Club's admission to top events leads to next level opportunities
When researching what separates FC Alliance from other clubs in East Tennessee, sometimes you just have to look at the data. Numbers and statistics show two things about FC Alliance: (1) the club is the only club in the area invited to the nation’s top showcase events, and (2) the club puts an enormous amount of players into college soccer. Those two facts are very much intertwined. Since 2010, over 200 FC Alliance players have moved on to player soccer collegiately, and much of that is directly related to the club’s attendance in the nation’s best showcase events.
What is a showcase event and what makes some better than others? A showcase is a tournament in which the goal is to be seen by college coaches and scouts. The teams play to win and the events recognize champions and finalists, but getting players college opportunities is just as important to the squads participating.
Not all showcase events are created equal. There are many showcases that are called “showcase” by their event organizers, but will only attract a small spattering of college coaches. Then there are the legitimate, big time events. Those which host hundreds of college coaches and division after division of teams loaded with college talent. These events are only open to the nation’s top teams and clubs, and fortunately, these are the ones which FC Alliance has been participating in for years. A game in the 2013 Las Vegas Invitational Showcase between the FC Alliance 97 Girls and Colorado Pride featured over 50 college coaches watching the match.
“It was an incredible scene,” Girls Director of Coaching Josh Gray recalls. “There were more college coaches than fans there.”
A large portion of that FC Alliance team moved on to play collegiately. This year, Gray took his 99 Girls MRL to the same Las Vegas event. And guess what? They won the championship. More importantly, doors were opened for his players. Although several players on the team are already firmly committed to colleges (Emily Threatt to Western Carolina and Samantha DeBien to MTSU), a slew of others are in the midst of the process and the event opened doors for many of them.
“This event is huge for our kids,” Gray said. “They get to be seen by coaches at all levels from schools coast to coast.”
The three main events which FC Alliance gets into that draws college coaches in mass are the Las Vegas event, CASL College Showcases in North Carolina, and the Disney College Showcase in Orlando, Florida. These high profile events consistently admit FC Alliance teams, thanks to a strong track record of producing winning teams with an abundance of college prospects. As kids are being seen by college coaches, their teams, not coincidentally, are also having success at the events. Gray’s 99 MRL winning Las Vegas was impressive, but not a rarity. At CASL, both the FC Alliance U15 and U16 girls won their flights. At Disney, the U15 girls and U17 boys took home top honors, while the U18 girls claimed third place. In fact, FC Alliance's reputation of producing good players and teams has created a following at these events. There are multiple schools who sign one or more FC Alliance players to their program each year. The club’s college signee list on the website shows so much (http://fcallianceknox.org/FCA_Collegeplayers/).
“I feel like our club has a great relationship with a lot of the college coaches,” said Jon Schneider, the Boys Director of Coaching. “We’re always honest with them about what kids can play where. In turn, as a club, we can make sure that we can find kids a home at the right level. It keeps kids from getting overlooked.”
How important are these events? Judging by the fact that the top showcases feature teams from all corners of the country, as well as international teams, it is fair to assume they’re extremely important.
“If I had to guess, I would say approximately 75% of our kids who go on to play collegiately are spotted at these showcases,” Gray estimated.
Outside of the big three events, there are other showcases which prove valuable, as well. The club has seen good results from three Midwest events: Crossroads of America, BlueChip Showcase, and Ohio Elite. Also, the FC Alliance College Showcases consistently attracts an impressive group of schools.
“We send our teams wherever we need to send them to get the kids seen,” Gray added. “Recently, that has included our own backyard, which is nice.”
As a rule of thumb, it is usually easy to decipher the quality of an event as they generally post a list of schools attending. If an event doesn’t offer that list on their website, it should be an immediate red flag. If that list exists, but only includes the name of schools very close to the event, it should be another red flag.
“We are very lucky to be in a small fraternity of clubs who get to play in the top showcase events,” Gray said. “That’s the great thing about being a part of a club with the tradition that we have. The success of our past players and teams directly benefits our kids in the present.”
Not only do FC Alliance coaches say the right things, they do the right things. The club’s coaches are well-versed on how to train their teams to be competitive against the nation’s elite. Their teams play a style consistent with college soccer so college coaches can see exactly what they will be getting at the next level. This style of possession and building soccer allows FC Alliance teams can go toe-to-toe with the country’s best squads.
Training to get to this point is a process. Teams don’t always see results on the field at first. An FC Alliance team can lose local games one season and then turn around and win a college showcase the next. It can sometimes be an exercise in patience.
“We know that our teams will eventually be playing in the top college showcases,” Gray said. “Getting them there takes time; there is no magic potion to make a team great. It takes the right training and coaching; it takes enthusiasm and commitment from players and families.”
Replicating what FC Alliance has done since its formation would be difficult. The club has built an infrastructure of the right people in the right places. It has a good mix of coaches brought in from outside of the community and coaches with lifelong roots to the area. The results mean fresh ideas get mixed in with the consistent training formulated through years of successful player development. In the end, this translates to success, whether at a state tournament or in a college showcase event.
The mantra of FC Alliance seems pretty clear and simple: “we get in to the top events; we are successful there; our kids get recruited.”