Scrap the Academies and rely on college soccer?

Discussion in 'MLS: Youth & Development' started by MUTINYFAN, Sep 30, 2012.

  1. MUTINYFAN

    MUTINYFAN Member

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    My little brother who is a great proponent of college soccer told me today that he thinks MLS should get rid of the academies and rely solely on college soccer for its player development.
    He mentioned that the best age for a player to go pro is 23. He said that the Graham Zusi was 23 in his rookie year and so was Beitashour, Dike, Austin Berry , Geoff Cameron and Luis Silva. He said that these players are all much better than anything the academies or GA have put out and they are the futute of the USMNT. He also said that Zusi is the greatest midfielder ever produced in the US and that he is much better at 26 than Landon Donovan ever was
    I don't agree with his ideas but he does have a point as I really do not see academy players excelling in MLS. Also Olive Occean who turned pro around 23 after college soccer, is tearing it up in the Bundesliga so he may have a point. If Occean becomes a top scorer in the Bundesliga, then it shows that my little brother may be right as the academies could never produce such talent. Altidore is ok but he plays in a lesser league than Occean.
    What do you guys think. Scrap the academies or not?


  2. Stan Collins

    Stan Collins Member+

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    Tearing it up? He has one goal in his entire B'liga career, and he's 30.

    I will say this, though:

    Imagine that suddenly the concept of the college scholarship was transposed into Spain. And suppose it was like the US, a way to vault into a very good but very expensive university system, that the value of that scholarship in Spain was close to what it was in the US, anywhere from 30k to over 100k a year.

    Your Lionel Messis and Pedros and such would still skip it, because they're worth millions before they ever hit age 18 (HINT: this is where the real shortcomings in US development lie, somewhere long before players hit 18). But a lot of guys would play there instead of the second division or the far end of the reserve team bench. And if it was full of Spanish players, and Spanish coaches, with a Spanish mentality. . . chances are it would be a pretty good league (and fun to watch). My guess is, that with the bond of University affiliation, and with attractive football with reasonable talent, it would be pretty popular, closer to US college football, or at least basketball, than it is to US college soccer. It would also probably catch some late bloomers now and again that become pro talents, but do so late. Would it hurt the Spanish World Cup team? Hard to see how, since it would have almost nothing to do with the Spanish World Cup team.

    That doesn't mean 'scrap the academies.' But it might mean 'stop whining about college soccer', because if you put together the development system you want previous to age 18 (where most of the actual development is done) with the right skills and right coaching, college would hardly ruin it.
    22SteveD, Scoey, ChrisE and 1 other person repped this.
  3. trip76

    trip76 Member

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    the academy system is still ramping up. when they've rolled out the next tier for the younger age group, when academies are all free to players, possibly residence, and we graduate players who were in the academy system since they were 8, then tell me which system is producing better players, and more of them.

    if college soccer would align its rules with international soccer, increase the length of the season, and remove or lighten restrictions on practices with the coach, they will solidify there place as part of player development. if not, they will be an also ran as the money and experience increases in the academy system.
    uclacarlos and Unak78 repped this.
  4. Ironkick14

    Ironkick14 Member+

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    No. Just no. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they don't even target the same age group. The academies run from U14 (next year) to U18. College doesnt start until most players arent even U18 eligible anymore.
    ChrisE and Unak78 repped this.


  5. Kot Matroskin

    Kot Matroskin Member

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    I think that's exactly right. There is a place for both, and college soccer is a good place for the late bloomers to develop. The only thing I would like to see is the NCAA's unnecessary (and possibly larcenous) amateurism rules be modified to allow players to be better able to fall back on college if initial attempts at the pros don't pan out, or even to be able to play part-time on a pro team if their schedule allows it.
    Unak78 repped this.
  6. MUTINYFAN

    MUTINYFAN Member

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    Austin Berry at 24 being probably a candidate for ROY is another example that the college route is good for US players and that a player does not have to turn pro at 18 to become world class. I guess what the point of discussion here is not really against the academies but against a player turning pro before 22 or 23. Is it even necessary for players to leave college early or not at all in order to be better pro players, with the advent of Zusi, Berry , Occean or Beitashour there can be an argument against this. Once again this is not my opinion, it is just a point of discussion.
  7. ielag

    ielag Member+

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    The main issue against college soccer is the length of the season and the strict offseason rules the NCAA places on it's coaches with the players, it's like this across the board in every sport because of this joke that they're students first and foremost. So those rules won't change and could even get more strict.

