From College to the Pros - The US soccer ladder

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

MLS Rule Changes and Player Development...

Back in October I posted an update to a theme I had blogged about in the past. Player development is of great interest to me so you can understand why it hits the blog on a somewhat regular basis. Now comes more news on this front. MLS is doing what it does every year while crowing a champion, changes the rules.

In the past there have been important, great rule changes that have brought the league closer to the World's Game. One in particular signaled that MLS finally gets it, that was when they moved from a count down clock to a count up. This time around I'm not sure what the league gets.

Here is a summary of the 2009 adjustments:

- Roster size decreases from 28 to 24 players
- Schedule changes
- How to qualify for the playoffs
- International club competition qualification

As you can see from the detail in the above list, and as you might expect, I really only care about one of those. The rest I think the league did the right thing. I will say, I'd like to see the league have fewer teams in the playoffs, but that is for another blog.

So, the roster shrinks from 28 to 24. Read the following text to learn the details of the change directly from the horse's mouth. Bold is my own.

Following an extensive review of the operation of the Reserve Division over the past four years, MLS has decided that it will be more efficient to cease operation of the Reserve Division and to divert funds from its operations to more directed programs such as a bolstered senior roster, increased commitment to the Generation adidas program and focused initiatives to provide leading prospects with game experience, whether in MLS or elsewhere. These options are currently being reviewed by an MLS working group.

Each team will be permitted to carry 18, 19 or 20 senior roster players (at its option) within the overall salary budget (the limit in 2008 was 18 senior roster players). In addition, teams will be permitted to carry up to four developmental players (including Generation adidas players) outside of the team salary budget. Any team with more than four Generation adidas players carried forward from 2008 will be grandfathered with respect to the size of their developmental roster.

Bonji's Analysis: Senior roster spots go up to 20 from 18, developmental spots go down from 10 to 4. Sure, a team could keep 18 senior players and 6 developmental and I'm sure some will to save money. But lets look at the worst case scenario for player development. 4 developmental players without a reserve league to play in.

While deciding this change MLS must have ignored the success the Rapids have had with the reserve league, or they decided they aren't getting the quality of player from that system the league needs to thrive. The league also might have looked down the road at the youth systems teams have set up and thought those will fill in eventually as the sport grows. Either way, I am disappointed to see the league fold the reserve league. After all, it is the only trophy the Rapids have been able to win recently.

Back to the Rapids success with the reserve team. The Rapids have used the set up to get young players ready to play in MLS matches. Starters for the first team started out with the reserve team. See below:
Bouna Coundoul: 315 reserve minutes in 2005 before standing in for injured Joe Cannon in 2006. Those performances while backing up Joe Cannon opened the door for the Rapids to trade Cannon making Bouna the starter in 2007. Would the Rapids have felt comfortable with Bouna as a backup without the reserve team experience?
Jordan Harvey: 2006 missed only one reserve game. 2007 started 10 out of 10 reserve league games. 2008 became the starting left back for the Rapids down the stretch under Gary Smith, playing in 15 matches.
The list goes on; Stephen Keel (6 first team matches in '08), Omar Cummings (26 first team matches in '08), Nick LaBrocca (30 first team matches in '08) even went so far as to get a call up to a US National Team Camp this fall.

I think you get the point. The reserve team was working for teams who drafted well and took the reserve league seriously. The Rapids prided themselves on the reserve league and they got a group of players who went 5-4-1 under a good coach this fall.

This will change the draft as well. Instead of 15 teams drafting for potentially 10 development spots, they're now looking at 4. It is going to be a lot harder for a young college grad to find a spot on a roster since they'll be competing with second and third year pros who are also watching their prospects fizzle. Its a player cram down basically.

For me it was a mistake to cancel the reserve league and showed MLS is focused on signing players from abroad or Americans who have developed up abroad. The league is cutting off a good source of players so move the funds somewhere else. I guess the guys with the money didn't want to figure out a way to expand the senior roster and keep the reserve league which would have been the best of both worlds. What do you think?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Off To The Races....

And they're off! November Nuttery is upon us once again. That's right, the 2008 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship kicked off today. Remember to follow along through the weekend on-line.

I didn't have anyone interested in printing and sending in a bracket so I'm not doing anything for a pool. I did however participate in BigSoccer's version. I'll use this blog as a bragging point if I do well.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Men's Soccer U-Pick-Em...

