The Name on the Front: U.S. Youth Soccer

Academy and High School soccer in the United States seems to be headed toward a stormy confrontation. Soccer clubs have academy systems, which run for 10 months of the year, practicing four days per week and playing once on the weekends. Academy is to soccer as AAU is to basketball – it’s a business and extreme travel team. These soccer clubs are relatively new to the U.S. system, but have been systematically manufacturing elite talent in other countries, such as fútbol-crazed Spain and Brazil.

Clubs have premiere teams which, at that level are highly-demanding and exclusive. The main struggle between the Academy and High School systems are that they force players to pick between them. You can only play for one. There are arguments on both sides, Academy promises tougher competition, which means greater improvement, and more college scouts; a way to get an education at a reduced financial burden. High School offers different advantages such as representing one’s school, or playing with friends.

However, both are locked in a battle for commitments from the best players to join their teams. Coe-Brown feels the effects as well. Coach of the Boys Varsity squad, Mr. Gompert, explains, “Academy soccer is a business” and therefore may place the development of soccer skills above the development of character for young men. “Ensuring a player leaves the program having a good experience, playing with friends and developing an appreciation for the game of soccer is most important,” Gompert elaborates.

However, development is just what some students at Coe-Brown are looking for. Keith Hill, a Senior, and Zac Cote, a Sophomore, both attested to the difficulty involved in the decision to pick where they played. Hill, as the older of the pair, focused in on an issue central to seniors by citing, “[The decision] came down to which would give me a better opportunity to get into college.” He chose Seacoast because of the longer season and tougher competition.  Cote offers agreement and laments with some complaints from the high school side saying, “I wish Academy wasn’t a 10 month season” and confirmed his decision to play Coe-Brown soccer last season was because of friends. He did express more enthusiasm however when he mentioned his perpetual improvement and how difficult training sessions were. Both remarked that they believe Seacoast is worth the commitment.

Coe-Brown is just a microcosm of the major issue occurring in the United States, it represents the overarching conflict between the two sides.

So while the name on the back of the jersey will always remain the same, the team on the front could change quite a bit in the near future.

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