    There will always be room for college soccer because of late bloomers, the fact this country is just so big, and int'l players like Canadians, Jamaicans, etc.

    It all depends on the playing time players get when they turn pro, a full commitment to a reserve team system needs to be implemented by MLS.

    Luis Gil would not have been better off going to UCLA for 4 years instead of playing with RSL.
  8. Unak78

    Unak78 BigSoccer Supporter

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    And I really have a problem with people who dislike the idea of young pros. It happened in the NBA and resulted in the ridiculous rules that is starting to force some teens to Europe to start their careers. It's stupid and was helped along by the myth of the failures of high school ballers when a good percentage of them actually succeed at the same or better rates than college-bred players. I have no problems with college players or colleges in general. What I do dislike is the NCAA and their draconian profiteering off of these young athletes and the rules which, in some cases, are more restrictive than they are for almost any other students on their campuses. For the longest time athletes couldn't even have jobs. And it didn't matter what sports they were playing.
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  9. Stan Collins

    Stan Collins Member+

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    The other side of that, though, is that Berry was an every-game starter for a strong Louisville team and all-conference second team by his sophomore year. Chances are, he was 90% the player in 2008 as he was in 2011. It's not crazy (although, to keep things consistent, one would have to assume he loses most of a year to injury either way) to think that he could have been the same player at 22 that he currently is at 24.

    Well, there's no profit to -eer in college soccer. For all its flaws, the institution of a college scholarship has operated something like a charity for soccer players.
  10. Kot Matroskin

    Kot Matroskin Member

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    I don't see the logic. So, if a college player is given a scholarship, he should have no right to make money playing soccer in his spare time? What difference should it make to the school what off-campus job he takes as long as he stays academically eligible, or be able to leave for a time to play for money and if it doesn't work out, come back to school and play as long as he hasn't used up his eligibility?
  11. Stan Collins

    Stan Collins Member+

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    Any soccer contract in the world gives the holder such rights. If you signed pro in MLS, you can't go play in Europe during the offseason unless you have the team/league's say-so (and they aren't going to give it without being compensated, and they have the contractual right to refuse completely).

    And the college soccer scholarship is a totally voluntary scheme. In, say, basketball, it's a completely different equation because the NBA has near-monopoly power at the top pay-scales and has essentially conspired with the NCAA to almost force you to participate in the latter. (You'd have to either play semipro in the US or go to Europe, which is not nearly as appealing a move in basketball as it would be in soccer.)

    Not only is it voluntary to enter, it's voluntary to leave, too--at any time you want. Right as the colleges near the tournament stretch, any player in the NCAA could just walk away from his college, leave them totally in the lurch, and there's nothing they can do about it--except keep the player from coming back.

    There's just no similar architecture of control in soccer as there is in other sports where compensation is being massively tamped down by collusive arrangements between nearly omnipotent pro leagues and profiteering colleges.
  12. ChrisE

    ChrisE Member

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    Berry did well in 2008, but wasn't even a sure starter in 2007. Would he have been given the same opportunities to play for a MLS reserve team as he did for Louisville in 2007 and 2008? (I doubt it.) Would an MLS team even have bothered to sign him? (I doubt it.) College soccer isn't ideal environment, but it's giving opportunities to a bunch of players that MLS just can't accommodate. There's significant value in that.
  13. Jazzy Altidore

    Jazzy Altidore Member

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    At this point you should taken a trip to a neurologist instead of bigsoccer.com
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  14. Bolivianfuego

    Bolivianfuego Your favorite Bolivian

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    I've said it in the past.... College soccer is for late bloomers, and kids to maybe get time to 'grow' into themselves and find their potential.

    For the kids like Najar, who can contribute RIGHT AWAY to a pro team... should be doing that and not wasting their time playing at a lower level, wiht lower level talent.
  15. Kot Matroskin

    Kot Matroskin Member

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    I see where you are coming from, but the simple argument against this is that a University is not a pro soccer club and doesn't claim to be one. If they wanted to claim the same benefits then they should also have the same liabilities, i.e. pay what the athletes what the athletes demand. Right now they have a de facto cartel (not for soccer necessarily, but I am arguing for the "money sports" as well) which precludes competition while exploiting young people for big money. Just because a soccer player in college should feel relatively well-paid in getting a major university scholarship shouldn't make a difference. Why should he be under rules that the rest of the student population are not under?

