Preparing To Turn Pro
You must start the transition to turning professional at the earliest point in your career. Whether you are still in high school or attending college, there are many things you can be doing to help promote your skills to teams when the time has come to turn professional. Here are some tips that we recommend you start doing, which if you eventually sign with our firm (R2S Sports Agency) will help us promote you to teams and leagues.
You should start preparing game/practice film as soon as possible. You need to highlight your strengths in a 5-10 minute video showcasing your abilities. For example, if you are a goalkeeper, put footage of you handling crosses, making saves, directing your team, handling passes, taking goal kicks, etc. If you are a striker, put highlights of you scoring goals, crossing the ball, taking players on 1 v. 1, making diagonal runs, heading the ball, etc. This is the only way professional coaches and scouts can evaluate what type of player you are.
We also recommend creating a soccer resume. The resume, like a job resume, should include: your name, email address, physical address, phone number, citizenship, languages spoken, all awards/honors you have received, statistics from your high school/college, any national team experience, ODP or ESP experience, semi-professional experience (such as a PDL team), a reference list of coaches who can attest to what type of player you are, whether you are right/left footed, what position you play, height/weight, and any other accolades/merits that are noteworthy. You can and should ask the coaches on your reference list to send you a letter of recommendation highlighting your strengths and explaining why you are deserving of a professional contract.
If you are still in-season, we recommend talking to opposing teams’ coaches and asking them what they thought of your abilities. This can gauge interest. If they speak highly of you, ask them to write a letter of recommendation or ask them to be a reference in the future when you decide to turn pro. We also urge you to talk to your head coach as early as possible and let him know of your intent to play professionally. Your coach is usually connected in the soccer world, and he might have some more helpful tips that will only serve to strengthen your chances of receiving a professional contract.
We always recommend hiring an agent to promote you to teams whether it is my firm or another, because agents usually have the most connections to teams and understand how to negotiate player contracts. We are also in a position to take emotions out of speaking with team owners and league front offices about your abilities when negotiating the contract. At the end of the day, we prefer you choose our firm for obvious reasons, but also because we are dedicated to helping you achieve your goals and dreams. Even if you do not, we still wish you the best and are always here to help if you ever have any questions.
Individual Teams Pre-Combines
By late December, MLS teams start holding private, invitation-only pre-combines that allow a smaller group of players to be evaluated before the MLS Combine. These pre-combines are either paid or unpaid by the hosting team. We attended the Seattle Sounders Pre-Combine in Las Vegas and approximately 60 of the top college seniors attended the event. Players were asked to play in 3 full-sided 11 v. 11 games over the weekend (1 game per day). Some players were shocked at the high level of play and others were saying they were a little out of shape. As you will see below, we highly recommend all draft-eligible players to attend these events, unless you are projected to be a top-5 MLS draft pick.
If you are invited to participate in the MLS Combine, we recommend attending these pre-combines for 3 reasons: (1) You will be asked to play in similar full-sided 11 v. 11 games at the MLS combine; (2) These pre-combines are a way for you to stay in shape and sharp on the ball since you might not have played a real game since your college season ended; and (3) It is an opportunity to build relationships with MLS coaches and scouts who will be the ones deciding whether or not to draft you.
We have heard from players invited to the MLS Combine that they are worried about the risk of injury or under-performing while attending these individual team pre-combines. Our argument would be there is also a risk of getting injured/under-performing at the MLS Combine, affecting your chances of getting drafted. Since you did not attend any pre-combines, coaches and scouts will have nothing else to evaluate you on besides what they have seen/heard of you from your college season. We realize MLS coaches and scouts put heavy emphasis on a players performance at the MLS Combine and you should be healthy and in top shape at the event. However, these pre-combines allow you to play against the top players in the country, keep your fitness up, and evaluate early on what you can do to perform well at the MLS Combine.
At the beginning of January, before and after the MLS Draft, some teams hold “open” tryouts to players who might not have a chance to attend the MLS Combine or these invitation-only pre-combines. This gives players a chance to be seen who otherwise would not have this opportunity. The disadvantage, however, is that they are open to basically anyone so you can imagine the sheer volume of players that turn out. If you are a “diamond in the rough” or a player who has played at a smaller school that does not get as much publicity as bigger schools, we recommend attending as many of these open tryouts as possible and at least one non-invitation-combine (see below). You have nothing to lose (except the application fee) and everything to gain.
There are 4 main soccer combines in the United States held each year to evaluate talents players aspiring to play professionally.
(1) Pro Pace Soccer Combine
Pro Pace holds a soccer combine each year at the beginning of January in Southern California. The combine is for all professional levels of soccer and pro scouts and coaches will be in attendance evaluating players. You must first submit an application before the required deadline and pay the registration fee to attend the combine. If you have further questions or would like to apply, you can visit www.propacecombine.com.
(2) Info Sport Soccer Combine
Info Sport also holds a combine each year in Florida at the beginning of January. The combine is for draft-eligible college seniors, pro soccer veterans and qualified free agents seeking contracts in the MLS, USL, MISL, or any international league. You must also submit an application before the deadline and pay the registration fee to attend. Make sure to apply early because applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have further questions or would like to apply, you can visit www.infosportinc.com.
(3) USL Men’s Player Showcase
This event features 90 of the top U23 players in North America and abroad, running from Thursday, February 4 through Saturday, February 6. Players will be broken up into randomly selected teams and each team will go through a training session on Thursday, February 4th. On Friday, February 5 each team will play two games and one match will be played on Saturday February 6. The event will take place at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, SC, home of the Charleston Battery. In 2008, 1/3 of the 90 players were signed to MLS, USL-1, or USL-2 professional contracts. The deadline to apply for the 2010 Showcase is January 6, 2010, and they accept players on a rolling basis so the earlier you apply the better chance you have of making it. Also, one advantage of applying is you do not have to pay the application fee unless you are invited and actually decide to participate. In order to participate at the event, you must be born on or after January 1, 1986. The USL requires you to also send in a soccer resume and reference list to the league so that they can evaluate your skill level. We recommend if you played PDL, trained with a professional team, speak foreign languages, hold dual citizenship, or have siblings playing professional to include this information on your resume. If you have any questions, you can visit www.uslsoccer.com or email us at RS@R2Ssportsagency.com.
(4) Adidas MLS Combine
The Major League Soccer also holds their own soccer combine and it usually follows the Info Sport Combine in Florida. This is an invitation-only combine and approximately the top 65 draft-eligible athletes are sent invitations. The 65 players will be divided into four teams and will compete against each other the second week of January at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The coaching and management staffs of all 16 MLS teams will be in attendance to scout talent at the 2010 adidas MLS Player Combine, which concludes two days before the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. At the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, considered one of the best talent pools in SuperDraft history, 42 of the 60 players drafted attended the 2009 adidas MLS Player Combine; 10 combine players were selected in the first round. For more information on the MLS Soccer Combine, please visit www.mlsnet.com.
MLS Soccer Combine Advice
MLS scouts and coaches are looking for how well you adjust to the speed of play with unfamiliar players and surroundings. You must be able to make decisions fast and be able to stay mentally strong during these few days of intense training. We recommend being in the best shape of your life. If you are out of shape, it is impossible to keep up with the speed at this event and stay mentally strong. This will correlate to you moving down the draft charts or not being drafted at all. If you need any advice on training for any of these combines, please contact us at RS@R2Ssportsagency.com.