More than 100 of America’s top amateur soccer players will gather for four days at the end of January in hopes to impress coaches and scouts from all over the world.
Three of those players will be BYU men’s soccer players looking to earn a spot on the roster of a professional squad.
Junior goalkeeper Brian Hale, junior midfielder Colby Bauer and junior forward Garrett Losee will represent BYU at the 2013 USL Pro Combine.
The Combine gives players, primarily those in the USL Premier Development League, a unique opportunity to play in front of coaches from America’s top three soccer leagues — Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League and USL Pro — along with coaches and scouts from all over the world.
“I’m excited to just go out and see what other talent there is out there and to see how I can improve,” Losee said.
BYU men’s soccer head coach Chris Watkins is excited for what this opportunity presents for the players.
“It’s great for us to have players that are recognized at that level,” Watkins said. “These are players that have that goal too; they’d like to do that, and it’s a nice opportunity for them to hopefully reach their goals.”
The Combine will be at the world-class IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and will take place from Jan. 24 to 27. The 2013 edition of the USL Pro Combine also marks seven years since its inception. In that time only one other Cougar, Brock Trejo, has participated in the Combine. For BYU to have three players competing in one year is an outstanding achievement for Watkins’ squad.
“Brian Hale has got the body and the athleticism to play at the highest level for sure,” Watkins said. “Colby (Bauer) has proven to be a fantastic player in all of our biggest matches. He can compete with anyone. And Garrett (Losee) is an excellent attacking player.”
While BYU’s participation in the PDL, the highest-level amateur league in the United States, gives players a chance to compete against other top soccer players in the country, the chance to compete at the USL Pro Combine is an even greater opportunity. The Combine will give these three players the chance to play at a higher level and show professional coaches who might not otherwise see just how good they are.
“It’s a privilege,” Bauer said. “I’ll be able to size myself up against other people who are trying to play pro and see where I can improve my game.”
Not only will they get to play for the top-level coaches, but the players will also get the opportunity to train with those same coaches.
“There are going to be a lot of good goalkeeper trainers out there,” Hale said. “To be able to work with them will be a neat opportunity.”
The Combine has been a key stepping-stone for some of America’s brightest young soccer players. Both the 2011 and 2012 USL Pro Rookies of the Year awards went to players Jose Cuevas and Luke Mulholland respectively, who competed at the 2011 Combine.
The three Cougars hope competing with the top players in the country in front of the top coaches will help other BYU players realize they can do the same.
“I think it kind of opens the eyes of the team,” Bauer said. “Just the potential, the fact that there are combines and people looking at BYU players, gives people motivation to play harder and perform well.”
These three will be playing hard and looking to perform well in their bid to go pro and leave their own personal marks at BYU.