Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

UVU Soccer- What is the Big Deal?

By Charles Barnard
This is part two of a series of articles I am writing on the new UVU soccer program. Part 1 can be found here .

The first game was an outstanding success. Tweets that were sent out during and after the first UVU men’s soccer match spread the word that something special happened down at Clyde Field. Others though weren’t so sure what all the hype was about.

“Soo…somebody explain why UVU having a soccer team is a big deal. I’m obviously missing something here.” –@itschappy

Many people were asking the same question that Chappy was asking. Why was it a big deal that one of Utah’s universities had a soccer team? Didn’t BYU have a team already? And then there was the question that I had. Will this team in any way benefit RSL?

In part two of this series looking at the UVU program, I am going to attempt to answer some of these questions.

UVU is the only university in the state to have a Division I men’s soccer program. This is very different than what other collegiate institutions have in the state. Due to Title IX, other universities in the state have not had men’s soccer programs. The University of Utah and Utah State currently have club teams on campus.

BYU had a club team as well for many years, but in 2003 BYU moved its team out of club sports and moved into the PDL. The PDL (or USL Premier Development League) is a pro development league that is in the fourth level of the American soccer pyramid. Think of it like Single A minor league baseball. While it is technically not a professional league (most players do not get paid) it is a higher level of soccer than a standard university club team would be.

This is one of the reasons that the UVU team is a big deal. By having a true Division I team, UVU will be playing at the highest level of college soccer. As being one of the only schools in the West to offer Division I soccer, UVU has the opportunity to bring in some of the best players around the region to play for them. They will also have the chance to play against some of the best college players in the country as well. This is one of the ways that this team will benefit RSL.

When asked how UVU would benefit the team, RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey said the following.

The arrival of the UVU program to the State of Utah is quite beneficial. First it allows RSL coaches and scouts to watch college players without having to get in a plane. Second, having a Division I program in our backyard provides another avenue for Utah talent to hone their game and pursue their soccer careers.”

Lagerwey makes some very good points here, especially if you read a little between the lines. Currently the MLS Super Draft is still a very important way to bring in new talent into MLS teams. Having UVU just down the road is going to tremendously help RSL in scouting for the draft.

But the future of the draft is in question. More and more players are going the academy route. Due to this I can see the day when the Super Draft will be phased out. Most of the kids that graduate the academies and do not get a homegrown contract right away currently head off to college. The important thing is that these player’s rights are still held by the MLS teams whose academy they attended. This is why RSL was able to sign a player like Jordan Allen who left the Academy to play at the University of Virginia.

I could see a day when there would be a pipeline from the RSL Academy, to UVU, and then on to the other minor league teams that RSL is in the process of creating. As Lagerwey said, it is another way for Utah players to hone their skills while pursuing their soccer dreams.

With this in mind I feel that UVU made the perfect choice in hiring their Head Coach Greg Maas. Maas already has a relationship with RSL. He was the teams U-17 coach for four years and led the team in 2008 to the SUM U-17 Championship.  He also assisted down at the academy for a year. His current roster has at least two players that I know of that has had ties with the RSL youth program.

So to Chappy and those other people that were wondering, yes it is a big deal that UVU has a team. How big of deal still remains to be seen.

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