Saturday, December 12, 2009

College Cup: A New Look To American Soccer

By Roger van der Horst
Special to

CARY, N.C. — If the Men's College Cup is any indication, the face of American soccer is gradually changing.

"It's becoming more and more diverse, without question, both in the Hispanic market obviously and in the African-American community," said Charlie Slagle, chief executive of Raleigh, N.C.-based Capital Area Soccer League and co-director of the College Cup.

Almost a quarter of Wake Forest's 27-man roster is African-American. Of Virginia's 26 players, eight are African-American. They include Tony Tchani, who scored a goal in the Cavaliers' 2-1 semifinal victory Friday against Wake. In the Division I national championship game Sunday at 1 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park, Virginia (18-3-3) will face top-ranked Akron (23-0-1), led by star forward Teal Bunbury, who is black. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he grew up in Prior Lake, Minn.

The game's rapid growth nationwide, a rising awareness that there's money to be made professionally, greater youth league access, more role models and the sheer competitive search for talent all have moved the demographic needle, Slagle and others in the sport say.