The Women’s soccer team at the University of Minnesota amazed everyone by shocking their opponents and starting off with a 5-2 season, but the men’s team is nowhere in sight…literally.
Men’s Soccer at the NCAA level has been absent from the U of M sports program since it was founded. The University has been able to make a men’s club soccer team but fails to promote the organization into Division I with top soccer prospects from Minnesota.
Title IX, a Higher Education Amendment Act passed in 1972, was set to equalize the number of women’s and men’s sports, but despite its positive intentions the act has prevented the University of Minnesota from creating a men’s soccer team. To begin an official soccer program, The U of M would have to stop funding a different men’s organization so that the number of sports for each gender would be balanced.
While other men’s sports can be entertaining and profitable, the University of Minnesota needs a soccer team because of the sport’s growing popularity. According to an ESPN poll from March of this year, professional soccer, for the age demographic of 12 to 24-year-olds, has surpassed professional basketball and baseball in its popularity and is only behind the NFL. If the Gophers had a soccer team, ticket sales would quickly increase with the age demographic that appreciates the sport.
There are about 840 teams playing for different clubs in the Minnesota Youth Soccer Associations (MYSA) leagues with roughly 15,000 kids playing at the highest levels from the ages of 8-19. According to the GotSoccer.com rankings, many of Minnesota youth teams, such as U19 St. Croix Juventus, are ranked within the top 150 teams in the nation. The Juventus are 100th in the nation, U17 Minnesota Thunder Academy Elite the 120th, and U16 St. Croix Red Bulls 136th.
Unfortunately, many of these competitors have nowhere to go after their high school career because the University of Minnesota fails to elevate the level of its soccer program to Division I. This becomes a very big problem for those who want to stay in state for college because they are forced with a difficult decision: stay in-state and not play top-level soccer, or leave the state to play at the highest stage. The potential for a team is there. With the age group that loves soccer the ticket sales would be high, and with Minnesota’s top youth soccer players the future team could be prosperous and successful.