New National Rule Impacts Academy, High School Soccer

Senior captain and forward Tommy Bowman travels with the ball against Andover. A new USSF rule will affect high school soccer players like Bowman in recruitment options. PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO

   The Seaholm boys’ varsity soccer team has gotten off to a 2-0-2 start, with help from senior captain and forward Tommy Bowman.  But because of a new regulation put in place by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), Bowman almost wasn’t allowed to play high school soccer.

   In order to compete with other nations like Brazil and England, the United States Soccer Federation made a new rule that doesn’t allow academy players to play high school soccer. U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t devise the system, but he has endorsed it.

   “If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment,” U.S. National team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told the Philadelphia Inquirer when the plan was unveiled in April.  “The Development Academy 10-month season is the right formula and provides a good balance between training time and playing competitive matches.”

   Academy soccer is a collection of teams with the most elite young soccer players in the country. Vardar and Michigan Wolves are two of the area’s strongest academies. Academy players will now train with their clubs year round, as opposed to in the past when academy players could play for their high school during their soccer season and continue with their academies after.

   Although choosing to play high school soccer came with fewer opportunities for college recruitment and development, Bowman decided to finish his senior year as a four year varsity player for the Maples.

   “I lose my recruiting,” Bowman said.  “I gain memories that I would’ve never gotten had I played academy.”

   The 5’7” forward is known for his footwork and his quickness off the ball, along with his nose for the goal.  He already has two goals this season.

   This rule has really leveled the playing field for every high school team in the state. Parity comes to a sport where powerhouses East Kentwood, Brother Rice, and Detroit Country Day have been dominating.

   “A lot of teams are carried by one or two Academy players,” senior captain and defensemen Dalton Geraldo said.

   With those Academy players gone, almost every game is a barn burner. High School teams lose depth. The quality of play in high school soccer may go down, but the excitement if anything goes up.

   “Every single team in the state of Michigan has a chance to win, and I think that’s great for the masses,” head coach Ian Whitelaw told the Oakland Press, August 27.

   The new USSF rule has certainly made an impact.  How the parity will change the sport remains to be seen.

   “At the end of the day, we’re going to develop some world class kids out of that Academy program,” Whitelaw said.

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