had little to time for anything outside of work and study.

  17. Wesley Hunt, August 12, 2016 at 10:36 a.m.

    Here is what I noticed about many of my fellow and usually much younger students. First most had no clear idea why they were there. Second partying and having fun was more of a priority than studying. To my mind many of them were wasting their parents money. School is for education and that should be priority number 1 and everything else should be second. If that is not the case you should not be there. That applies to athletics as well. If you are going to college to play soccer and are not really serious about the academics then why not just play soccer. I admire focus and discipline but you are asking a lot of a kid to play top level soccer and train and travel and do well in school as well. Instead you don’t get excellence in either endeavor. There is just not enough time for your average kid. I have several kids that I have trained since they were very young. Much like me some are not ready for college and still want to play soccer. Some of them have been told that college is their only and best option. A few of my kids are now in Germany on trial hoping to get noticed but it is such a long shot and very expensive to do. Having feeder teams and semi professional teams become more prevalent here is a good thing for these kind of kids.

  18. Wesley Hunt, August 12, 2016 at 10:37 a.m.

    Colleges should get out of the business of sports and focus on education. The concept of the amateur athlete is a bunch of crock. I never appreciated that the football players where I went to school got full scholarships while taking the easiest courses and majors with multiple tutors to help them and many other perks while I had to work my way through with very little help even with top grades I am from the south, I grew up in that culture where life stopped while your family’s football team played on Saturdays but my college experience changed my view on it. I am sure things are not going to change any time soon for football but for soccer, the sport I now follow and coach it might just evolve differently than that. However, we need more of those second and third division teams that can take young fresh out of high school players and give them time to develop in a competitive environment with good coaching. And we need for that choice of college or professional to come out of the equation. College soccer cannot compete with focused competitive training for soccer. In fact it is not their mandate. It is to win and bring more kids into the school. They have no real incentive to care about what happens to their players after college.

  19. Richard Brown, August 12, 2016 at 1:35 p.m.

    We used to put our 18 yrs old in the Enzo Farrari invitational in Medina Italy.. Our parents did not want us to do it because no American college coaches were their to watch them play.

    We trained for two months before we sent them we also used guest players. At that time we were playing against teams like AC Milan all their kids had professional contracts.

    It cost us only 500 dollars a player to go to Italy for a week. Play here in tournaments it costs more then that.

    Well we did very well that year we won the tournament. Teams representatives took some of our players names. Even though we beat them no one ever heard from them.

    So maybe the parents were right after all.

  20. kevin g, August 13, 2016 at 8:26 a.m.

    I'm glad I spent the time to read everyone's opinions and there's a lot of truth spoken even though there's a difference in opinion. My concern is that there's such a small window of time an athlete is going to make money. Then these clubs push them out. What's the chances they then decide to go back to school and put in 4-8 YRS of education. Especially if they have to make money for his or her family. Time stops for no one so with no education and now not getting paid to play a sport you love what's next? It's a lot harder in life to grind in your 30's and start a new career and possibility have a family then do it in your 20's. YES it's great to follow your dreams BUT is it realistic to do that with such a short career?

  21. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 13, 2016 at 3:51 p.m.

    You make it seem like it's impossible to go to college if you don't go at age 18. Reality suggests otherwise. If these kids are being offered pro contracts then by definition their goal of playing professional soccer is "realistic".

  22. Wesley Hunt, August 13, 2016 at 11:11 a.m.

    Kevin life is about choices but those choices are nat always easy. In our country we have an unprecedented amount of freedom to become the person we want to become. Individual freedom and choice are things we pride ourselves on in our culture. What we miss sometimes is that without discipline and grit we have no true freedom. I meet kids who want to become excellant at soccer but their parents and themselves quite often have no idea the amount of time it takes to get close to a top level of skill in the sport or anything else for that matter. The simple fact is to become really good at something it is likely that you may have give up other things to do so. That is the choice part. But many parents want their kids to be good in multiple things. Music, academics, at least two sports, and maybe a club or two. Suddenly there is only time for two practices a week and no time for free play where they can relax and enjoy the game and become creative players rather than robots. Then the parent wonders why their kid isn’t as good as he should be at the sport. The kids who do put in the time are “gifted”, however that is not true, they just worked/played harder at it.

  23. Wesley Hunt, August 13, 2016 at 11:12 a.m.

    What I came to realize is many of these parents are making their kids look good for a college admission. This is ok but they quite often seem to want it all, Excellance in every endeavor, soccer scholarship to a top school, graduation with honors and a wonderfull job and the end of the rainbow. Half the time the kid is only half on board with this and their life is scheduled to the hilt. No wonder the freedom of college becomes party time. They never made a true decisiion on what they want to do nor have they ever learned to work hard and stick with something. Maybe the parents should focus more on the ethics of grit, determination, and have their kids choose a few things that they “really like” to get good at. Then whatever the kid chooses to do as they come to adulthood they will know what needs to be done to become good, and they won’t become boring average people doing things because they had to rather than because they wanted to.

