Should I stay or should I go……
After a lot of time to reflect, recover and review our season, I have decided to write this blog giving an overview of what we achieved during the fall of 2017. We ended our season with a 17-3-1 overall record, and there were definitely many highs and lows encountered. Looking back, starting off with an overtime loss to Lenoir Rhyne was not what we expected, but it was taken as more of a positive than a negative. We knew that we were in for some tough games during the season and that was proved to us right off the bat. After that disappointment, we bounced back and managed to win 14 of our next 16 games, drawing one of the other two, and losing one. The game we drew was against Queens University of Charlotte, and was arguably the most competitive game I have played in since coming to Limestone. We definitely felt like we should have won that game, but to be fair to Queens they gave us a really good game. It was definitely a very enjoyable game to play in.
The game prior to Queens was away at our rivals Belmont Abbey and we managed to clinch the regular season title after winning 2-1. After losing the deciding regular season championship game 2 years ago we felt it was our chance to get revenge and we definitely did this. Our final regular season game saw us grind out a 1-0 win at Erskine and then we were ready to go into tournament play. We were playing well going into conference tournament, and we knew we had to keep our standards high to achieve the 3-peat we were looking for. As cliché as it sounds, anything can happen in tournament play, and so we knew we had to stay focused. We ended up playing Erskine twice in three days as we faced them again in the first round of conference tournament. As hard as it is to beat teams twice, we knew that playing them on our home field gave us an extra advantage. We came out 2-0 winners in that game and advanced to the semi-finals. North Greenville University awaited in the semi-final, after a tough first half against a solid NGU defense, the game opened up in the second half and we put 3 more goals in to run out 4-0 winners.
We went into the final of the tournament feeling confident, we were ready to play our game and win our third championship in a row. Lees-Mcrae College stood in our way. In the first half we had our chances to take the lead but could not convert, but we managed to get the deciding goal just four minutes into the second half. A third championship in the same amount of years was ours and we could finally celebrate. This win meant that we had an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, and we learnt that we would travel to Columbus State University, GA, to face Flagler College. It would be the battle of the Saints and we were ready for the test. The feeling in and around the team was one of positivity, optimism; we felt like we could go there and win. Unfortunately we fell at the first hurdle, we lost the game to Flagler and therefore our season was over. The score line reads a 3-0 loss for us, but that was not a true reflection of the game. It is easy to say now, but we should have been 2 or 3 nil up inside the first 20 minutes. The game should have been over but unfortunately we could not convert. At the end of the day, Flagler took their chances and we didn’t. It was a very hard pill to swallow and the team was very disappointed.
After a successful season we could not advance in the national tournament. However, we know that these tough games and these losses only build us; it gives us something to work on. We are back now for Spring 2018 and are ready to work hard towards our next goals. Click here to read more about Holly and her time in the States.
HOW TO BECOME A PRO WHEN GRADUATING COLLEGE SOCCER?
In the United States, there are ultimately three paths to pro; being drafted directly out of college, attending open tryouts hosted by clubs, or attending professional combines held by outside agencies. Unfortunately only about 1% of players get drafted professionally while the rest of the players begin the long road and process to the professional game. Players who were named in the draft but not chosen will be forgotten. Take a look at this table below:
Note: this table represents ONLY NCAA players. So only 6 of the 81 players also represented: NAIA, NCCAA, Junior College and Community college players.
So what is the next step? As common sense one would think to join a semi-professional team and move up the ranks! Prove yourself at one level and you’re bound to move forward! Unfortunately players begin to see how “semi-professional leagues” in the United States prove to be a vicious whirlpool. No promotion. No relegation. No progression. Players find themselves stuck. With this in mind, to play at a true semi-professional level and move up the ranks, it is very important to play overseas. This allows you to prove yourself at one level to play at the next. With so many professional leagues across the world, challenging yourself overseas is a necessity.
There are a total of 60 professional teams in the United States: 22 in the MLS, 30 in the USL and only 8 in the NASL. After college, if you are not selected into one of these teams the extent of your game turns back to Sunday league teams where the competition is low and you’re lucky if there is one practice a week. You’re back to training with a few other players that have similar mindsets and find yourself spending a lot of time passing against a wall. Many players get stuck in soccer purgatory; if they are not drafted, they begin to see how difficult the process is.
This is why it is important to attend a pro combine; it allows you to be seen by other agents and professionals who have more direct contacts to clubs not only in the U.S. but also across the world! As a player, you’ll find that professional leagues are littered across the globe. For example, in the Spanish third tier alone, there are a total of 80 senior teams! That’s more than the entire US in one country and in one tier alone. Coaches, agents and scouts love to find a diamond in the rough, and that is exactly what pro combines can offer.
MLS DRAFT - AN EXCEPTIONAL OPPORTUNITY
He’s a teammate of former Ballon d’or winner Kaka as well as former AC Milan and Italy star Antonio Nocerino. He is also seen by some as one, if not the best young player in the MLS and already has 19 appearances for Canada. Of course we are talking about Orlando City’s Cyle Larin who himself has been through the MLS Player Combine!
Cyle, who has an astonishing 43 goals in 85 gamres for Orlando City was the first pick of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The SuperDraft setup is similar to the draft you would expect in other sports in the USA. Players will attend the Adidas Major League Soccer Player Combine in Los Angeles in early January where their talent will be evaluated in three games over five days and individuals who impress will be entered into the SuperDraft.
Athletes of ours who excel while out in the States do have the possibility to be involved with this extremely prestigious event!
The NFL is without a doubt, the biggest of all US Sports. The whole college sport setup itself dwarfs other sports in the nation with coverage of it as in depth as we may see here in Britain with the Premier League. According to Sporting Intelligence, in 2015 the NFL’s 23 professional teams averaged over 68,000 fans per game with the top 30 college programs averaging even more at 81,000. This is staggering and if combined, would make it the highest attended sports league on Earth. Soccer scholarships in the USA are big business and at Soccer Smart we know all about this!
This level of popularity has allowed US colleges to create some of the most advanced facilities anywhere in the world which dozens of our Soccer Smart Athletes have been able to discover first hand during their time in the states. Take for example Sean Holmes, Danny Carroll and James Halpin who have excelled during their time out there! Dino James played summer league in front of 8000 fans which is something very few people get to do.
It’s not only the facilities that have been effected by the sizeable revenue of college sports with coaches and staff being paid huge salaries. The defensive coordinator at the University of Oregon has a reported $1.15 million annual salary package which is enough to hire 10 assistant professors! There are several college sport coaches around America with similar salaries to this. As you can see below, some coaches at this level are on absolutely staggering salaries which would rival coaches in premier divisions of other sports all around the world.
American Football coach salaries at college level.
The issue with all of this is that NCAA has a philosophy regarding amateurism and says…
“Amateur competition is a bedrock principle of college athletics. The collegiate model of sports, the young men and women competing on the field or court are students first, athletes second.”
It will certainly be interesting to see how far this rapid expansion goes and whether the NCAA will have to move away from their ethos in the coming years. College sport is certainly on the rise.