By Paul Nicholson
August 23 – The leading coaching body in the US is proposing a shake-up of the College calendar, turning it into a 10-month season rather than the currently compressed four month competition format.
College sports in the US are traditionally the driver of US professional leagues in terms of providing a constant stream of players to teams. But the model has had limited success in soccer, not least because college players have their seasons telescoped into a short Autumn time frame that packs in fixtures often making the season a survival of the fittest, rather than focusing on football progression.
Now the Division 1 Men’s college coaches of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) has launched an informational campaign that “addresses the traditional compressed NCAA fall soccer season and tackles issues of health, safety and time demands of student-athletes.”
The coaches are proposing that the competitive season change from being the current August to end-November/December format, to one that opens end of August but plays through to June.
This would reduce the number of Winter games (by creating a Winter break), reduce the number of mid-week fixtures and move the season finale finals play-offs to June.
The proposals have now been sent to the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports in the US, with a commitment to discuss the proposals further. Winning their hearts and minds to the proposals is crucial to its implementation but their decision will be made taking into account any impact on other sports.
Criticism of the US college system as regards soccer is that it has failed to develop a constant or deep stream of top class players, with many of the best talents being broken by the system through the pressures of a packed schedule. It is one reason put forward for the US men’s team having failed to make the impact on top level world football it desires.
An NSCAA survey found that 70% of male players and 90% of Division 1 coaches approved of the proposed changes.
The benefits of moving the season for the student-athletes is that it will give more time to develop their ability, as well as reduce the risk of injuries and increase recovery time from injury meaning a player need not lose a whole season if they pick up an injury. It will also give players more time to balance their personal and academic lives with their soccer commitments.
Moving the championships also gives better media options for college soccer. Currently soccer competes against college football championships, NFL playoff positioning, the first month of college basketball, and the second month for the NBA and NHL.
“We want to educate our Athletic Directors, NCAA leadership, student athletes, coaches and fans on the advantages of this Academic Year Model,” said Sasho Cirovski, NSCAA D1 Men’s committee chair and University of Maryland head coach. “It’s the same number of playing opportunities we have today  but it reduces missed class time, gives appropriate rest and recovery time between games and moves the championship into a better weather time of year.”
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