The US Soccer Federation on Wednesday rolled out a new initiative to help connect the national team programs to the college game via a partnership with six of the country’s top NCAA Division I men’s programs.
Dubbed the “Spring College Program,” the new effort features Clemson, Duke, Georgetown, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest, with the Eastern Seaboard powerhouses set to meet over a total of 15 games during the NCAA spring season, its development-oriented offseason phase.
The round-robin format, which culminates with all six teams gathering at Wake Forest for an event on April 21, is intended to provide “standards-based competition and further player development opportunities for players above the age of 17” and give federation scouts additional opportunities to evaluate talent for the national teams. (View the full schedule here.)
“We are excited about this program and the role it will play in helping college soccer become more connected to the player development pathway,” said U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director and U-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos in a federation release. “It provides us with additional opportunities to identify more players for youth national teams and for the Olympic team in an environment that mirrors the international game.”
The initiative is intended to address some of the shortcomings in the US soccer landscape that complicate players’ development in the “Zone 3” (age 18 and over) stage. As Ramos noted, Spring College Program games will be conducted under international rules, not NCAA’s – thus 18-player gameday rosters and limited substitutions, with no re-entry. The program will run just over six weeks in duration and the top finisher will be crowned as champion.
Each school’s coaching staff will take part in a “coaching education assignment and workshop” including data, video and other performance analysis.
“The opportunity for us to work directly with college programs will benefit players, coaches and referees at critical stages of their development,” U.S. Soccer Development Academy director Jared Micklos said. “This program will utilize standards to impact the college soccer game as we collectively work to evolve the sport at all ages and levels in our country.”