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Is skipping high school soccer worth it?

Aspirations to play college soccer and hopes of a scholarship are apt to influence many decisions young players and their parents make. We’ve relayed some of the common questions we’ve heard from parents to Lisa Lavelle, president of The Sport Source, which has spent more than 20 years in college counseling for student-athletes.

By Lisa Lavelle

My son got invited to play on a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. But that would mean not playing high school ball. His school has a good, successful program and is very much fun for him. He also enjoys his current club. But we’re told his chances of getting a college scholarship will be much better if he plays for an Academy team. Should upping the possibility of a college scholarship be the key to our decision?

You pose an interesting question that really comes down to honesty. The U.S. Development Academy will not guarantee your son will get recruited or be offered a scholarship. When it comes to recruiting, players who are playmakers and game-changers are recruited. So let’s look at what Academy means.

According to U.S. Soccer, The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an everyday environment designed to produce the next generation of national team players.

When it comes to rosters and playing time, there is no limit on the number of players that can be rostered as long as each player starts a minimum of 25% of the club’s games. Each Academy club plays approximately 30 league games, including six games played at Showcases. The season begins in September and commences with Finals Week in July.

Based on these facts, if your son is getting more exposure and game time playing for his high school and club team with success as you have indicated, you need to consider whether you want to risk reducing his playing time.

Mathematically speaking, with all the Academy organizations, it is interesting to read that U.S. Soccer showed only 45 clubs reported national signing day players and the total for 2015 was 357.

From an expensive school like IMG with two players — leading the pack was New York Red Bulls with 23 players headed to the collegiate ranks — here is the list:  and you will notice not all signed with Division I programs.

Talking to college coaches, they tell me of the Academy players they tried to recruit, the majority did not meet NCAA or NAIA Eligibility. For those kids, being told you are the best or you will be highly recruited by top Division I schools only to find out, you are only eligible to play at the NJCAA level, is sad. Now, these kids must earn enough credits that are transferable to a four-year college if they want to play and earn a degree.

When it comes to playing professionally, U.S. Soccer noted that since Academy began in 2007, fewer than 100 players are playing professionally.

If your son enjoys where he is playing, then leave “Academy” out of the equation and focus on exceeding NCAA and NAIA Eligibility requirements. Encourage him to show interest in colleges that meet his academic and athletic goals. A spot on a college roster is just like getting a job — you must be talented and qualified, so create a player resume and send this to the college coach, and take “un-official” campus visits. These visits will give you a chance to talk to the coach and tell his story.

Make sure your son is honest with his goals academically and athletically and be sure to size himself up as a player to the current roster, and don’t take a “wait and see” approach or hope the team coach or club will do it for you.

Long after your playing days have come and gone due to old age, injury or retirement, your education will last a lifetime.