Kicking ball all year long

Kicking ball all year long

Eric Wong

Does academy soccer provide the extra edge to get noticed by college recruiters?

For most soccer players, winter is the start of the school team season. Normal club soccer commitments are on hold as MVHS boys and girls don purple and white jerseys to represent the school. However, club programs known as "academies" develop year-long schedules to cater to prolific players who wish to play at the highest level year-round.  The US Soccer Development Academy program is a nationwide soccer organization that helps prepare aspiring college athletes to get the exposure they need to be recruited.  In California alone, there are 16 highly competitive teams that form the western conference.  Photo taken from US Soccer Development Academy.

Players who have performed at a high level for their club teams are recommended to these "academy" programs starting from the under-14 age group.  Directors and coaches for academy teams will track the player’s progress at their club, and if they feel that the player is skilled enough, they will invite him or her to practice with the academy team and ultimately join it.  

Sophomore Aaron Ho joined the De Anza Force Academy at the start of his sophomore year in hopes of continuing his soccer career in college. He enjoys the benefit of being able to play in front of college scouts on a regular basis. 

"So far, St. Mary’s [University] has shown some interest," Ho said. "My aspiration is to go to a Division I college but ultimately, I want to go to a good [academic] school and also be able to play soccer." 

Recently, Ho’s team traveled to Arizona to participate in a college showcase tournament where he played in three games, winning two and losing one. 

On the other hand, juniors Yash Chitneni and Joshua LeFevre on the varsity soccer team have a different opinion on the value of joining an academy program.  When they are not participating on the school team, LeFevre and teammate junior Alex Onishi are part of a competitive club team that is ranked 58th in the nation. Chitneni was also part of the team until recent withdrawal. 

"Academy [soccer] is considered to be for the best of the best and college recruiters look there for developing players for the college level," Chitneni said. "It’s a lot of travel and you have to skip school.  Even if you get to be playing against better guys — I mean [senior] Tsuk [Haroush’s] team is ranked 35th in the nation and our team was ranked 50th so we [still] get plenty of competition. [Academy] seems like a waste of money." 

The average cost of a club program is $2,000 for a year, but upwards to $4,000 for academy programs, excluding travel costs.
Juniors Yash Chitneni, Joshua LeFevre and Alex Onishi are members of the De Anza Force SC 92B club team, where they have plenty of opportunity to play against other highly skilled and competitive soccer players.  Photo courtesy of Yash Chitneni.

LeFevre, who also plans to continue his soccer career in college, doesn’t feel that academy teams are worth it, even with the chance to get extra exposure to colleges recruiters. 

"Club teams are just as good as academy." LeFevre said.  "I was recommended [for academy soccer] but I’d rather stay on my club team. Academy is probably just a little bit better in terms of getting more showcases." 

Academy soccer seems to be the right fit for players, like Ho, who are particularly focused about the college recruitment process; but club soccer is a cheaper alternative that can provide a relatively similar experience.