Anyone interested in a little November Nuttery pool? Print and fill in the bracket before the first match, just like you do in March. Scan it and email it to me. I'll score them and post results...that is unless someone can find an on-line site doing this.

You've got two days to fill a bracket and email it in. In your email give me the name you want to have posted on the blog and where you're from. I need all entries by 11/21/08 at 11 am est.



2008 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship Bracket...

Here it is folks, the magic bracket. By now you've probably seen the other soccer blogs talking about the seeds. I'm going to talk about the most interesting first round match ups.

First off, a lot of the first round games pit geographic rivals. I'm sure the NCAA does this for travel reasons, plus it is cool to try and get some local stuff going on.

UMass vs. Harvard
Boston College vs. Colgate
Northwestern vs. Loyola (Ill)
UCLA vs. Cal Poly
UConn vs. Fairfield
Cal vs. San Francisco

Those should be some good games. Which games are you looking forward to checking out? If anyone is headed to a NCAA Championship match let me know. I'd love to get some write ups from readers.


Friday, November 14, 2008

ACC Men's Soccer Championship Semi-Finals...

Today we'll see who will face off for the ACC Men's Soccer Championship. Interestingly the seeding is coming true as the #1 - #4 teams are in the semi's. #2 Maryland vs. #3 Boston College kicks off at 5:30pm est and the second match, #1 Wake Forest vs. #4 Virginia, 8pm est.

As a reminder you can watch the games for free on the ACC Select website. Links are on the above linked ACC website. The coverage is actually remarkably good for on-line, college coverage. I watched some of the NC State vs. Wake game and the two doing the announcing did a better job then some MLS teams. Well done ACC!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008 MLS Rookie Of The Year...

It is official, Sean Franklin wins 2008 Rookie Of The Year award.

As I sad ten days ago, this class of rookies doesn't really seem to hold up to previous years. I also don't think Sean Franklin will end up being the best player to come out of the class, I just think it could take others longer to mature. I also think people will scratch their head when they compare this year's award winner to previous years winners.

2008: Sean Franklin - Los Angeles Galaxy
2007: Maurice Edu - Toronto FC
2006: Jonathan Bornstein - Chivas USA
2005: Michael Parkhurst - New England Revolution
2004: Clint Dempsey - New England Revolution
2003: Damani Ralph - Chicago Fire
2002: Kyle Martino - Columbus Crew
2001: Rodrigo Faria - MetroStars
2000: Carlos Bocanegra - Chicago Fire
1999: Jay Heaps - Miami Fusion
1998: Ben Olsen - D.C. United
1997: Mike Duhaney - Tampa Bay Mutiny
1996: Steve Ralston - Tampa Bay Mutiny

Does anyone out there think Franklin will be headed to Europe in a few years for successful careers like Dempsey or Bocanegra? Or will Franklin be the next Jay Heaps or Kyle Martino? I tend to think he'll have a career as a serviceable player but won't stay in anyone's mind as an amazing player.

I don't know, am I being too harsh? Is my season ticket in Denver keeping me from seeing a gem in LA? What do you all think?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

FCTP and Facebook...

You've by now probably noticed the Twitter widget on the right margin and now there is a new one. If you're a Facebook user there is a new way to follow FCTP. Read through the players I'm keeping my eyes on and you'll be rewarded. Amongst the players you'll find another new widget that lets you follow FCTP through my blog network. Hook in there and find lots of other quality soccer blogs.


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Where Did This Kid Come From?

Remember this name: Tony Tchani

I stumbled across him as I was looking at ACC conference awards for this year. He won a few honors in his first year; 2008 All-ACC 2nd Team, 2008 All-ACC Freshman Team, 2008 ACC Freshman of the Year.

I asked myself how he won these without making my list previously, usually I have at least seen the standout kids through the ESP camps, someone else posting somewhere...but this time no. Nothing.

I did a little research and it turns out Tchani just emigrated here from his birthplace of Cameroon in 2006. He's been playing soccer since he was five and when he got here he quickly joined the Maury High School team in Norfolk, Virginia. His 6-4 physique and soccer skills developed a following and that apparently led to UVA.

The ACC Championship will undoubtedly be his coming out party with MLS coaches and scouts. Before long his name will be known in Europe as foreign scouts are watching the American game more and more.

