Boca OC invited into Innovated International Pathway and joins New Partnership with Crossfire, SD Surf, and Real Colorado to Expands Professional Playing Opportunities for Local Players.
Boca OC has been invited join a new partnership with Crossfire, San Diego Surf and Real Colorado to opens the door to more professional opportunities for local players Working in concert with three of the most respected youth soccer clubs in the nation, Boca OC is thrilled to announce the inclusion of the new partnership aimed at increasing opportunities for players to move on to professional clubs abroad. Joining together with Crossfire, San Diego Surf and Real Colorado, Boca OC has agreed to annually form elite selection squads at three ages—Under-15, Under-17 and Under- 19—comprised of the top players from the four clubs. These teams will then represent the clubs in Europe over a 10-day span in August of each year starting in 2020. The cost of this trip will be covered by the three clubs. This is to ensure that all qualified players can participate regardless of their financial situation. “This was simply a no brainer. When I recently sat down with Bernie James (Crossfire DOC) and he spoke to me about this innovative program they had created and the opportunities it would give our players, I said WE ARE IN!” explained Director of Soccer and Player Development Jimmy Obleda. “This program would not limit our youth players and their professional opportunities (MLS ties players with homegrown contracts that limit their choices). We see this as a major advantage—our players can go anywhere they find the right fit, and as a club, we can put our resources towards opening those doors for them.” AcademyTrips.com, will be handling all the planning and logistics on the European end for the clubs, with the three age groups set to travel together. The groups will base in eastern Holland, playing four or five friendlies with professional clubs, including KAA Gent and KRC Genk in Belgium, FC Cologne in Germany and SBV Excelsior Rotterdam of the Dutch Eredivisie. Professional scouts from dozens of other European clubs are slated to attend the matches to get a firsthand look at the American players, who will also train with the coaching staffs of another set of clubs while on the continent. “This is really setting up to be an amazing opportunity for the top players in our club,” Obleda continued. “Most of our players are headed to college, which is fantastic. They’re going to play soccer at top universities and get great educations. But there is also a group of players who aspire to play the game professionally, and we need to make sure we have a clear pathway available for them. Increasingly, that pathway can mean starting out in one of the European leagues, where playing and developing youth remains a priority.”
Before the most recent SuperDraft held in Chicago, 321 players had been selected in the MLS Draft since 2013. Only 30% of those players have ever stepped on the field in an MLS game. In fact, from 2015-2017, if not a top 10 pick, there was only a 1-in-5 chance of a player being drafted and still being on an MLS roster in year two as a pro. Two Boca OC products, Amirgy Pineda and Mark Hernandez, are currently playing in the USL system and are being looked at by MLS clubs, but Obleda points out, broadening the opportunities available, and doing it at an even younger age, can only help our young players move towards achieving their dreams of professional soccer. In 2017, American players under the age of 22 played less than 2% of the minutes available in MLS, one of the lowest numbers of any major professional league in the world and paling in comparison to many European leagues, which range from 4.2% in Serie A to 7.6% in the Bundesliga and up to 9.5% in France’s Ligue 1. And it’s not just the youngest Americans who are finding game minutes hard to come by. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the percentage of minutes for all U.S.-born players in MLS has fallen from 52.7% in 2013 to 42.2% last season. This coincides with a time when American players are more welcome in Europe than ever before, including at the best clubs and in the best leagues. From high-profile stars such as Christian Pulisic to the pair of teenagers who signed for Bayern Munich last month, the young American player is getting opportunities like never before. On any given matchday in the Bundesliga this year, for instance, five Americans under the age of 21 may find themselves in a first-team starting lineup.
“Our goal is to provide our players with all the routes possible for them to make their dreams a reality. We feel it’s our job to make sure we open every doorway for them. In only three years, Boca OC has become a nationally recognized club for developing great players. Our methodology is proving to be working and is reaping its rewards. Year by year we are adding another layer to our player pathway. We are extremely excited to add this new layer to our program,” Obleda stated. “It started with our top 04 boys’ team competing in Europe against the best clubs (Quarter finalist at the Donosti Cup) in the world. Now every year beginning at Under-10, some of them will be are getting multiple opportunities.”
"Add this with the club’s range of development programs, Obleda continued, and there is a proven pathway to professional soccer, whether those opportunities come at home or abroad. When you have a kid in your club, under your coaches’ tutelage, from the age of 7 or 8 through 19, you feel it’s incumbent on the club to continue providing for their care, to give them real options to continue growing in the game. Now, with the addition of this new international program and all of the trial opportunities our players are receiving in Europe, we can really say we’re opening up more doorways for our players than ever before. Deciding to walk through those doors will be up to them.”
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