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NCAA Examining Two-Semester Men's Soccer Season

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The NCAA is preparing to vote on a proposal that would completely overhaul Division I men’s soccer.

The proposal, which can be found in the 2019-20 NCAA Division I Council-Governance Publication of Proposed Legislation, would move the men’s soccer season from three months in the fall to a two-semester schedule. The fall portion of the schedule would include 14 contests, including two exhibitions, before Thanksgiving, while teams could play nine spring games, including one exhibition, prior to the season-ending NCAA tournament.

“The men's soccer community has spent considerable time developing consensus for a new playing season model that would redistribute the playing season throughout the academic year,” reads the proposal, which is sourced by the ACC and Big Ten Conference and is focused on improving student-athlete well-being. “The current one-term approach to the competition schedule features a highly compressed competitive schedule in the fall that culminates with the NCAA championship in mid-December. The degree of compression in the fall is inconsistent with emerging sports-science data, which have indicated increased injury rates when two matches are played per week as opposed to one.

“This proposal has significant student-athlete benefits, including less missed class time, additional rest and recovery between contests and more similar training to professional and international soccer. … All these improvements can be accomplished while maintaining the current 132-day format for the season, which would ensure that the overall amount of time student-athletes are in-season would not increase.”

The proposal will be put to vote in April, after seven years of campaigning by Maryland’s head coach. Sasho Cirovski, who has won three NCAA titles in 25 years at Maryland, has spent years building support for a new system that would spread the season out, eliminate midweek games and better prepare players for the professional leagues.

“The college coaches on the men’s side are going to be working hand in hand for the next three months to try to get us to the finish line, to do something that is transformational, an evolutionary and positive change, and a game-changer in this country for not only college soccer, but we feel for soccer in general,” Cirovski told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The current schedule, which includes 20 games packed into the fall, doesn’t prepare players for the longer, more taxing professional leagues. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that college soccer players playing two games a week were injured 25.6 times per 1,000 hours of exposure, while it was just 4.1 for players playing one game per week. The official proposal also suggests that the new schedule would also improve student-athlete efforts in the classroom.

“NCAA data have also shown that men's soccer student-athletes arrive to college with the third highest GPA among men's sports, yet finish with the fifth highest GPA,” the proposal states. “This phenomenon could be attributable to the frequency of midweek games, in addition to first-year students adjusting to being full-time student-athletes during the compressed fall term. By redistributing the playing and practice season, the proposed model would benefit student-athletes in a number of ways. Specifically, there would be academic and health benefits by nearly eliminating midweek games. In addition, student-athletes would have more time to focus on final exams and friends and family, as the season would pause before Thanksgiving Day and would not restart until mid-February.”

The proposal, which needs 33 out of 64 votes to pass, only applies to men’s soccer. The Philadelphia Inquirer reached out to five conferences about the proposal, learning that the Atlantic 10 will vote yes, the Ivy League will vote no, and the American Athletic Conference, Colonial Conference and Big East are undecided.

“I do think things are trending in a good way, but we also don’t want to assume we have any votes in the bag until we know,” Cirovski said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Public support is critical, and in the next three months, we’re going to be asking for a lot more.”

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