Earlier today, UConn Huskies men’s soccer announced the team would be participating in the 2019 Spring College Development Program. The Huskies will join Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgetown, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in the program’s expanded lineup. Boston College, Connecticut, Providence, Rutgers and Syracuse will make up the North division, three opponents UConn faced last year, plus the fourth as the former home of new transfer Jordan Hall.
So what does all this mean?
It’s kind of a big deal. This is the second year of the Spring College Program, an approved U.S. Soccer competition. Training and the tactical foundations are meant to mirror that of U.S. soccer federation’s development model. Games are also conducted to the standard of a U.S. Soccer Development Academy match; three subs, traditional timekeeping, and a gameday roster maximum of 18 players.
In its inaugural season, the Spring College Program featured six NCAA teams, with North Carolina taking home the title. Tab Ramos, the current U.S. Soccer YNT Technical Director and former New York/New Jersey Metrostar, had this to say about the program: “We were able to identify new Youth National Team prospects and follow others we were already tracking. The college program is an important part of Zone 3 (players age 18 and older) development and having top programs participate under international standards makes their integration into our National Teams and the professional game easier.”
Every team in the North Division will play each other once from March 3 to April 6, and the team with the most points will be crowned division champion. Here’s the schedule:
In short, its a huge opportunity for both the UConn men’s soccer program and its players. For one, to be included in the expansion only solidifies UConn soccer’s status as a top tier collegiate program. Secondly, this is a scouting service run by the Youth National Team and senior Men’s National Team, with U.S. Soccer Talent Identification network scouts in attendance. Anyone playing in this mini spring season will get a long look from national talent scouts. Plus, every team receives a full analytic report from a data supplier. This type of high-level exposure and preseason experience can really inject a sense of confidence into an upcoming season.
From a broader, nationalistic perspective, standards-based competition and evaluation is the step in the right direction for U.S. soccer development. Kudos to U.S. soccer for recognizing its need to increase its exposure to the college game; the two often are at odds against each other.
UConn has welcomed another transfer for the 2019 season. Ziyad Fekri comes from the University of Louisville, ready to step in at left back to replace Dylan Greenberg. He started all 19 matches for the Cardinals in 2018 as a sophomore, and has registered a goal and four assists in two seasons. Louisville won the ACC championship last year, and for his efforts Fekri was named to the ACC Championship All-Tournament team. While primarily a direct replacement of Greenberg, Fekri also has experience playing centre-back.
Fekri joins three other newcomers to UConn in 2019; Jordan Hall, Jake Dengler, and Ahdan Tait. Tait of Bridgeport, returns home after playing one season at Virginia and played his club ball for Beachside S.C.
UConn legend Kwame Awuah, a two-time AAC first team selection and the 2015 Co-Midfielder of the Year will also be heading home, in a sense. The Ontario native signed a multi-year contract with local Forge FC of the newly formed Canadian Premier League. The CPL will begin its inaugural season this April, with seven teams competing.
Awuah will be joined up north by former junior Munir Saleh, who earlier this year signed a contract with York9 FC, another CPL squad out of Ontario. Saleh will forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility after starting in 18 games for the Huskies last year.
Austin DaSilva, who transferred out of UConn prior to the start of the 2018 campaign, ended up at the University of Albany.