October 29, 2019

Men's Soccer Goes Global

The University of Chicago’s initiative to recruit athletically talented and technically gifted athletes from Lisboa, Portugal and São Paulo has resulted in increased success for the team and a strong likelihood of continued domination of DIII Soccer. Two current members, Jorge Branco and Vicente Mateus, have spoken of their transition to the much more physical soccer leagues of the United States and the process of adjusting to a new athletic culture. 

“While I was predominantly taught in an athletic environment that prioritized technicality and precision, learning to cope with the physicality of Division III Soccer has improved my game,” Mateus said. “As a result, I see myself as a much more complete overall athlete and I hope to continue to help the team put in strong performances and win more games.”

The dichotomy between the European/South American emphasis on technicality contrasts with the physicality of Division III Soccer. These changes provide recruited players a platform to develop previously untapped areas of their play and give the team a much-needed competitive advantage. In terms of the process of integrating into the team’s cultural dynamic, Mateus said that he could not have asked for a more warm and welcoming reception than the one he received on his first day of training. 

Branco described his introduction to the team: “Upon my arrival to the United States, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of the campus or the fellow soccer athletes of the team.... On my first day, every American-made athlete introduced themselves to me, gave me advice on how to manage my academic and athletic commitments while leaving enough leisure to experience the unique beauty of the city of Chicago and UChicago’s diverse student body, and how to cope with the new playing style of the league. In addition, I was advised to join the heavily soccer-involved fraternity, Psi Upsilon, to continue building my relationships with a diverse variety of athletes coming from all over the world. Today I consider my teammates and brothers—Nate Johnson, Sam Barovick, Renato Corghi, Jonah Moore, Isaiah Holquist, and of course, Vicente Mateus—to be some of the best friends in my life.

“I honestly could not have asked for a better integration into the team and campus and encourage all potential international recruits to follow in my footsteps if they aren’t entirely sure they are ready to make such a large change in their life. Being a recruit for UChicago has permanently changed my life and I hope to see a greater percentage of international recruits for all teams in the future,” Branco said.

UChicago’s admiration of international recruits is by no means unconventional. One of the best high school soccer team in the nation, Martin Luther King high school—famous for regularly clinching Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Class A titles and sending academy players to top athletic universities and even Major League Soccer—is mostly composed of athletes from Trinidad, Latin America, and West Africa, the majority of whom lived in New York City before enrolling at the school. Their head coach, Martin Jacobson, claims that the most time-sensitive part of his job is the process of finding the best talent for his team. Over the past two decades, Mr. Jacobsen claims that the variety of diversity at his disposal was a fundamental cornerstone behind the club’s team dynamic and long-term success.

While relatively modern, UChicago’s decision to increase the number of internationally recruited players has seen unprecedented levels of success for the team’s cultural dynamic and record (eight wins, one loss, five draws). In addition, the team’s foreign introductions have led to an emphasis on technicality which has improved the individual performance of each athlete. Based on current team opinions and results, the integration of international athletes has been a tremendous success and the University of Chicago should continue to scout the world for international talent.