Coaches pushing for split soccer season

An existing proposal would extend the soccer season into spring.

Sam Kraemer

A proposal to extend the Division I soccer schedule is quickly becoming more popular across the country.

The proposal would extend the season — currently played in the fall — into the spring, according to West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck, a key supporter of the proposal.

Luck wrote a letter to all Division I athletics directors indicating what the proposed schedule would be like.

As of now, Luck estimated that 90 percent of men’s soccer coaches are on board with the change, while discussion is just starting on the women’s side.

Gophers women’s soccer coach Stefanie Golan said she is also on board with the proposed schedule change.

“From a health standpoint of the players, and actually being able to build a program, I think it’s great,” she said.

Luck said teams would still play the same number of games but would have more time to prepare and practice, rather than just recover.

He said the schedule as it stands is “very compressed.”

“[Players] don’t have time to work on technique too much. The majority of coaches believe a change would be appropriate,” Luck said.

Luck named two main reasons for the new schedule proposal: academics and the difficulty of games on weeknights.

On top of that, Luck said soccer has become a more physical sport that’s taxing on the body.

Becky Burleigh, head coach of the women’s soccer team at the University of Florida, said she agreed.

“I think if we decided to play two games of football a week, the world would think we’re crazy,” she said.

Florida’s schedule includes many games on Fridays and Sundays, sometimes including travel from Friday’s game to Sunday’s game.

“The Sunday games are just bad. The quality is bad. The pace of it is bad. It’s just hard to turn around like that,” said Burleigh, who has coached the Gators to 16 NCAA championship berths.

Burleigh also said the new proposal would be a much better model for player development.

“I know that our U.S. Soccer Federation is very much in support of it because college soccer plays a great role in development of our athletes,” Burleigh
said.

Still, Golan said there could be financial difficulties for the Gophers because of travel from the frigid upper Midwest to warmer climates in the spring.

“We would need a huge budget to travel, because we wouldn’t be able to play at home at that time of year,” Golan said. “That’s something I’m willing to do if it keeps our players healthier.”

Ben Gotz contributed to this report.