NCAA Boots the Soccer Ball, Again

This past Wednesday, the NCAA Division 1 Council tabled a vote to approve a split fall-spring season for men’s soccer. The vote called for a change to the men’s current fall college soccer season and split the season into fall & spring season with a proposed championship in June. The prior vote on this issue was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it is delayed yet again. The ultimate beneficiaries of these changes would have been student-athletes and fans alike.

The plan, called the ’21st century model’ by proponents, would have allowed colleges to recruit players who otherwise were going to professional soccer academies. Under the tabled proposal, players would have gained similar developmental experience in college. As it stands now, college players have matches for three months starting in late August and finishing in late November. Then, teams play Spring soccer matches which are essentially exhibitions. So, D1 soccer teams do not actually play competitive matches for nine months of the year while packing an unhealthy multiple games per week into the current tight fall schedule.

As cited previously, we at LetGoDU fully support extending the current fall soccer season into the spring. The proposal would consist of thirteen games in the fall and pause around Thanksgiving before picking back up in the spring with nine more matches before the postseason. They would end up playing a similar number of matches as they currently play but exclusively in the fall. The College Cup would fall between lacrosse’s Championship Weekend during Memorial Day and baseball’s College World Series. The split season would also put playoffs and the championship in spring weather – a solution to low-attended Cups in inclement fall conditions  – and allow a week break between the semifinals and final instead of the current one-day rest.

The endlessly delayed proposal would be a positive for the following reasons:

  • Same number of games for student-athletes per school year
  • Less weekday travel
  • Cuts down on multi-match weeks
  • Fewer injuries with fewer games played per week according to the NCAA’s own study
  • Longer development and training period for student-athletes
  • Less class time missed
  • Better fit for possible professional development and can compete for recruits with the academy system
  • Year-round coaching, training, conditioning, and nutrition
  • Improve the fan experience with more weekend games, better weather and better quality on the pitch

The only downside is facility availability for some schools – not including DU – and approval of the model may impact current training and conditioning staff who are split between fall and spring sports. This could be a problem for DU but can be managed effectively. The tabled proposal does not include women’s soccer, but it should. NCAA studies show women’s soccer players experience just as many injuries as men and would reap the same benefits from such a schedule change. Recruiting against academies continues to put Denver and other sides at a distinct disadvantage.

This is an opportunity lost to improve the game for student-athletes and fans. But, of course, this is the NCAA and any positive change is going to have to survive plenty of unnecessary massive obstacles.

Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

5 thoughts on “NCAA Boots the Soccer Ball, Again”

  1. Don’t really understand why this thing keeps getting tabled..

    The benefits are obvious, many and quite honestly, very needed to keep D-I soccer as a viable development option for those who wish to play beyond college. If this isn’t approved, good players will go to the academies and college soccer will be stuck with second tier athletes with no future in the game. Given the future growth of soccer in the USA, I hope this gets approved soon…

    The drawbacks seem small and solvable, mostly around facilities and support staff allocation.

  2. I don’t see how going from the #1 visibility fall sport to the #3 visibility spring sport could possibly be a good thing. NCAA soccer shouldn’t be a professional development league, they have several levels of that already in the United States.

  3. You state that the only downside is facilities and athletic training staff.

    How much more can this generation of young ass immature soccer coaches get? and how naive can you be?. The real question and or statement should be “What about every other sport (Women & Men) that would benefit from the same 2 season reasons as soccer. Open your eyes and brains. Do you not think that if and when this gets approved, you will see other sports wanting to do the same. Have you dumb asses ever thought about the pebble in the pond effect? Will lacrosse (men & women), baseball, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, softball, ETC receive the same, “playing two seasons” And how will the administrations of the institutions justify that one sport is worthy and another sport is not. These other sports are just as vulnerable and experience just as many injuries (aww boo hoo), time away from school etc, as soccer and would reap the same benefits from such a schedule change. Remember, if you choose to play DI athletics, know what your getting into. Lastly, competing with the academies, really???. Get off your ass ass and go recruit. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF GREAT PLAYERS WHO ARE NOT IN THE ACADEMY SYSTEM… go take a look you just might find better players who cant afford the PAY to Play model. And oh by the way, many of them have really great character and grades. Just don’t have the $$$ to play with the soccer snobs

  4. One of the obstacles preventing US soccer from being world class is that the scholastic seasons are different from international seasons especially that of Europe. Players in colleges, high schools and middle schools play for 3 months a year. Unless selected for the very few numbers of professional MLS academies that are free for players, only wealthy kids can afford pay to play clubs. The obvious answer is to expand the scholastic seasons especially starting in public middle and high schools so that low income players who are now being ignored have a chance to develop to a high level.

    For all the major American professional sports, the high schools, colleges and universities are the feeders to the professional ranks. For example, we set the highest standards in American football and basketball. Their seasons are set by our standards and traditions.

    We need the same pathway from scholastic to professional soccer but the best players in the world are in Europe and other countries that play 10 months out of the year. We must match their schedules and methodologies if we will ever become on par internationally.

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