  24. Wesley Hunt, August 13, 2016 at 11:12 a.m.

    Last thing...if you are a struggling pro player with not much income and you choose to father children in your twenties you and your partner should have a good plan of what you are going to do when the gig is done. Life needs to be approached with eyes wide open.

  25. Allan Lindh, August 13, 2016 at 1:07 p.m.

    No one mentions the numbers. Most kids who sign a pro contract out of high school will never make a decent living in the game. An infinitesimal fraction will make enough to be set up for life. Have you noticed what the unemployment rate is for young people with a high school education? If MLS really wants a leg up with the parents of fine young players, they will set up an Academy program in which the kids spend a few hours a day in a local college. They are not training 24/7 -- requiring passing grades in a college program would just cut into the hours playing video games.

  26. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 13, 2016 at 3:53 p.m.

    Again - if at age 22 let's say a kid's pro aspirations are over there is absolutely no reason they can't go back to school. Millions have done it.

  27. Wesley Hunt, August 13, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    Those numbers According to the U.S. Department of Labor unemployment for those over 25 with only a High School Education is 5.4% and for a Bachelor Degree it is 2.8%. Median yearly earnings approximately $35,000 for HS and $55,000 for BS. Colleges would love for everyone to read no more into those stats than that and have the parents desperate for there kid to get any degree but there is a lot unsaid in those big round numbers. Of those 5.4% how many of those could not hold down a steady job no matter what their training was? Also there is no accounting of the cost of college both opportunity and real weighted against those future earnings. Which comes to the biggest thing …not all college degrees are equal. Even my degree of Biology without an advanced degree would get me little more than a job as a lab tech and I could make far more than that climbing trees especially if a got a truck and chipper and few guys.

  28. Wesley Hunt, August 13, 2016 at 5:43 p.m.

    Prior to HS completion any kid in a professional academy should be required to do academics. After that and once they are 18 I see no reason the MLS academies should feel they have to require classes of their players in case they don’t make it any more than I believe colleges should be giving out scholarships for athletic ability rather than academic ability. The two things should be separate so the choices the kid and parent are making are clear and the possibility of missing out on scholarship money and the chance to play there are not hanging in the balance. The idea of playing for college, getting a degree, and then possibly playing pro is ridiculous for most. Again people wanting everything and not wanting to make the sacrifice to follow their dreams. If a kid wants to play pro, has some skill and is not really serious about academics then he should go for it if the opportunity is there. Of course the eyes should be wide open. He should know that the living is likely to be poor. Success may not come even with the best effort. But unless he tries he will never be able to test himself and what he can do. Regrets in old age people often have for those risky paths not taken. I guess the main thing I am saying in all this is I like people who grab life by the a%% and do something with it no matter what that something is so I encourage it in the kids I train.

  29. aaron dutch, August 13, 2016 at 9:02 p.m.

    undergraduate college should be about education not all the secondary issues. that will not change as high end college is for top 1/4 of americans. its a status exercise, networking, marriage & party & elite development. That's good for consulting, large corporate, academic industry, etc.. Of course grad school is very different its about real field development on average.

    When it comes to football/soccer. High School & College has 200hrs + a year that could be used to develop technical players & more importantly teach them how to development themselves (street, juggle, wall ball etc..) over those 8 years youth players could leverage those 1000's of hours and become very strong technical players

  30. Ric Fonseca, August 24, 2016 at 4:22 p.m.

    I am sure everyone knows what is required as a "student athlete," right: In order to be eligible to participate in a sport, whether D1,2,3, NAIS, Com/Jucollege, etc, the student MUST be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units/credit hours per semester, and be in a degree program. Supposedly, for each unit of study, one must do at least three hours of studying reading, etc, that plus even have to attend to study groups, do research for a paper (individual or collective) and also attend study sessions with a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a specific course. Midterm and or final exams are not exempt for student athletes, and are required. All must maintain a bare minimum 2.0 grade point average (gpa), and in order to be eligible to continue after the sport of season concludes, must demonstrate that academic progress is made. Within the athletic department, most (but certainly NOT all) have academic counselors, and someone solely dedicated to ensure students are attending classes, etc. I may be leaving out something else, however, all this studying "stuff" amounts to around 12 - 20-30 hours of actual course work. And then there is the time required for the team in whatever sport, but usually this includes anywhere between 60 - 180 minutes or more for practice sessions, excluding team meetings, training room time (when needed) game preparation, and then there is the inevitable travel time that may take almost a full day even for home games, and more than 24 - 48 hours for a weekend game/tournament. So where does studying come? Supposedly whereever and whenever the student athlete can squeeze it, BUT for some sports, e.g. basketball/football, some take counselor/advisers along for the ride, proctors, when a team member must be away during examination times, etc. Oh yeah, for some sports they also have a very healthy "training table," read this, meals for the student athletes in the "revenue" sports - though I am not aware that soccer players, male or female, now get the benefit of training tables. And all of this time is also supposed to be regulated by NCAA rules and regulations, (yeah right) and yet how many times do we read of xyz university or abc college getting caught breaking the rules, etc? Oh, but wait, there is so much more for a young impressionable student athlete to learn, maybe I'll provide some stories from years past, that I as a team manager, then head coach had to endure and "enforce..."

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