Across the world, new leagues and seasons are beginning. Recently, the Premier League kicked off, joined by many of Europe’s most elite leagues. In the United States, however, professional leagues are nearing the end; most of the USA’s leagues start in the spring and end in the fall/winter. That’s not the case for all of the country’s soccer, though. The NCAA season is just starting.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the NCAA or college soccer, I more or less summarize it here. Essentially, athletes play soccer in college before being given the option to become professional or not. It’s becoming an increasingly common path in the United States — everyone from MLS academy graduates to European prospects is playing.
With the NCAA season starting, here are five players that could star in the upcoming year.
F Ryan Carmichael, 21, Hofstra
Carmichael was easily one of the NCAA’s best players last season. He started his career in his native Northern Ireland with Portadown FC, making more than 50 appearances for the club. In August 2020, Carmichael joined Hofstra, a New York college in the Colonial Athletic division. Last season as a sophomore, Carmichael scored an impressive 15 goals, the second-most in the NCAA, with a further nine assists. Carmichael is a business analytics major.
D Femi Awodesu, 21, Penn State
Penn State are one of the SuperDraft’s most consistent colleges. For three consecutive years, a Penn State player has been drafted. Last year, two Nittany Lions were selected. Femi Awodesu could be Penn State’s next player drafted — for two seasons, Awodesu has been one of the top performers on defense. The Philadelphia Union Academy product started 19 games last season, keeping eight clean sheets. Awodesu even scored in Penn State’s NCAA Tournament loss to Carmichael’s Hofstra. He plans to major in business and received Academic All-Big Ten honors last year.
M Mathys Lefebvre, 20, Pittsburgh
Lefebvre is the latest example of how much the NCAA is on the rise. The Frenchman was developed in the famous Lyon academy, playing against some of Europe’s top talents in the UEFA Youth League. At the end of his contract, Lefebvre did not elect to join another European club or any club at all. Instead, he elected to attend Pittsburgh University, where it appears he will continue his business school aspirations. On the field he’s impressive, having made several appearances for Lyon’s reserve side over the years.
F Aboubacar Camara, 20, Louisville
Camara is coming off of a big season for Louisville. The striker scored 13 goals as a sophomore and six goals in nine matches as a freshman. Last season, he was an all-ACC First Team player, having made the All-Freshman Team the season before. A US international at youth level, Camara was born in Guinea before moving to the US. Like Awodesu, Camara started his career with the Philadelphia Union Academy. In addition, he played for Lone Star FC and trained with the Bethlehem Steel FC, both local clubs.
F Isaiah Reid, 20, Clemson
Reid has already proven himself on the biggest level that college soccer has: the NCAA Tournament. Clemson reached the final of the tournament against Washington, where Reid scored a brace to clinch the win for the Tigers. Over the season he scored nine goals, having scored twice as a sophomore and no goals as a freshman, originally shifting between offense and defense. Reid is a Sports Communication major and Business minor.
The NCAA has some of America’s best, brightest prospects. Some of the top players in the MLS started playing college soccer in the US, and some in Europe, too. Wake Forest graduate Jack Harrison recently scored against Chelsea to claim a victory for Leeds, who were coached by Princeton graduate Jesse Marsch. Syracuse’s Tajon Buchanan has impressed in Belgium so far with Club Brugge, too.
With more talented players than ever before, this could be one of the most exciting seasons in NCAA history.
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