Advice needed: Men's Soccer recruiting timeline? and Club question for a 2023

Hi all. Welcoming all advice and experience and sorry for the long post! From anyone’s experience, when is it typical for men’s soccer recruiting to be in full swing? When is it typically “over”? I have an upcoming Junior (class 2023) and he plays HS in the fall and club in the spring. Does that mean next Spring 2022 is pretty crucial for his club soccer exposure? Some background info: he left the DA environment right before it transitioned to MLS and chose not to go MLS league for a trainer that is excellent (better than what he was receiving at the DA level) with hopes of getting better and prepping for college soccer. HOWEVER, the dilemma is that this trainer just started a very small club and his age group is not in a high level league (they do EDP) that would compete Spring 2022 after the HS season.
My son has an opportunity to play with a club next Spring instead that competes in ECNL which attends more showcases and national tournaments.
So this is why I’m trying to help him make an informed decision and understand the recruiting timeline ahead of him. Is a move to a higher team needed? He is having a tough time with this decision as he loves the training and trainer philosophy, however he is worried that the competition is not high enough or exposure not there.
Would love to hear from people that have gone through the men’s soccer recruiting experience and any “Club” soccer insight you can shed for us.
Thanks!

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@Soccer2915 For the class of 2023 men’s soccer recruiting is already in full swing. As of June 15th D1 coaches can reach out to, and meet in person with 2023 players. That is happening as we speak. The D2 and D3 coaches have a slightly longer recruiting timeline, but all three divisions will be working to wrap up recruits by application season next year. At my son’s club a 2023 has already verbally committed to a D1 school.

Has your son been actively emailing coaches? Has he sent film to coaches? If not, I would work on that right away. Getting his name out there is critical. That will hopefully generate the interest necessary to convince coaches to come watch him play in person. Coaches have been precluded from watching games in person for over a year so they’re scrambling to watch potential recruits play that have been communicating with them during the pandemic/recruiting dead period. Being seen by coaches will be critical for your son over the next 12 months.

Has your son ever talked to his current coach, or former coaches, about what level they see him playing at in college? Does his current coach have any college contacts? Has your son ever attended a college ID camp to gauge his skill level and athleticism in relation to the other participants? These are all important data points that would help you help your son make the right decisions about recruiting.

I have so many quesions, I apologize. Where do you live? What types of schools would he potentially prefer to attend? How are his grades? There is so much that factors into recruiting so any information you can provide contributors here will help form an overall opinion on how to handle things.

The one thing I can say with some certainty is that a small club that doesn’t play in large tournaments will likely hinder his chances. I’m not familiar with EDP so it’s tough for me to make a totally informed recommendation, but I know ECNL is geared towards recruiting showcases. Does your son necessarily need to play ECNL? Not at all, but he needs to find a team that has the best likelihood of getting him in front of coaches. Again, talk to his current coach about this. College coaches will tell you that they want recruits paying the absolute best competition possible. Even from the DA/MLS teams the transition to the college level is a major challenge. The more “battle tested” your son is, the more attractive he would be to coaches.

I’m going to tag those that have been through the recruiting process so they can chime in. The people here are very generous with their information and want to see other succeed.
@cinnamon1212 @Mwfan1921 @twoinanddone @BKSquared @Midwestmomofboys @gointhruaphase @eb23282

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@GKUnion thank you so much for your time and all the thought provoking questions! To answer a few, we are from northern NJ…he will be attending his 1st ID camp this weekend and will continue throughout the summer. His grades are “OK” with a 3.65 gpa ending sophomore year and has yet to take the ACT (prepping for it this summer). In conversations with his coach, both club and hs, thinking he’d be a fit at D3, maybe lower D1…though his size is on the smaller side (yet he’s very technical) as he really just started to grow this past year (finally hitting 5’7) so hard to say how he’ll end up by next year and on and I’m sure size is a factor on many rosters. His goal this summer to build in weight and strength …
He also began emailing this past winter and has been sharing highlights…hoping the camps will generate the interest since his small club did not do major tournaments this past spring. I think he’s having more separation anxiety so to speak with lvg that trainer and team…but I completely hear what you say about playing with solid comp.
You also confirmed my feeling about timeline and this is the crunch time for him to get more proactive. Thank you SO much for your time and feedback, I appreciate it immensely and will be sharing it with my son!

