adidas ESP is starting....
This year's event kicks off July 5th and plays through July 10th and will be hosted by The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut. The camp includes training sessions, matches, sports psychology sessions and a chance to watch the World Cup final. There is even a presentation from Chelsea FC on international soccer.
The most important part of the camp are the games. Players are broken up onto different teams and play together throughout camp. The biggest benefit to these kids are the college scouts in attendance. Many of the players are going into their senior year of high school and this could be the chance for them to make a major college program.
The event started in 1997 and has seen some of the stars of MLS and American soccer. We all recognize names like: DaMarcus Beasley, Alecko Eskandarian, Kyle Martino, Edson Buddle, Jonathan Spector, Brad Davis, Oguchi Onyewu, Danny O'Rourke, Michael Parkhurst and on and on. Over 40 current professional players have played at adidas ESP. ESP's first alumni are still young and as American soccer grows, I think we'll see more and more ESP grads in the pros. MLS coaches are no doubt seeing this in the player bio and seeing it as a major feather in the cap.
So who is next? It is obviously hard to say without having seen any of these kids play. Much of the 2004 crop of players are going into their sophomore college seasons or just starting college. A couple have already signed contracts with MLS; Quavas Kirk plays in LA and Josmer Altidore plays for New York. Neither have seen much playing time in MLS but they continue to grow and play in the youth national team program. The ESP website has the 2004 and 2005 all*stars so I will monitor those lists, and see how they are doing in college. Jonathan Villanueva, who I wrote about earlier, was one of the 2005 all*stars at ESP.
In my opinion American soccer needs more of these types of events, allowing more talent to be scouted. It'd be great if each region of the country could hold one of these, allowing the local pro teams and colleges a look at the best of the best in the U-17 category. This event gets 136 of the best youngsters into the spotlight. However, we all know in a country with almost 300 million people, 136 kids is just scratching the surface. This is not a knock against ESP. It is a leader in this category and will help the US continue becoming a soccer nation. I'm just pointing out that it'd be a lot better to have 1,000 + kids each summer playing at this level, getting professional coaching and getting scouted by the top colleges.