Rutgers men’s soccer benefitting from location and MLS academy ties

·3 min read

Jim McElderry’s Thanksgiving plans includes the usual dose of food and family. But for the Rutgers men’s soccer coach, there with a healthy mix of soccer as well. McElderry plans on hitting up academy and club games over the holiday weekend as he turns his focus from on the field to recruiting.

Rutgers finished the season 9-6-2 and with a 3-4-1 record in the Big Ten. It was a successful season for Rutgers and continued the development of the program under McElderry, now in his third year with the program.

One major reason for the growth of the program is a budding relationship with the local MLS academies. His roster includes several players who were developed through the academy system of the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union.

Related

Greg Schiano wants a big crowd for Rutgers women's soccer on Friday night

“I don’t think we worry too much about their style and our style and it’s a little bit different. But what they both do – and we can include NYCFC as well – they attract good players, serious players, players who know how to balance their time well,” McElderry told ‘Rutgers Wire’ this week in a phone interview.

“You’re getting someone who is dedicated.”

The MLS academy system is unique in professional sports, taking players as young as middle school and developing them with an eye towards playing professional soccer at the MLS level. Some players will opt for the college system and McElderry has certainly done a good job of targeting those players who want an education before potentially signing with a professional team.

Jackson Temple, named this season to the All-Big Ten Second Team, came up through the Union academy. Joey Zalinsky and Matthew Acosta, both named to the conference’s freshman team, are Red Bulls academy products. Nico Rosamilia, a surprise omission from the Big Ten freshman list, also played for the Red Bulls.

Rutgers is ideally situated between three MLS academies, allowing the program to benefit from three professional clubs that have a tremendous track record of scouting and developing players.

McElderry said that “Our location is really important and also the new facilities we have here.” He also highlighted the new Rodkin Center as well as the team’s recently developed soccer practice fields as key components in recruiting these academy players.

The Union and Red Bulls have among the best academy systems in MLS, producing multiple professional players including several currently part of the United States national team. NYCFC, although having arrived just a few years ago, is already producing quality players including Gio Reyna and Joe Scally, both starters for good teams in the German Bundesliga.

The quality of the facilities, a major upgrade for Rutgers in recent years, is a selling point for players used to training and playing at an MLS club’s practice center.

“They want to play. When they come and visit, they realize it is the next step for them,” McElderry said. “If they don’t get that pro contract then we become a good place for them to get that education and play at a high level.”