The club vs. high school battle plagued American youth soccer long before the U.S. Soccer Federation banned high school ball for its Boys Development Academy players in 2012.
Club coaches argue that players aspiring to reach the top must compete at the highest level of youth soccer and get the best coaching; which, of course, they claim only they can provide. On the other hand, high school coaches continue to pressure these players to join them, many times not realizing the contract these club players are bound by. According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. soccer and the top youth clubs around the country, and this program provides the best youth players in the U.S. with an environment designed to produce the next generation of U.S. soccer football players. Whether this means a college scholarship or a spot on the U.S national team or even a contract to go professional, being exposed to these possibilities is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Kaya Fabbretti is a senior who plays for the U-18 Earthquakes Academy. He has already verbally committed to UC Santa Barbara’s men’s soccer program. As a member on the academy team, Kaya has been ineligible to play for Branham all 4 years. “I really enjoy playing with the academy and it has been a great experience,” he says. “But sometimes I do wonder what it would be like
to go out and play for my school and be able to represent Branham in that way.” However, Kaya also believes that the program’s guidelines are fair because it forces players to focus on one thing at a time.
As someone who does not participate in club soccer, junior Grant King is about to start his third year on Branham’s varsity soccer team. Grant won the BVAL Mount Hamilton Second Team All League award last year, and was also last year’s top-scoring sophomore. “I understand the situation,” he says, on the topic of club soccer versus high school soccer.
“If the player’s team is good, I get why he would want to stay and play with their club.” Although he plays for Branham, Grant is interested playing soccer in college, and believes that club soccer will provide more of an opportunity of being recruited by college scouts.
Choosing between the Development Academy and high school soccer is a tricky matter for many players. Both teams offer their own unique benefits and experiences. Ultimately, the player must ask himself, “Is not playing high school soccer worth the risk of not making the college soccer team?”