College soccer often gets a bad rap, but it can be an unwieldy beast. For all its advantages, it’s been historically slow to adapt, resistant to holistic change and stubbornly brazen when it comes to joining the developmental fray. In the face of a swiftly changing landscape, the question of “adapt or die” takes on vital significance.
Today is for talking points. The idea that men’s college soccer has fallen behind (or, at the very least, is falling behind) is popular, but is it true? Historically, for the most part, yes. That’s created a growing groundswell of support for the eventual abolition of college soccer as a rung in the developmental ladder. Who needs it? Direct jumps from the Development Academy/elite club ranks to the pros are the ultimate ideal. Right?
It may be that years into the future college soccer will be a footnote as a legitimate talent producer. But what a waste it would’ve been. Many top Division I programs have facilities that rival – and in some cases outpace – European academies. There are dozens of entrenched coaching staffs doing marvelous work preparing and teaching players for the next level (though yes, there are, as with any world league, bad apples).
Point being that the framework is there. With the help of a paring knife – right, better make it a machete – college soccer can one day become a real part of the equation. But it’ll take a massive overhaul and the willingness to completely change what we know about college soccer. It will have its adherents and its detractors like anything. But hopefully it’ll move the needle.
An important distinction we have to make off the bat is that many of these rules would require the NCAA to either bend or snap its current structure to fit. We’re living in a world of idealism today. And many of these innovations would require pruning to fit them into niches where they’d be most comfortable. But there’s loose precedent at play with how the NCAA deals in rulebook science differently with its various sports, albeit often haphazardly and blindly. We can harbor pipe dreams that it will come to see men’s soccer in a similarly important light some day.
Here we go. Ways to change college soccer from a standalone necklace into a bonafide link on a wider American developmental chain.