Apr 19, 2022 - Sports

College soccer's proposed schedule restructuring

Illustration of a soccer ball broken up into small pieces and rearranged.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

College soccer may soon undergo a monumental change, though not everyone is on board.

Driving the news: The "21st Century Model," which would make men's Division I soccer a year-long sport, is expected to be voted on by the D-I Council later this spring after last week's vote was tabled.

How it works: This new model would spread the schedule across the academic year, with the season ending in late spring rather than early winter.

  • Current: 18 games plus two exhibitions (August–November); College Cup (November–December); training plus five exhibitions (February–April).
  • Proposed: 12 games plus two exhibitions (August–November); training plus one exhibition (January–March); eight games (March–April); College Cup (April–June).

Why it matters: 86% of players support the proposal, which would increase recovery time between matches and provide athletes with more school-sports balance.

"We wanted to make sure this was a holistic model that was for the 5,000 kids playing [D-I] college soccer every year, not just the 50 that will go professional."
Sasho Cirovski, Maryland head coach

State of play: D-I programs currently play once every three days, compared to once every seven days in most top-tier pro leagues, and a 2010 study showed that injuries were six times more likely when playing twice per week rather than once.

  • "Student athlete welfare comes first," said ESPN analyst and former USMNT player Taylor Twellman. "To ask [athletes] to play a game Friday then Sunday is irresponsible."
  • Midweek games would also be trimmed way down to a maximum of three all year, all but eliminating the need to miss classes.

The other side: A vocal minority is against the change for three key reasons: scheduling conflicts, the strain on support staff and the impact on the college experience.

  • The MLS draft is in January and training camp begins weeks later, so draftees could miss the whole spring, including the College Cup.
  • "With no competitive fixtures [in the spring], I've been able to immerse myself in dorm life," says Notre Dame sophomore Paddy Burns. "It's very healthy to have friends outside of soccer."

The bottom line: The seeds of the 21st Century Model, planted as far back as 2000, may finally bear fruit.

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