The last thing a high school soccer coach wants to do with the upcoming season only weeks away is look for players to fill the roster. But for a couple schools in North Carolina and South Carolina, that's exactly what they'll have to do, after the U.S. Soccer Federation mandated a 10-month season for its 80 developmental academies around the country.
According to the Charlotte Observer and Statesville Record & Landmark, the controversial policy, put in place to help improve the United States' talent level, will likely have an impact on a number of high school soccer teams around the country. With players forced to choose between their academy and high school, most are choosing to go the academy route, leaving some teams with voids in their roster.
A few teams are really suffering from the new policy, especially Lake Norman (N.C.) High, who lost five players, including two all-region standouts, to academies. Just last season, Lake Norman went 20-3-4 and reached the 4A state quarterfinals, but without two of its best players and a thin bench, making a return to the quarterfinals seems unlikely.
"I kind of knew once they started going about this that would kind of be the route a lot of them would take," Lake Norman head coach Ryan Villiard told the Statesville Record & Landmark. "It's something I kind of prepared for and was ready for when I took the job."
Another high school player at the center of it all is midfielder Remi Frost who, as a freshman at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day, became one of the state's top players. This season, however, he won't be suiting up for the school, deciding instead to play for Charlotte Soccer Academy's under-16 team.
"Everything has a cost to it," Frost told the Charlotte Observer. "Not everyone plays high school sports and they seem to do just fine. Hopefully I will, too."
While Frost is in the majority, the Charlotte Observer piece noted that players like Jack Miller, a sophomore at Charlotte Catholic, opted to go against the grain, choosing to play for his high school over his academy team -- despite the fact that playing for his academy afforded him a better chance of being seen by college coaches.
In the end, it all comes down to what matters most: playing for pride at your high school with your peers, or for the opportunity to potentially get noticed by recruiters and scouts and play in college or abroad.
It's easy to understand why the USSF wants to keep its academy players in-house for 10 months out of the year -- you build team unity and the players gel over time -- but it's unfortunate that the new policy has to hurt high school teams in the long run.