3 New Trends Impacting College Recruiting

Coaches discussing and evaluating players
Recent changes to youth and college soccer programs will significantly impact the recruiting process

If you’ve been following current events in the world of soccer, you’ve likely seen some startling headlines. In the last few weeks, US Soccer announced the closure of its Development Academy, numerous games and tournaments have been cancelled or postponed, the University of Cincinnati shuttered its men’s soccer program, and other schools are expected to make similar announcements in the near future.

With so many sudden changes to youth and college programs, we’ll all be faced with a dramatically different soccer environment when we finally return to the pitch. How will these changes affect parents and players whose sights are set on a college soccer career? Time will tell how this all plays out, but here are a few trends that will likely impact the college recruiting process.

1. Restructured Youth Leagues and Teams

After months of rumors, US Soccer at last terminated the Development Academy on April 15th. The DA featured almost 200 clubs and included all of the MLS academy teams. Some of these clubs have already been incorporated into a newly-added ECNL conference.

What does this mean for you?

The ECNL girls side already offers a rich development environment and its boys side is building a solid reputation. There will be some uncertainty in the short term as coaches, players and administrators familiarize themselves with the new conference structure and prepare for competitive play, but in the long run the ECNL is a solid option for players seeking to prepare for college.

Meanwhile, MLS is ramping up its elite development program. Players who have local access to an MLS franchise will certainly benefit from these elite training environments and the opportunities they’ll have to compete against domestic and international teams. The MLS program also eliminates the pay-to-play barrier that has limited access to high-level training for so many talented athletes.

While these changes may be positive, the path forward for these new and expanded programs is not entirely certain. Players will still need to have strong support from experienced coaches and mentors who can help them navigate the college recruiting process.

2. Fewer Opportunities to Compete

With regular season competition being extended through May or June, there will soon be a flurry of games and showcases attracting droves of college coaches in search of potential recruits. Regardless of the season extension and the addition of some new tournaments, there just aren’t enough “extra” days or weeks to replace all of the matches that would have been played under normal circumstances.

What does this mean for you?

As I’ve mentioned previously, the competition will be fierce when recruiting opens up again. College coaches will be looking to make decisions quickly and only the players who have worked extremely hard during the hiatus will be in a position to stand out.

With budget cuts and limited ability to travel, college coaches will be forced to rely on videos even more to help them scout. Be sure your highlights reel is up-to-date and in the hands of the coaches you’d like to impress.

There will also be far fewer games and tournaments in the foreseeable future where players can be evaluated by coaches. Players must make every appearance count, and they should also seek out coaches and advisors who understand their strengths and can advocate on the player’s behalf to college coaches.

3. Fewer College Roster Spots and Scholarships

The closure of the University of Cincinnati’s men’s program, however startling, seems to be part of a nationwide trend in this direction. While the full effects of COVID-19 on the global economy are just beginning to be felt, universities’ endowments will almost certainly be impacted, forcing administrators to make tough decisions about which sports to keep afloat – and which to cut. For schools across the country, soccer is a money-loser, making it a prime candidate for the chopping block come budget-time.

What does this mean for you?

With every program that’s eliminated, the pool of roster spots available for aspiring players shrinks. Going forward, uncommitted players will need to really knock coaches’ socks off if they want to be recruited.

Beyond the mere survival of soccer programs, shrinking endowments mean college athletic departments are likely to have their scholarship resources cut – and be subjected to additional scrutiny regarding how the funds are distributed. This will also apply to academic scholarships. The bottom line: Student-athletes who are relying on financial support to afford their college education should closely monitor this situation and speak to their coaches, recruiting advisors and college admissions officers for advice.

While it may seem like there are an overwhelming number of changes taking place, rest assured that wonderful college opportunities will continue to be available for players who work hard, stay focused on their goals, and remain informed.

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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach him at