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Colleges face roster challenges in spring

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: October 5, 2020

Planning to graduate high school early and compete for a NCAA Division Championship this spring? 

Think again. 

A silver lining of the reshuffling of the college soccer season had been the potential of super recruiting classes that incorporated two high school graduation years. Programs and players were in line to take advantage of the unusual circumstances, and frankly, create an exciting addition to the college game.  

However, the NCAA Division I Council made an adjustment to the legislation that could create more harm than good. With the updated guidelines for moving the season to the spring and adjusting the number of teams in the postseason tournament, there was also an adjustment for roster construction: “Prohibit midyear enrollees from competing in the 2020-21 academic year.”

Any players intending to join for January are still able to, but they won’t be competing in the upcoming spring season unless that adjustment is modified again, which seems unlikely according to a college coach with knowledge of the proposals. 

The NCAA furloughed the entire staff for three-to-eight weeks as a cost saving measure last month. The time away likely makes a revision to the “midyear enrollees” stipulation a long shot. 

Beyond improving the rosters with additional players for the spring season, the possibility of adding some bodies to the squad might actually be crucial for completing a full season (and postseason) during the spring. 

Even when the fall season only had a couple of conferences in action, a few teams could not field enough players to take part in the games. 

NC State (women) and Boston College (men) were among the teams that were forced to sit out the fall season of competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) due to roster constraints. 

“Our protocols have been great, our testing has gone great for our team and we wanted to play,” NC State head coach Tim Santoro told ESPN. “We just simply ran into a numbers crunch.”

The numbers crunch for many teams will come down to international players. That pipeline for recruits is slowing down and nearly closed off given current travel restrictions, which has altered recruiting classes in the immediate future and made it difficult to get the full 2020 class onto campus for the fall. 

With the inability to add players during the midyear (January), this is going to force more programs into the difficult decision that NC State and Boston College had to to think about last month prior to the start of the ACC fall campaign. 

On top of that dilemma, there has been indications from both MLS and NWSL that the leagues are still planning to still have their annual drafts for players entering the professional league from the college game. With expansion teams joining both teams in 2021, those drafts will be crucial for building depth to rosters and pull quite a few players from the college game. 

Early exits to the professional game, the college drafts, and December college graduations are all contributing to the one-way traffic for player movement away from college soccer rosters. Allowing midyear enrollees would shift the tide in the other direction and help keep teams on the field this spring. 

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