Carlos Somoano, top assistant for the nationally ranked UNC men’s soccer team, talks about the club soccer experience, and how it can help an elite high school player land an all-expenses-paid four-year stint at a top college—maybe even the powerhouse in Chapel Hill.
The biggest benefit of club soccer participation is the increased level of competition; it can greatly help a player’s development. Generally speaking, high school teams aren’t competitive enough, because there aren’t enough good players on the same team—and the difference between the best and worst player is huge. In club soccer, the gap isn’t as big.
The higher level of competition helps a player get exposure to college coaches, which means an improved shot at being recruited. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s rare for a college coach to get to a high school game to watch a player. A few occasions allow us to make a judgment on a player in his high school environment, but more times than not, we can’t gauge his ability unless we see him play against club-level players.
What you get from your experience depends a lot on the club you play for. Some teams are really good; others are just OK. High school players should definitely do research to find the best team in their area. Top club teams travel quite a bit to play other very competitive club teams.
The club and high school soccer experiences differ in other ways, too. Some high schools have great coaches, but the best club teams have top-level coaches, play on better fields and are better refereed, so the whole standard of the game is elevated.
Elite high school players can also join the Olympic Development Program, which is basically a state representative team. The best players in the state, from different age groups, are picked to play at various events. Attending a college’s soccer camp is another great way to get noticed.