Maybe this is not the type of topic that quite fits in a place like LLT, but I believe that it does generate opinions in one way or another. I heard through a few colleagues at my other writing gig and local soccer coaches that do not understand why Hispanic kids do not participate in their local teams and they came up with the fact that the Hispanic media (Univision, Telemundo, Fux Up Sports, and Gol TV) completely ignore the collegiate game.
I was turned aback when I heard that. It was ludicrous.
The Hispanic media ignores college ball because it would be like overlooking the Super Bowl for Pop Warner ball. It is also because college soccer has kind of ignored Hispanics. This topic was generated by a BigSoccer forum thread and there were diverse points of view.
The “Elitism” Of It All
Soccer here in the US is a middle class, even elitist sport. It is not a way to get out of “the hood”. Unlike in other countries, playing in rock-laden dirt roads with a ball made out of rags and socks is where dreams come to fruition. I will argue this until the day I die. The day soccer becomes a way out of poverty- not a way to get to college- a way to get out of the inner city, then it will become one of the Big Four. When soccer becomes a legitimate way to get your mom her dream house, then it will be popular here in the US. College soccer does not offer that to hundreds of thousands of players in the US.
When people talk about few Hispanics playing at this level,it’s the truth. There are reasons for that though, and it is sad. The organized clubs, traveling teams, high schools, and colleges do not cater or encourage young players of Hispanic descent to play at a university level.
Various players that I grew up with, some of them 20 times better than some of the best college players, were never even looked at because they weren’t part of “the program”. Most of these kids could not afford the expenses of a traveling team or an ODP program. When I spoke to a close friend of mine, he mentioned that it cost him about US$ 200 dollars a month to keep his kid playing on a traveling team. I addition you have to add travel costs (plane fares, gas, hotel, etc.) for tournaments that go on every other weekend and tournament fees. It could cost a parent almost 10 grand a year to keep a kid on one of those elite sides. Now tell that to a family that has to live on 20-30 grand a year. That is why various kids fell through the cracks through history.I can tell you from personal experience that it is very tough for a family living on less than 20K a year can pay for their son or sons to on a monthly basis in addition to surviving.
These kids instead played in an adult league that college recruits would not even be caught dead at. For the collegiate scene, it is not where soccer players develop. Adult leagues, regardless of how competitive they are, become a wasteland for young players. They become stagnated and stop developing.
In recent years, there have been other options for youngsters. Mexico has shown an interest in the players that are being ignored by the US soccer “intelligentia”. In place since early on in the decade, Mexican officials have gone north of the border to find that talent and develop them in some of the big clubs down there.
There is also the potential of going straight to the MLS, its developmental teams, the USL, or abroad. Players like Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu took advantage of this and made professionalism a viable option for the American soccer player. Giuseppe Rossi and Jozy Altidore took it to the next level and made it possible for American teenagers to look at Europe in order to make their dreams come true. Clubs like Real Madrid, Everton, and a host of others have brought youngsters from the US over to develop in their academies across the pond. This in itself makes it much more exquisite to do than to college.
I am a proponent of these youngsters going for the money first. College will always be there for them, but the dollars or euros might not. So why play for free? At the same time, if the best players aren’t there, why bother? If college soccer gets little ratings in English, why give a rat’s ass in Spanish when you can see other leagues on a Saturday?
All over the world, universities are not used as feeder programs. That is the distinct difference between the club vs. franchise models. Colleges in other parts of the world are people’s options to obtain an education, not to become a professional athlete. Let’s not be naïve, in the US many athletes go to college to become professional athletes. Heck, many are professional athletes of sorts with the amount of money that they generate and the investments that are made to help a program grow.
In various countries, the clubs help the kids grow and see them evolve into young men and professional footballers. The clubs’ model of development has a curve that will have a player If there is one thing that college does benefit is that they can help cope and handle with the everything that comes along with football. If one were to track the improvement of player here in the States and one in another country, the big disparity does not become grossly evident until the American kid reaches college. The foreign kids will take off and continue to improve. Meanwhile the college kid will grow physically but his skills will either stay the same or deteriorate because the game does not cater to a skill player or keeping the ball on the ground.
Let’s be honest. UCLA or Virginia do not generate as much passion as a Boca Juniors, Real Madrid, or Barcelona. The problem is that people that were brought up and fed on college sports and afflilations to schools simply do not understand that the same way of thinking does not apply. The NBA Developmental League does not generate as much passion as the NBA. In baseball, a rookie league team is not the same as a Major League franchise. A high school football camp is not the same as playing on Sundays.
It Plain Sucks
College soccer is not that good. The game itself has fallen from being the “first division” in the United States all the way to becoming just another option for MLS and USL teams to fill gaps. It was looked down upon because of the NCAA’s prepotence in doing things their way. Their stops and starts, and unlimited substitutions changed the game and the fluidity that soccer fans are used to is non-existent. The pace of the game is pretty much the same. Three long passes and a cross to the middle of the box. You can only take so much of kick and rush and unimaginative play. This is what frustrates fans that want to see a spectacle and what they get is two narcoleptics armwrestling.
Tell us what you think?