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D3 Men’s Soccer parent here – you are asking all the right questions! My player has graduated so we are a few years out from the process. It sounds like my son and yours overlap in some significant ways – technical player, late bloomer, loyalty to technical coach/club, so let me share our experience.

We are in the midwest and were 2-3 hours from a DA program so struggled with how to find high level competition and training. His club team had fallen behind in terms of competitiveness so he arranged to play up on the club’s more competitive U18s team where he was never going to be a starter, but got good minutes and film and played against stronger teams competition. He also guest played for a team about 90 minutes away that was playing in a more competitive league and had a great teaching coach. Guest playing for them in a couple tournaments led to an invitation to play with them in season, resulting in more exposure at tournaments where there were coaches of interest. To find teams where he could guest play, we researched past years schedules at tournaments of interest, looked at rosters of clubs that were not too far away, and he reached out to the coach.

Beyond that, he had done a preliminary “kick the tires” visit to a few D3 schools nearby as a sophomore to get a feel for the process. We scheduled tours/info sessions and he emailed the coach to say he would be on campus and would like the opportunity to learn more about the program and its recruiting needs, always accompanied with a soccer resume and a brief bit about why that school appealed to him. Then, winter/spring break of junior year, we visitied top schools of interest, doing tour/info session/meeting with coach. We kept a running spreadsheet of schools tracking academic and soccer reach/match and safeties. We also realized by spring of junior year that we needed merit money, so the D3 schools which didn’t offer merit had to come off the list. He did recruiting camps at a number of schools of interest summer before his senior year – being careful to build in breaks between them so he didn’t show up a top choice camp exhausted and unable to show well.

Coming from the midwest, we did not appreciate how much “insider action” there was in the northeast/mid Atlantic soccer scene. I’m from the east coast, so I know the DC to Boston corridor well, I didn’t realize how many coaches already had seen players in club season up and down the northeast corridor. So if my late bloomer had been able to do more camps and be seen from sophomore to junior year, I think that would have helped. So, while I can sympathize with your son’s loyalty to his club and trainer, the next 12-15 months are critical in recruiting for him and he should take action to get seen.

Good luck, and take good notes as you move through this process!

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I will start with my usual advice:

  1. read all the old threads on men’s soccer, and d3 recruiting on CC

  2. For a concise explanation and timeline of what your son (and you) should be doing re: recruiting , consider getting The Athletic Scholarship Playbook (about $15 on Amazon), even if you aren’t hoping for an athletic scholarship as this sets out the recruiting process in a very clear and succinct way, and I found it to be tremendously helpful.

While recruiting is definitely beginning for rising juniors, honestly it is not a huge focus of D3 schools yet. If your son were in play with Stanford, or Georgetown or something, sure, those schools have a decent idea already of who they are interested in. But for lower level D1 and most of D3, it is just the beginning of the process.

My son also was pegged as a high D3/low D1 player and just graduated high school. So his recruiting journey was very much affected by COVID as things shut down his junior year Spring, when I believe for D3 men’s soccer recruiting things get very intense, in normal times.

The D3 timeline is that coaches and recruits are in conversation now, and for the next 9 months or so (you’ll want to update coaches with tournament schedules, any awards etc). The earliest D3 offers happen late Spring of junior year, but most are made over the summer. The NESCACs, e.g., cannot do prereads before July 1, so that drives the timeline for many schools, and offers start happening the first week in July and continue through the early fall.

Consider having him do school-specific ID camps. The summer before junior year, my son did 4 or 5 ID camps at schools he thought he might be interested in, and we included big/small and rural/urban and always stayed an extra day to do the tour and info session so we could get a sense of the school. With hindsight I would have had him do more of these, but some of that may be due to COVID and the inability for him to be seen after March 2020.

Now is a good time, too, to figure out (if you haven’t already!) your recruiting strategy. That is, does he want to play at the highest possible level, and that’s the main goal, or is it to get into a highly selective school that he might not otherwise be admitted to? You’ll target differently depending on what your goal is.

My own opinion is that it is best to be viewed as an impact player. It puts you at the top of a coach’s recruiting pool, and I believe makes it more likely that you’ll get good minutes in college. So we targeted D3 schools. I know a few d1 players at top programs, and two I know – including the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year – got zero minutes as freshmen, and one’s a junior and still has yet to step on the field in a game. (That said, I also know a player at Stanford who’s killing it and started every game as a freshman). But, I realize my view is not shared by everyone, and all players think they’ll get lots of playing time in college!