In his freshman season the midfielder/forward led the Cavaliers with nine goals and created three more, in 13 matches.

Tchani has dreams of playing professionally and it certainly seems like he could be stepping to MLS in the next couple years.

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ACC Men's Soccer Championship Underway...

Let's face it, every year the Atlantic Coast Conference provides some of the biggest names in the MLS Draft and more importantly many of the players who actually make a professional career in MLS. No, I haven't done an exact study but lets look at some of the recent big names to come through the MLS draft.

2008 #7 - Patrick Nyarko - Virginia Tech
2008 #10 - Pat Phelan - Wake Forest
2007 #1 - Maurice Edu - Maryland
2007 #2 - Bakary Soumare - Virginia
2007 #3 - Michael Harrington - North Carolina
2007 #4 - Chris Seitz - Maryland
2007 #5 - Wells Thompson - Wake Forest
2007 #6 - Nico Colaluca - Virginia
2007 #19 - Dane Richards - Clemson
2006 #3 - Jason Garey - Maryland
2006 #6 - Dax McCarty - North Carolina
2006 #7 - Justin Moose - Wake Forest
2006 #12 - Nathan Sturgis - Clemson
2005 #2 - Brad Guzan - South Carolina
2005 #7 - Hunter Freeman - Virginia
2005 #9 - Michael Parkhurst - Wake Forest
2005 #11 - Scott Sealy - Wake Forest
2005 #13 - Jamie Watson - North Carolina
2005 #20 - Marcus Storey - North Carolina
2005 #21 - James Riley - Wake Forest

You get the point. While the Pac 10, Big 10, Big East and other conferences do provide players to MLS, also who are drafted higher or have better careers, statistically speaking you're bound to find a solid pro in the ACC more often. There just seem to be more of them.

So now to the point of this post. The ACC Men's Soccer Championship kicked off yesterday with a first round game between #8 NC State and #9 Virginia Tech. It seems without Nyarko VT can't score anymore and they lost to NC State 3-1. NC State won the right to play #1 Wake Forest today...lucky them. Wake has been outstanding this season putting together a 17-0-1 record. Yes, only one draw all losses.

The other matches:
#2 Maryland vs. #7 North Carolina
#3 Boston College vs. #6 Clemson
#4 Virginia vs. #5 Duke

Check out the All-ACC teams for this season to see many of the names you'll see in the draft come January.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Player Tracking Update....

My apologies for being so far behind this year but the update is posted. All four classes are new and improved. If you see an error or a player who's school has a question mark next to it, please let me know if you know where this player is as I have lost track of him and haven't been able to find him.

Here is how the numbers look:
Seniors - 151
Juniors - 184
Sophomores - 177
Freshman - 126

To those new to the site, my methodology looks like this. If a player has won an honor or an award like Player of the Year in a conference, or if he was part of the US Soccer Residency, or if he participated in the adidas ESP camps...he makes my list. I obviously miss things because this is a manual process but I do my best. Any suggestions to the list are appreciated.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Let The 2009 MLS SuperDraft Chatter Begin!!!

Anyone reading this blog knows what I get excited for every year. As the college season wraps up, as snow starts falling, as it gets cold out, my mind turns to the MLS Draft. The show is starting to pop and Buzz has updated his Generation Adidas tracking list. He did it a month ago, I'm a little behind. Check the right hand margin regularly as I'll post new links with resources for the 2009 Draft as I find them. Have one, email me.

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Player Highlight...Casey Townsend of Maryland...

I was just going through my list, doing some updates. Ok, many updates due to the fact I haven't looked at it in months. As I was looking at Maryland I was excited to see how Maryland Freshman Forward, Casey Townsend's season is going.

Townsend first made my list when he was named an All-Star at the Adidas ESP camp during the summer of 2006. Subsequently he added the following honors to his resume: 2006 NSCAA/Adidas All-American, 2007 US U-18 Team, 2007 NSCAA/Adidas Boys Youth All-America Team, 2007 NSCAA/Adidas Boys High School All-America Team, 2008 Rise Magazine #6 recruit, 2007-08 Michigan Gatorade State Players of the Year.

