West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck will be in Portland, Oregon tomorrow presenting the collegiate men’s soccer full-academic year proposal to the Major League Soccer (MLS) Technical Committee.
Luck, along with Rob Kehoe and Kevin Payne, will present to the technical committee, which is made up of MLS coaches, presidents, general managers and league officials.
Kehoe is the College Programs Director for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and Payne is the former president of the MLS’ Toronto FC and D.C. United. Payne was appointed by U.S. Soccer to serve as the liaison as between the MLS and the proposal.
“The general approach is they’re supportive and want to know a little more about the specifics,” Luck said.
Some of the main issues deal with the MLS draft and the start of training camp. Historically, the draft has been held in January with teams reporting to camp in February and the regular season commencing in March.
“This will change if we don’t finish up the season before Memorial Day,” Luck said. “They want to have a better understanding of that and discuss that. Most of these folks have played college soccer, so they all have there own experiences with the men’s college game.”
Luck and the panel have already spoken to high-ranking coaches who have experience in the MLS and college game. Legends Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid have both been supportive.
Arena coached collegiately from 1973-96, most notably as the head coach at Virginia from 1978-96. Since 1996, Arena has coached three MLS franchises and the U.S. National Team from 1998-06. Schmid was the coach at UCLA from 1980-99 and has coach three MLS franchises since 1999.
A newcomer to the MLS coaching ranks is Caleb Porter and Porter would probably be most understanding to how the transition would work. Porter won a national champion at Akron (2006-12) and was named the Portland Timbers coach prior to the 2013 season.
“This will be a presentation, but I’m sure we’ll get a lot of feedback. We’ve already had a lot of feedback,” Luck says. “I’m sure Caleb will weigh in because the college game for him is the freshest.”
With all of the discussion being about autonomy, the timeline on when the proposal could go into effect depends on the NCAA legislative.
“This wouldn’t be in effect for a couple of years,” Luck says. “We need to get it in the legislative pipeline, but there has been a moratorium on NCAA legislation the past year, so it’s somewhat difficult, but the earliest is the 2016-17 season.”
Luck says that the majority of college coaches are on board and he is working to get all of the athletic directors to support the change.
“Ninety or 95 percent of Division I coaches like this and see the value of this,” Luck said. “There is probably less support amongst the athletic director’s because they think of local campus issues that exist, such as field sharing issues.”
With the recent spike in soccer popularity due the World Cup, as well as the attendance growth in the MLS, Luck believes now is the time to make a change.
“You should want the game to be flourishing, to see a Final Four over Memorial Day and have it sold out like the lacrosse championship or the College World Series,” Luck said.