    See above. Just because a soccer player has more opportunities available overseas, doesn't mean it's realistic to ask a kid to take that chance, at the same time giving up his right to get an athletic scholarship later if things don't work out. Why be so draconian?

    Shouldn't that be up to the school? If they feel so hard done by that they would refuse to allow the player back, who cares if another school doesn't feel so picky? Do you really think there would be a large spate of kids leaving college right before the tournament if eligibility rules were loosened?


    I agree that there is a difference between soccer economics and that of the "money sports" in the USA, but I think that is all the more reason to treat a college soccer player like any other member of the student body. Chances are he's going to need this education in order to make a living, so it really polices itself. He or she really is much closer to being an average member of the student body than a basketball or football player, so why be so strict with the amateurism rules?

    I'm going to answer my own question here: as we all know, or can guess, it's because the NCAA does not want to let the Money Genie out of the bottle. If it allows the non-revenue generating sports to be free of amateurism rules, then it weakens its argument about keeping them for the football and basketball players. Of course they can't *say* it's about money, so they have to keep up the facade of "the purity of the amateur athlete" for everyone, whether it's wanted or not.
  16. FlipsLikeAPancake

    FlipsLikeAPancake Member+

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    This is absolutely right, and we are already tons of academy players going the college route. MLS still has a pretty big development gap from ages 18-23, because most players in that age range aren't ready to contribute to the first team.

    I don't expect the college route to go away. Players can get needed game experience, valuable education, and the club doesn't have to pay for it. That being said, I don't think it's the optimal path for development. There is limited practice time, a short season and inconsistent quality of competition, teammates and coaching. (The quality of play and coaching I actually expect to improve though because of soccer's rise in general in this country, but the limitations on practice and the short season I expect to remain big issues.)

    In an ideal world, I'd like to see MLS U-20 and U-23 leagues, but that would be very difficult for a variety of reasons. The first of course is money. The second is that because college is available, it would be hard to get a critical mass of players in that age range enough to have a team. After all, for all but the top few prospects, college is just a much better career path.

    So instead we have a system where it becomes a struggle getting most young players games. The Reserve League and loans to NASL and USL help, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

    Oh yeah, and to the OP: your brother is wrong. Academies are helping to improve college soccer. And I like Zusi, but he ain't no Donovan.
  17. Jazzy Altidore

    Jazzy Altidore Member

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    Only a very small percentage of academy players will sign directly with an MLS team. Many of the rest will enter college soccer better prepared than had they done the old standard of travel club/high school/odp.
  18. MUTINYFAN

    MUTINYFAN Member

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    I agree and it is evident from these playoffs. If you compare Donovan's performances against Vancouver and SJ and Zusi's play against Houston, it is evident that Donovan is a more complete player and catalyst for his team. Zusi is more of a set piece specialist and good crosser but he is not as much an all around player as Donovan. He is limited as the moment.

    Then again Donovan is 30 and Zusi is 26, which my brother pointed out. Was Donovan better at 26 than Zusi at 26, perhaps not. Donovan is already fizzling out,Zusi may be hitting his prime in to his 30s as most players who turn pro at 23 are late bloomers. Geoff Cameron is 27 and still developing. We need to understand that American players at 23 and 24 will not be Messi or Cristian Ronaldo, they hit their prime at 30.

    My brother says that we need to understand that due to cultural and economic issues, our future is built around players like Zusi, Beitashour or Austin Berry. The Donovan, Beasley and Convey generation was a one off, all those players are burned out. Eddie Gaven and Mike Magee have been pro for how long and they are no Zusi. Then again I wish we could emulate Mexico's development program but as long as college soccer is there this will not happen because it produces players like Zusi who justify NCAA as a development route.
  19. FlipsLikeAPancake

    FlipsLikeAPancake Member+

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    Perhaps not? Landon Donovan at age 26 won his 5th Honda Player of the Year award for being the best USMNT player. C'mon, man.

    The problem with what your brother is saying is not that he thinks college soccer will remain to important. Most reasonable people recognize that. The problem is in thinking that college soccer and the academies are mutually exclusive. This is demonstrably false. American academies train players until they are 18. This does not conflict with college.

