Soccer’s foundational perks are the reasons parents sign up their children for youth soccer leagues at such young ages, and over time, soccer has become one of the most competitive junior sports in the United States. In the Bay Area especially, there are elite-level competitions between clubs, and some players compete for professional-level clubs. For junior Alex Liua, his position on these teams is a result of years of rigorous training and experience.
“I started when I was like 6, and it didn’t actually start getting competitive until eighth grade,” Alex said. “I just joined club my junior year because that’s when the recruiting is huge.”
Now a junior, Alex plays on the San Jose Earthquakes U-16 academy team, which competes in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy league, the most competitive youth league in the country. The Earthquakes recruits players all over Northern California, from Sacramento to Clovis. Alex is the only player from the Los Altos/Mountain View area that is on the team, recruited to the Earthquakes after playing against them on his previous club team. After the game, Alex e-mailed Earthquakes head coach Stephen Wondolowski to ask if he could play for the team.
Alex views his opportunity to play on the Earthquakes as a chance to be recruited to a Division 1 college. Each player on these high-level teams has talent that college coaches are looking for.
“Because we have Stanford, Cal, Santa Clara, all those top schools right around here, most of them will come to our games that are just in San Jose, and that’s the difference; on club, you’ll never have a college coach at a league game, but we have them at like every game, and then at showcases we just have all of them,” Alex said. “They’ll literally be lined up on the field.”
In addition to talent, the Earthquakes’ has a renowned coaching staff that makes it simple for college coaches to take interest. The Earthquakes’ assistant coach was previously head coach of Stanford, and almost every college coach around the nation is in close contact with the Earthquakes program.
“We just pretty much have connections, like they know every college coach in the nation, all the good schools,” Alex said.
Many players on the Earthquakes are focused on turning professional rather than going to college, unlike club teams in the Bay Area, like the De Anza Force. But Alex has an advantage over his teammates on the Earthquakes with his high GPA relative to players on his team.