(Mar 25, 2015) Across the board, the level of soccer in the Pacific Northwest continues to impress: Attendance at pro games is the highest in the country by almost a factor of 2; Seattle pro teams, the MLS Sounders FC and NWSL Reign FC, are doing well, both teams through to post-season playoffs (Western Conference Championships and National Championships, respectively) in 2014; enrollment in Washington Youth Soccer is over 105,000; and college placement by Washington youth soccer clubs astounds.
At Eastside FC, we are particularly proud of the numbers of players from our area moving on to play in colleges and universities across the country. Over 100 players from the graduating classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 at Eastside FC went on to play college ball. (See list.) The numbers are even greater if you add in the young men who feed into the Development Academy system before going off to play in college. What's more, there are equally impressive numbers from a handful of soccer clubs in our area during the same period, a tribute to the fact that talented and passionate soccer coaches, many of them former professional players, have helped build a thriving soccer culture. (See article about Seattle Sounders’ legacy at EFC.)
Commenting on the quality of players in and around Seattle, Randy Hanson, Head Coach of the University of Puget Sound Women's Soccer Program and Assistant Coach of the US U20 Women's National Team, points out, "You can depend on the way the top clubs in the state train their players." In Washington, Hanson and his staff scout players from the state's top youth leagues, including RCL Division I and ECNL. "As a college coach, if you only scout one league or the other, you risk missing great players." Coach Hanson knows a thing or two about recruiting and evaluating talent, having led his UPS women's team to 13 Northwest Conference championships and earned 10 conference Coach-of-the-Year awards. He is one of the top-20 all-time winningest soccer coaches in the NCAA.
It takes more than having skill and playing in the right league, however. Players have a much better chance if they work to create their own opportunities: they need to pay attention to their academic performance and seek out, and develop a dialog with coaches from schools where they're interested in playing. According to Hanson, "The combination of playing in a top league and using the player's own efforts to find the right fit is always going to be a winning formula."
"The truth is," says Chance Fry, Eastside FC Director of Operations, Head Coach, a 14-year professional and former US National Team player, "every single player on our U18 teams who has come up through the ranks at Eastside FC can play in college if he or she chooses to." Fry notes that not all kids choose to play at the college level. "Every kid on my team (EFC G96 Red) this year was offered a spot to play in college," he says, "but, some chose a great school over playing soccer at a school that's not a fit. Fortunately, 100% of the kids on the team will be going on to college. That’s what really matters."
Tom Bunnell, EFC's College Coordinator, who's tasked with helping players with their college search, agrees. "As proud as we are as a club that our players get to play at the next level, we are just as proud of their school choices. Soccer plus hard work in the classroom has provided them the opportunity to play at some of the best academic institutions in the country. The goal is to get a great education; getting to play college ball is just icing on the cake."
We've examined the 5 clubs who’ve had the greatest number of college commitments announced so far this year in and around Seattle. While students from all clubs are still deciding where to attend, following is the college commitment data currently available for 2015. All the data is self-reported, and taken from club websites as of March 11, 2015.
Based on the numbers, it's important to play high-level soccer such as in the first division of RCL. It's also important to have opportunities for development, including having experienced and qualified coaches and ample playing opportunities. It doesn't help to be on a great team if you don’t get playing time. Exposure to college coaches at college showcases such as those attended by EFC teams is always helpful. And, you have to be willing to do the work: search out potential schools; reach out to coaches; indicate your interest in their programs; invite them to watch you play; send them video, grades, test scores,... Take advantage of the college placement help offered by Eastside FC to get yourself started.
Bottom line, if you are a player at EFC and want to play in college, you can find a way. Keep up those grades, be coachable and willing to work on your game, and work at finding schools that meet your needs, then reach out to and communicate with coaches at the schools in which you're interested. Before you know it, you’ll be getting a great education while continuing your passion for the beautiful game.
Click here to view more details of the summary data above.