    What to do when players hit 18 is an open question. Some opt for college. Some try to sign with a team in Europe. Some sign with MLS teams. Coaches like Bruce Arena have decried the development gap from 18-23, and think more needs to be done to make sure players are getting good competition and games during this period. There's a lot of debate over how to improve the system for academy players.

    But let me be clear: amongst the informed, no one - NO ONE - think the academies should be scrapped and that we should "rely" on college soccer. That's just not something that makes any sense.
    MRschizoid21 repped this.
  20. chapka

    chapka Member+

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    This phenomenon is easy to explain, and it has nothing to do with the merits of college as a development system. The players your brother loves are mostly around 25 or 26 years old and have had 1-2 seasons or more of pro experience. In other words, they're in the peak of their careers. The players you need to compare them to are MLS academy products who signed as homegrowns and are 25-26 years old--in other words, fully developed as players. There aren't any.

    There aren't any. The homegrown player initiative has been in existence since 2008. In 2008, Graham Zusi was already a senior in college. Nobody that age has come through the homegrown system.

    Is Zusi a good player? Yes. Would he have been better or worse if he'd had the opportunity to turn pro at 19? We don't know, and we can't know. To take an extreme example: Lionel Messi turned pro at 17. Would he have been better off going to college instead, and starting his pro career last season, at age 23?

    Our first chance to make a real comparison will come in a few years. Let the draft classes of 2015 and 2016 and 2017 get a full season under their belts. Then compare those seniors (who are now sophomores) with their age cohort from the academies: players like Bill Hamid (21), Andy Najar (19), Juan Agudelo (19), Jack McBean (17), and so on. If the academies are working, the homegrowns should outplay most of the college crop, and the disparity should get bigger as homegrowns start entering the academies younger and younger.

    Early signs are good. MLS has only signed about 50 homegrown players. None of them are over 24. At least three of them already have national team caps (Hamid, Agudelo, Najar). Can you pick 50 college freshmen today and tell me which of them will be playing for the national team in six years?
    FlipsLikeAPancake repped this.
  21. chapka

    chapka Member+

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    Just to pile on: at the age Zusi is now (about 26 years and 3 months), Landon Donovan:
    • Had scored 36 goals for the U.S. senior national team
    • Had played in two World Cups and scored two World Cup goals
    • Was the U.S. national team's all-time leading goal-scorer
    • Had 100 caps for the full men's national team
    • Was the U.S. all-time leader in assists
    Zusi currently has six caps and one goal, in a friendly, against Panama.
  22. sidefootsitter

    sidefootsitter Member+

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    I think MLS can put pressure on the NCAA soccer in general by "strongly recommending" that its various academy graduates select a college "approved" by MLS.

    The "approved" college would have an "approved" coach who might offer a bit more than a typical college "dump and chase" approach to the game. That way, college soccer need not be such a waste that it is.

    Of course, speaking of waste - anyone checked those MLS Superdrafts lately? Ay, gewalt.
  23. Stan Collins

    Stan Collins Member+

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    Yes, but this may be down a bit to MLS and the difficulties in identifying and playing potential.

    I agree with that, and it also serves as free information for MLS. A lot of good-looking youth prospects flame out in college, which avoids MLS wasting money on them.
  24. billf

    billf Member+

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    I think the college game has value and I think it makes sense that the 23 year old players coming from the college ranks are more polished because they are older, fully developed, and have four years of competitive games under their belts. It's the whole Moneyball thing about drafting an 18 year old vs a 23 year old. The college game is going to have some role, but ultimately the academies should produce better players if those players get the training and games they need to fully develop. I think the biggest problem with college soccer right now is that the season is far too short.
  25. chapka

    chapka Member+

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    No, MLS has no leverage with the NCAA. Zero. The NCAA made more profit on last year's March Madness tournament than MLS has in its entire existence. And soccer is a non-revenue sport at most schools. Why should an NCAA school AD care what MLS thinks? Most of them don't care that much about men's soccer recruiting to start with. If you tell them they need to double the coach's salary and have their hiring decisions "approved" by MLS to stay competitive, they're more likely to cut the program than to pay.

    If MLS, or even FIFA, could put any pressure on the NCAA, the NCAA would be playing by FIFA rules by now. That they don't tells you how little the NCAA cares about MLS or FIFA.

    Yes, we have. Despite all the problems with college soccer, there are still great prospects coming through the SuperDraft. Steve Zakuani. Perry Kitchen. Omar Gonzales. Brek Shea. Roger Espinoza.
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