With its three MLS teams throughout the state, exposure to the most popular game in the world is easy for today’s youth in the Golden State.
California is home to soccer players like former U.S. Soccer captains Landon Donavan and Carlos Bocanegra for the men’s team, and the likes of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Brandi Chastain for the women’s team.
The ranks of college soccer are also filled with players from California, including the IU team.
The 2014 team has five players on its roster from ?California.
Sophomore Tanner Thompson and freshman Trevor Swartz are from the Sacramento area. Redshirt sophomore Adam Goldfaden and freshman Tim Mehl are from the Los Angeles area and sophomore Colin Webb is from San Diego.
“It was awesome,” Swartz said. “A lot of people actually cared about the sport. Even at high school games we had pretty good attendance so it was a lot of fun.”
Webb also said the Hispanic culture in Southern California influences the style of play, something he believes gives him an advantage.
One person acutely aware of this culture is IU Coach Todd Yeagley, who recruits the entire state of California heavily.
“A lot of them are aware of Indiana,” Yeagley said. “But when you show them what we’ve been able to do it really opens their eyes if they didn’t have a ?long-term perspective.”
However, recruiting in California isn’t simple.
Trying to convince high school kids to abandon 350 days of sunshine a year with little-to-no humidity for snow from November to March and air so heavy it can make your shirt weigh five pounds in the summer can be ?challenging.
There are more and more kids interested in abandoning the sunny beaches for a full experience of the seasons, however.
“The kids seem more prone to want to leave the coast than in years before,” Yeagley said. “They also hear how great Bloomington is and they’re aware of the soccer program. Once they’re here they love it.”
The city of Bloomington is perhaps the largest factor drawing players toward IU.
“Anyone who visits this place just falls in love with it,” Yeagley said. “They realize we have fantastic facilities, but they also realize we have one of the most beautiful campuses.”
Another of IU’s main draws for soccer players is its success on the field.
In the past, IU coaches would have to explain the success of IU ?soccer in depth.
While the Hoosiers still try to impress prospective players with its nine national titles, recruits have now become more aware of IU’s exploits on the field.
“They’re hearing more about IU and reaching out to us,” he said. “When we contact them initially they’re already saying, ‘We’ve heard about Indiana, it’s a great place and we know the ?soccer program is historic.’”
Another factor that may bring players to California, is familiarity in an ?unfamiliar place.
For Thompson, IU was his father’s alma mater and an adventure he could embark on with his ?younger brother Tommy.
Tanner then recruited his club teammate Swartz to join him at IU.
Goldfaden also did some recruiting once he arrived at IU, convincing his high school teammate Mehl to leave Southern California for Indiana.
“So many people come here, have a great experience and tell their friends and family,” Yeagley said. “I think that’s happening in California the last 10 years.”
It’s not just soccer players doing the recruiting. Overall enrollment at IU from the state of California has increased over the past few years.
“It’s not just a soccer sell,” Yeagley said. “This school is a huge recruiter ?for us.”
Overall, California has the third-highest population of alumni, trailing only Indiana and Illinois.
This pipeline between IU and California is likely to remain active for the near future as well thanks to the efforts of current players.
“I definitely talk to the guys back home about coming here,” Webb said. “I tell them all about the ?program.”
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