In terms of teams, I agree with @gkunion, it is probably best to be on the highest level team possible. That gives a player instant credibility. There are some really strong clubs in northern NJ but I’m sure you’ve considered them (Cedar Stars etc).

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@Midwestmomofboys Thank you! It’s so good to hear your son’s recruiting story and it having some similarities to my son’s. It’s helpful to also see what your timeline was like and def confirms yet again that these next “12-15” months are critical!!

@cinnamon1212 Just got the book thx!! Your feedback is so very helpful as well especially the timeline of recruiting. As for recruiting strategy…could you clarify what you meant about getting into a selective school that he might not have been admitted to? I was under the impression that he shouldn’t really look at schools that he academically wasn’t quite close to … being that he’s just at a 3.65 currently I’ve been hesitant to encourage the tougher schools.
I do think a D3 would be a great fit for him … he for sure would want to play (at the highest level he could) and thrives on the environment of intensity and structure that being a student athlete provides.
Thx so much for sharing your thoughts! I’m learning so much and hope these convo’s help my son in his process…

Not soccer, but softball and baseball. However, I would reiterate the importance of showcase/camps where there is a concentration of coaches from colleges that your son is targeting, especially if your kid is not a superstar on a top club team. In all the club tournaments we played in, while there were recruiters, for the most part they were visiting different fields looking at specific players. The camps put your son in front of relevant coaches where he should get more than cursory exposure. Our kids even attended school specific camps where other coaches were part of the program.

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What I meant by the selective schools comment is that those schools get way more applicants that are qualified than they can accept. So soccer can be a way someone who’s qualified, who has a GPA in the bottom 25% of accepted students, say, can be 99% certain that they’ll get in if they have coach support. I have no idea how your son’s GPA translates to being competitive at which schools, but Naviance should help with that, assuming your school uses it.

Within limits the more the coach wants you, the more there’s a bit of flexibility on grades/scores. I know someone, who’s currently an assistant coach at a NESCAC who told me he got into Williams with a 3.4 GPA. Also – this is what prereads are for. Also – coaches that have been doing this a long time will know what will pass muster with the Admissions Office. If there’s a school your son is interested in, I wouldn’t rule it out from the beginning on GPA grounds.

Finally, you know your son best. Is he taking rigorous courses? Do you think he’d be fine academically at a school like Williams, or do you think he might struggle? If you think the latter, then maybe don’t push the Williams-type schools. On the other hand, if he’s taking the most rigorous courses at his school and you think he’d be fine at a Williams-type school then go for it!

In other words, there are many variables, and I cannot tell from the information you’ve given how to target academically; your son’s gpa could be fine, or could not be but I can’t tell :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the tag GK. @Soccer2915 Lots of great advice above as usual.

The value that I can add to the discussion is that I’m in Northern New Jersey as well, and have experience with the DA/ECNL/EDP as either a coach and/or parent.

I would note too that 3.65 GPA is not “OK”. It’s above average. I know it doesn’t seem that way in our area, but that’s a perfectly fine GPA for a large majority of D3 schools.

Happy to answer any specific questions you may have either here or via PM.

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@BKSquared ty! Camps are the plan for this summer so hopefully he gets some notice there.

@cinnamon1212 ok thx for clarifying! Makes sense. Lots to think about and you so many great points that I never considered!

@eb23282 thx for validating his gpa :slight_smile: Yes, agreed our area can make things so skewed so great reminder to keep perspective.

@Soccer2915, You have received a lot of good advice here. Call me old fashioned, but in my view the best club team is the one that will most improve your son’s game. National exposure is good, but when you attend these ID camps, do ask yourself if any of the kids you are watching would NOT be able to play for a D3 program. When I stopped looking at my kid and focused on others, I realized that there were very few that were NOT at a college playing level. You can create some exposure yourself if you are looking to play D3 (or lower D1).

As @Midwestmomofboys and others have pointed out, unofficial visits can be very useful. If you are vaccinated, I would suggest visits to Lafayette, Colgate, Conn College, Trinity and maybe Vassar. Schedule coach meetings 2-3 weeks before as coaches can be tough to get in the summer and send the coaches your tapes. This is itself pretty good exposure. The coaches in all likelihood will want to see your son play, but coaches know that a kid has interest if they come on their own to visit the school. Interest is not the most important factor in recruiting, but it can make a difference between two essentially equal kids. You can then pick the coach’s brain at these visits on which camps to pursue and the general likelihood of admission.

