Men’s soccer: A league of its own

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Playing soccer for BYU’s men’s team may keep players from some of the traditional perks of being a collegiate athlete, such as receiving scholarships. But since men’s soccer is a club sport, players have one privilege few other athletes have in college: a chance to play against the pros.

BYU Men's soccer players Junior Lartey (left) and Pedro Vasoncelos practice for their upcoming season. Photo by Maddi Dayton
BYU men’s soccer players Junior Lartey (left) and Pedro Vasoncelos practice for their upcoming season. (Photo by Maddi Dayton)

BYU is the first university-sponsored soccer program to participate in the Premier Development League, which provides players the opportunity to play soccer at a more competitive level than the NCAA. The team squares off against other club teams and professional teams throughout the country.

“I’m happy playing for a club sport because we get to play really good teams, and I think we’re better for it,” said Kip Critchlow, a junior from Sandy.

As great as players say it is to compete against professionals, playing as a club team has its drawbacks. Players don’t receive financial aid from BYU for sacrificing time to be on the team.

“I wish that it could be different. It’s difficult to be an athlete and go to school,” Critchlow said. “But you get to play in a competitive league, and you get to enjoy the religious part of the university, so it’s worth it.”

Blake Frischnecht, a freshman from Las Vegas, didn’t seriously consider BYU as an option but ultimately decided to come to BYU because of his religion.

“I hadn’t planned on coming here because I didn’t know much about the Premier Development League,” Frischnecht said. “But the other colleges I considered weren’t happy about me serving a mission.”

MLS teams recruited heavily from the PDL during the SuperDraft last month, including six former PDL players in the top 10, and another 25 overall.

“Playing professional soccer has always been the dream,” Frischnecht said.

Critchlow also wanted to play professionally before he got married last year. Real Salt Lake even offered him the opportunity, but he decided not to sign a contract, in order to focus on school instead.

The average number of spectators at home games has risen over the years but is still much lower than the crowds women’s soccer draws.

“A lot of (spectators) don’t understand who our competition is and when we play,” Frischnecht said. “The guys we play are professionals, but people don’t really know that.”

Critchlow thinks the real problem is the time of year the team plays.

“It’s difficult to get a lot of fans because we play in the summer time when students are going home, but I think being a club team helps us because people come to our games to watch good soccer,” Critchlow said.

Whatever the reasons may be for the lack of recognition, Frischnecht and Critchlow both agree that this upcoming season will be a good, competitive one. According to Frischnect, the team is a “great group of guys.”

“We have some pretty tough competition this season,” Critchlow said. “The PDL removed the bottom three teams and added three new ones to our league. One of them used to play in the MLS.”

The men’s soccer season doesn’t start until April, but fans can get excited now by purchasing tickets and merchandise online at soccer.byu.edu.

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