The College Cup concludes this weekend. While the tournament includes only US-based college teams, it is a very strong international tournament in terms of the player pool. 27% of the participants self-identified international hometowns from 55 different countries. Just look at the hometowns of the final 4 teams:
This final 4 map is also interesting for the insights into the recruiting philosophies of the 4 highly regarded coaches, but that is analysis worthy of a different day.
A question I’ve been stewing on lately: is the College Cup the best amateur international soccer tournament in the world?
The NCAA has gone to very great lengths in its attempts to insure that none of these participating players have ever been directly compensated to play soccer. May tournaments are easy to rule out with millionaire players on the field. Just look at the Olympics.
Where amateurism ends and professionalism begins is a fuzzy line, I would imagine. My understanding is that in England FA players must be at least 17 years old before they can sign a professional contract, although most do not sign professionally until they are 19. Thus, do the U17 World Cup or the UEFA U17 Championship or various Development League tournaments fully qualify as amateur tournaments? And if so, how would those teams compare with the best US collegiate teams that are filled with players in their early 20s, many of whom were graduates of elite youth academies from around the world. Plus for the younger ages, player development is the objective, not results, while the single-elimination college cup is pretty much the most cut-throat tournament format in existence.
In the US, the Professional Development League (PDL) makes allowances to accommodate elite college players, and many of the PDL teams are overflowing with talent. However, the PDL season is very short, with players rotating in and out around their other obligations. Do the PDL play-offs that are more akin to AAU basketball all-star teams have a chance against the collegiate elite?
To me, the College Cups is the tip top of the amateur game, and merits more respet than it often gets. I welcome anyone who can set me straight on this argument that the College Cup is the best and most competitive amateur tournament in the world.