Townsend has led his school to a strong 14-3-0 record and the #5 spot in the CSN Top 30. Going into the ACC tourney, Maryland will be a force to be reckoned with in part due to Townsend's scoring prowess. Townsend has started all 17 games this season and has scored 10 goals while creating 2.

Coach Cirovski said the following about his freshman forward on the Maryland website:
He is the top attacking player we have recruited to Maryland. Look for Casey to be a nuisance to opponents. He is a goal scorer!

"Top attacking player" is high praise when you consider Taylor Twellman and Robbie Rogers played for Maryland.

This freshman season will undoubtedly put Townsend into the Generation Adidas scuttlebutt come January. What do you think? Should he stay in college or should he jump to the pros, seemingly to accelerate his development?


Monday, November 03, 2008

MLS 2008 Rookie Of The Year Nominees....

MLS award nominees are out and as you should expect my eyes went first to Rookie of the Year.

Rookie of the Year: Sean Franklin, Geoff Cameron, Kheli Dube

As always I like to take a look back, see where they came from and the like. Here is some bio info.

Sean Franklin was the highest draft pick of the three. He was taken #4 overall by LA after playing college soccer at Cal State Northridge. He was the first non-generation adidas pick in the '08 draft. He first hit my list in 2007 when he got some time with the US U-23 team. He was also selected to the 2007 All PDL team after a strong summer playing in the amateur league. The defender was one of the lone bright spots on a terrible LA defensive line and you have to wonder if he would have earned those 26 starts on another team. I'm not trying to knock the kid, he played well and had a good rookie year, but he was part of a defense that gave up a staggering 62 goals. A stronger defensive unit, not starting a rookie almost all season, would have probably helped the Gals make the playoffs seeing as that they scored the most goals in the league. Obviously not all his fault, but something to think about.

Geoff Cameron was a total unknown to me when he was drafted 42nd overall by Houston. The young midfielder played his college ball at the University of Rhode Island and was the 2007 A-10 midfielder of the year. That award should have put him on my list, but I somehow missed him. I must have been busy with work when those were announced. Geoff played 921 minutes for the Houston senior team in 2008 making him a somewhat unknown commodity to those of us who don't attend/watch every Houston match. Frankly I'm somewhat surprised to see his name on the list, but like I said, I didn't get to see him play much. I'm starting to worry about this class selected by the league.

Last but not least; Kheli Dube. The forward had a strong rookie year for New England scoring four goals and making four assists. He played over 1,200 minutes for the Revs which is good on a team with such talent. Dube was drafted 8th in the 2008 Supplemental Draft out of Costal Carolina University. At CCU he earned the 2007 Big South Conference Player of the Year award. He is a quick SOB and I'm excited to see more of him in 2009.

Of all the players nominated I'm having a tough time picking my favorite. Franklin seemed to live up to his high draft pick while Dube came out of a less known college program and made the best of his opportunity and the same can probably be said for Cameron. However, I am surprised these are the Rookie of the Year candidates and I fear this is a sign of things to come as MLS signs more players directly from academies and foreign leagues. The young Americans players coming out of college are not always ready to play the pro game in their first year and this list shows it.

Should they be ready to make the jump? That is up to individual opinion. My opinion is as follows. The expectation should be different for each player. In the case of an eighteen year old GA player, you can't expect him to jump into a man's game right away. Kids like Jozy Altidore are the exception. If they can play well in their rookie year, great...but I don't expect them to. Twenty-three year old men like Franklin are a different story. They've developed mentally and physically and need to be ready upon joining MLS to battle and play hard. MLS is signing them hoping they can contribute from day one. As the player pool expands in the coming years rookies are going to get more chances and they need to be ready. The fact that Franklin's back line was so porous is due to his inexperience and lack of leadership, yet he is a rookie of the year candidate?

I fear for the future of American college soccer and the players it produces when this list is the pick of the litter. In foreign leagues twenty three years olds have been training professionally for a few years. They are ready to capitalize on given opportunities to start in the best leagues around the world. The kids coming to MLS from college are hindered by NCAA rules. Therefore, I see more and more future pros coming from Academies and other leagues, not college unless NCAA changes their rules and allows more training and game time. Time will tell.

As for my Rookie of the Year? He isn't on this list and I'm not sure there is one. Rookies in 2008 had a tough time and the breakout players were coming from reserve leagues having gotten some pro time under their belts. I'll look for the success stories out of the 2008 draft next year.

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