On the girl's side of the game, we have seen some small changes. In the past, the girls tended to focus chiefly on college scholarships. While this is still the main focus, we have seen some subtle changes recently. As most of us know, the U.S. women's pro league is struggling, and a number of Cal South alumni are now migrating to Europe to play for clubs in Holland, Germany, Sweden and Norway. This has become a new pathway through which women may advance their game, and
it offers a new tier of soccer for which young girls may strive. It is fantastic for young women to get the chance to travel so many miles and fulfill their dreams of playing professional soccer.
The biggest change in the game on the boy's side of youth soccer is in the choices that players now have. In addition to the traditional pathways such as college and the national teams, the introduction of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and Major League Soccer's addition of what could be deemed as professional youth academies has changed the landscape of youth soccer.
The other major difference for both boys and girls in youth soccer is that there are now opportunities to play more in international games. Currently, U.S.-born players are not only representing this country, but also England, Mexico, Costa Rica, and a number of other countries. A couple of strong examples of Southern California-born players who have taken the international route are Stevie Rodriquez and Moises Orozco, who are both playing pro soccer in Mexico. Another player
who took a different path is Jack McBean, who became the youngest player ever to sign with the LA Galaxy.
These examples and more are a big part of what advancement should be. It should not matter where a player ends up playing. Our role should be to help the players advance as far as their dream can take them.
TO THE FUTURE
So, what does the future look like for Pro+ and our member clubs in the terms of advancement?
We know youth players all have different types of objectives as far as how they want to advance in the game. We don't know which road is the right one; each player must decide that individually. What we can and must do is continue to support every player in his or her quest for advancement in the game.
Currently, Pro+ is pursuing a number of opportunities to create partnerships with international clubs from around the world. The goal is to help players from Cal South get some international exposure, and also give them a chance to experience the inner workings of an international soccer club, allowing them to compare it to the experience at home.
We know college is the best thing for 97% of the elite players in the country but we have to remember that this is not the only way or place to advance as a player. The focus of Pro+ and the principle of advancement are both based on being player-centric. We should support players who want to advance to the next level, whatever it might be.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR PLAYERS
Players should understand the structure of the Pro+ program and why we have two annual training cycles. Cycle one starts in the spring/summer of each year. Cycle one's main goal is to identify as many elite players as possible and offer them an opportunity to develop with the best players in their age group. This cycle is a very key part of Pro+, as we announce very large player pools at this point.
Cycle two, the winter cycle, is based on competition, so the player pools are a lot smaller as the focus is on building teams to represent Cal South. The players are selected to attend the National and Regional ODP championships in January and March of the following year. Our goal is have our teams perform to the highest potential possible, which in this case means competing for a regional or national championship title.
In every country in the world, players represent their region, town or county and compete at these types of events. We stress to the players chosen for these teams that they are representing all the 156,000 players in Cal South and how important this is. On and off the field, we are striving to achieve excellence in the game.