Duquesne Men's Soccer: Why a national power isn't out of the question

By Steve DiMiceli
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During my time in college, Duquesne seemed poised and ready to become the class of A-10 soccer. We won a share of a couple of regular season championships but seemed to fizzle in the A-10 tournament. At the time, the A-10 was not strong enough to send two teams to the NCAA tournament. However, with the addition of St Louis and Charlotte looming, it seemed the level of competition would surely get better and the league with Duquesne as a perennial contender would flourish.

Flash forward 6 years. After an odd coaching change and what seems to be a failed although seemingly aggressive higher, Duquesne finds itself a team consistently in the middle of the A-10 standings and not really a threat to break through. We're not bad, but we're not very good either and we're certainly well off the place we seemed destined to hold in the league. The league itself has stagnated as well. The C-USA additions took several steps back, and the rest of the league has performed modestly at best out of conference.

Around the Midwest and North Atlantic, other men's soccer programs are flourishing. The NCAA hotbeds have shifted from the Piedmont powers of Virginia and UNC and the "you pick 'em" of California state colleges like UCLA and UC - Santa Barbara to school like Indiana, Michigan and of course, Akron. The rising tide regional has lifted many boats, but Duquense has stayed where it is.

It is difficult to ignore the trend that has occurred recently in college soccer. In last weeks MLS draft, 10 of the 15 players chosen in the first round who plied their trade in college came from schools within a 5 hours drive of Pittsburgh. Akron has aggressively recruited around the sunbelt and overseas, but the core of their players, like 7th over all pick Kofi Sarkodie, were raised right in Ohio. Maybe the strength of the program is keeping them closer to home, but maybe there are just more good players available for teams to recruit. This is the first MLS draft class where the undergraduate entries probably can't remember an America without a First Division soccer league. One might make the argument that the Columbus Crew and there various youth programs as well as DC United, two of the most popular teams in the early history of the MLS, may have sparked a youth soccer boom in the recruiting grounds of  many of these midwestern schools. Maybe players who were fans of the club stuck by the sport and now we're seeing better athletes from the rust belt and Maryland reach the college ranks. The level of high school and college competition in the Northeast may have evened out with the rest of the country due to a greater concentration of pro teams and more kids able to see a future for themselves in the sport.

Duquesne is centrally located to the new recruiting grounds of the Northeast, but what is holding us back? To this point, it seems like the money distributed from the controversial program cuts have been reallocated into helping the teams that play in the AJP. With the arena already getting a face lift and the men's and women's basketball along with the volleyball locker rooms getting a million dollar plus face lift, these teams have enjoyed the early benefits of a cash infusion which will no doubt help their recruiting. It seems the field sports will need to wait a little bit longer for their money. I have little doubt that it will come, but for now investments are being made to sports closer to competing at the national level. A coaching change may also be in order for the soccer team, but it makes sense to wait and pay someone well when the money does come. It would be great to have someone with some MLS experience ala Akron. It would also benefit us to start a series with the Zips even if it means going on the road for a couple of years before they come here.

Duquesne, in my opinion, has the potential to be a men's soccer power based demographic changes in the landscape of American soccer. Now they just need to make it happen. If they can do it at Akron they can do it here.

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