National Signing Day arrives for top college-bound soccer prospects
February 5, 2014 will be a very big day for many young talented soccer players across North America, as they sign their National Letters of Intent with universities around the United States. For many, this will mark a culminating event that they and their families have dedicated themselves to achieving for much of their young lives.
Top prospects, most from elite club teams participating in leagues such as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, the Elite Clubs National League, and US Youth Soccer’s National League, will officially — or perhaps “technically,” given that they made their commitment months or even years beforehand — put their pens to paper and commit to playing for collegiate programs across the nation.
This annual ritual remains a far bigger event for gridiron football and basketball than soccer. Yet it’s still a noteworthy occasion where not only players, but also their clubs and families, can celebrate the culmination of years of hard work and preparation.
While signing a Letter of Intent doesn’t totally guarantee that a player will end up playing for that university, usually because of professional opportunities that might arise for extremely talented players, many of the athletes do in fact wind up playing for their respective schools. Due to this reality in college soccer recruiting, many universities tend to wait until August to officially announce their incoming recruiting class.
The question of “How soon to commit?” is also a topic that surrounds this milestone in the youth soccer landscape, and was touched upon by SoccerWire.com’s Dr. Wendy Lebolt this week. We have seen recent stories of children who haven’t even set foot into a high school already committing themselves to playing for universities five years down the line. It’s probably no accident that transfers have become a common occurrence in many college soccer careers in recent years.
Others are concerned about limiting a child’s exposure to other sports by deciding at young ages to only concentrate on one particular sport, which can pose certain risks, as John O’Sullivan explains.
Although questions surrounding the process exist, the prestige surrounding the even is seemingly growing, as professional clubs such as Orlando City SC will be conducting their first ever “Signing Day” event at an area hotel to highlight the athletes within their youth system who are making college commitments.
It is an event that will certainly bring attention to the club’s growing pedigree in grooming elite players in the Central Florida region, which may be taking on additional significance as the club looks towards its ascension into Major League Soccer in 2015.
By tomorrow afternoon, many college soccer programs will have taken a big step toward strengthening their programs for the upcoming seasons. Talented young men and women will also have taken a big step in their personal, educational — and potentially their professional — careers by the end of the day as well.
For the youth soccer community which has helped them reach this point, Signing Day seems to bring both pride and uncertainty. Is the current system functioning in the best interests of both players and programs?
For now, we will just have to wait and see.