Success in soccer can be reached through the most unsuspected ways. It is not only about signing for a big club, in a big league. There are many alternatives which can also be considered a triumph.
Considering that the life of a soccer player is very short (18 years at most) and the life of a former soccer player is very long, success can’t be really measured only by your sports achievements, but also by your accomplishments outside the pitch.
As this chart emphasizes, combining sport and academic education is the only way to guarantee a stable future that goes beyond your youth and lasts your whole life.
Scholarships in the U.S. university system are an answer to this. Through soccer, among many other sports, it is possible to fund part or even the totality of the considerable cost of studying in America.
It is not easy, though. Like any other challenge, to obtain this kind of scholarships demands effort, sacrifice and dedication.
Carolina Marcet, from Fundacion Marcet’s Academic Education Department, and Franco Sanchirico, from the Sports Department, have seen a number of young players who decided to follow this path instead of a much more competitive way: professional soccer.
Why does a young footballer choose to study in the United States?
“There are different profiles (of players) who might be interested in this path”, explains Carolina Marcet. “It might be a very interesting option for those who still need to gain experience before being ready to compete at a professional level. It is also one of the best ways to become professional in the MLS (the U.S. professional league)”.
It is not only about become a professional footballer. It also works the other way around: using soccer to get the chance to study at the most prestigious universities in the world. “In order to find a good job worldwide, to have an american university degree really makes the difference. Specially if you want to live in the U.S.”, says Marcet.
What do you need in order to be eligible for a scholarship?
There are two kind of requirements: Academic and Sports.
On the academic side, you will need to have completed senior high school or an equivalent in other countries. Then you must pass the SAT, which is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the Unites States. Also, if you are not a native English speaker, you will be required to pass the TOEFL test to prove that your English level is good enough.
Regarding the sports side, there are no standardized tests. But there are several informal requirements that have become a must. “They will judge you according to your level”, says Sanchirico, “so, in order to be good enough, you need to train every day. It is true that U.S. soccer players have usually a lower standard than other countries, but you are in competition with the whole world, not just one country. American college soccer is not the same as amateur soccer. Actually, it can be considered professional”.
This raises a very important question. If you need to prove your quality, do all candidates need to travel to the different universities and join a tryout? Franco Sanchirico laughs when asked. “This is the 21st century. Of course not. But you need a very professional video portfolio and, more importantly, the support of a respected institution. In our case, Marcet prepares a portfolio for our students that we know it works, based on our experience”. But the support of an institution can go beyond a good video and a list of contacts. “We and our associates also organize trips for the American coaches to come to our headquarters in Barcelona. Why the coaches? Because it’s them who decide who gets the scholarship and who doesn’t. They have a budget and they can spend it as they consider best”, explains Sanchirico.
Here is an example of a video portfolio:
How does someone prepare for something like that?
There is no skipping effort. Talent needs training. Soccer is a very complex game where many variables and skills are needed. Talented players might also have their strengths and weaknesses. “We need to improve your strengths and minimize, or even eliminate, your weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if it is professional or college soccer. Coaches look for complete players. For example, they do not settle for an accurate striker if he or she does not know how to drive the ball”, maintains Franco Sanchirico. According to him, “to master the game of soccer, you need to be continuously educating yourself. If you want to have a chance, you better take your soccer education as serious as your academic studies”.
It’s still about university, so how does someone prepare academically speaking?
To obtain a Senior High School degree or an equivalent is a must. That means that you’ll need to study when you turn 16 until you are 18 years old. Not only your academic plan, but also start preparing for SAT. “In the US, the first thing they will ask for is your SAT marks. Depending on the University, the mark they demand is different”, explains Carolina Marcet. “The good thing, though, is that you can repeat the test several times and the mark that counts is not the last, but the highest one”.
How long should I be preparing before applying?
Despite anyone can start the process at any time, Marcet and Sanchirico recommend at least two years of preparation in order to increase the chances of accessing to the university of your choice.
How much can I expect to save?
One year in an American university costs between $40,000 and $60,000. Obtaining a full scholarship is very unlikely. Usually, they are partial, but can be significant. The average scholarship is between $50.000 and $40.000.
How long does the scholarship last?
Sports scholarships are provided on a yearly basis. This means that every season you will need to renew it until the end of your studies.