Some D3s (including the NESCACs) have really terrific soccer programs. Just picture yourself two years down the road with your kid in college. That will get you past the rocky road of recruiting. Push through it. Your kid will be overlooked by one program that you think is a perfect match, and targeted by an even better school that you thought he could never get into. Work hard. It takes a lot to time to get to camps and visits, but it definitely can pay off.

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Curious as to the thinking behind those school recommendations. They do span a range of academic and soccer competitiveness.

To get a sense of where you belong, you should consider a range of schools. The primary consideration for the suggestions was geographic, within a few hours of northern Jersey.
The idea is to get a sense of a range of programs: 2 lower D1s (Patriot League), 2 in the NESCAC (the closest, with somewhat easier admissions standards), and maybe Vassar (again because it is close to NJ).

In my experience, Conn College tended to be more competitive soccer wise than its record may suggest. In our experience (admittedly dated), the losses were one goal losses. They were a tough opponent. Trinity is not too far from Conn College and has a strong athletic history, although not so much in soccer. Still, that can provide its own opportunities for any given athlete, and in the NESCAC the programs are strong enough that anything can (and often does) happen.

Lafayette is in Easton PA, and is a fairly close straight shot to northern New Jersey. It has generally strong athletic programs. Colgate is a tougher admit, and much further from Jersey, but might provide an interesting contrast to Lafayette.

Vassar is a tough admit, but it isn’t too far from Jersey. It is a lovely campus and a great degree. We knew a few soccer players who loved it. It has a pretty good team.

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great encouragement! He has an ID camp this weekend and I will tell him he should ask these questions if he can find the right time to do so with a coach. thank you!!

Best of luck! Remember when he is out there, coaches are also assessing character and attitude. Is he hustling all the time? Is he a good teammate in terms of picking other kids up? Does it look like he is having fun?

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Thanks for taking the time to explain! I can add a little bit of color to some of those schools. Conn was last ranked at #4 in the nation, so absolutely their soccer program is really strong.

Vassar . . . wasn’t as serious soccer wise as some other schools my son looked at. I particularly was struck by the coach telling us that some incoming freshmen on the team had never been lifting weights. Every really high level (d3 as well as d1) player I know has been lifting weights for several years before becoming a college freshman. I thought it told me the commitment level of those players. (Perhaps I read too much into that remark, just like those who dismiss a school based on the tour guide).

Bard is a good school with a weak soccer program, and could be a good fit for the right kid.

Skidmore is another school that could be worth looking at (also has a weak soccer program, and the coach recruits later than many other schools).

Trinity - had been the weakest of the NESCACs; unclear what the future holds.

I agree with @gointhruaphase that it would be good to check out strong/weak D3 soccer programs and lower level D1 schools. Pick those schools that academically your son would be interested in without the soccer, some an easier admit and some harder. Once you get feedback from those schools you’ll have a better sense of how best to proceed.

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Can add that, at least several years ago, Vassar coach clearly had permission to recruit strong players with below median stats, which seemed to then move Vassar into top 4 of very competitive Liberty League, with St. Lawrence, a storied top program (which can underperform lately, but that’s another story). Conn Coll is an excellent, very competitive and nationally ranked program, Coach Murphy retired recently and his Asst. coach took over, and the team didn’t seem to miss a beat. Bates coach, Tyler Sheikh, is someone who appreciates the technical, international-style player, my kid loved him. Kenyon is a team on a mission to get to national championship. Dickinson and Haverford are Centennial conference teams which can look strong, play pretty direct soccer. Denison has a new coach, recruited from Case Western, where the coach had led the Case Western team deep into national tournament. Both Calvin and Messiah are known as being technical, skilled teams, though both are religious schools so that can be an obstacle for some. Ohio Wesleyan is another storied program with great coaching. I’m never sure what passes muster in terms of links to other sites, but a great resource on D3 programs is the d3 mens soccer message boards – search google for D3 Men’s Soccer boards and it should show up. It’s pretty slow in the off season but has good threads on different conferences, coaches, style of play etc.

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