What are the odds of going pro?

In this article, Ryan Sleeper calculates the odds of athletes going pro in a variety of sports.

Here’s what he found for women’s soccer players:

  • How many girls play high school soccer in the United States? 371,393
  • How many girls’ high school soccer players will play on a college soccer team? 1 in 10
  • How many girls’ high school soccer players will be drafted to the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League)? 1 in 10,316
  • How many women’s college soccer players will be drafted to the NWSL? 1 in 986

Here’s what that looks like:

The odds of going pro in women's soccer aren't high (graphic by Ryan Sleeper)

The odds of going pro in women’s soccer aren’t high (graphic by Ryan Sleeper)

For most of the numbers, he used scholarshipstats.com, which tracks the number of high school players in the US along with the number that advance to play on a Division I, II, or III NCAA team. And to find the the total number of players in the pros he looked up how many players are drafted per year to each top tier professional league in the United States.

Through his research and data analysis it’s clear that the odds of playing professional soccer domestically are pretty low, so looking abroad might be a better option for many players.



Is European women’s soccer catching up to the U.S.?

Let’s face it, United States women’s soccer has always been a powerhouse. With teams consistently contending for Olympic gold medals, FIFA World Cup championships, and NCAA national championships at the collegiate level, the level of competition in the United States for women’s soccer is extremely high. However, as more and more American players are heading overseas it’s becoming clear that the European women’s game is catching up to the American women’s game. With consistently successful, profitable professional leagues in almost every European country, which the U.S. has been lacking until recently, the women’s game overseas is becoming more and more popular for American players looking to extend their career.


Is the new pro women’s soccer league a viable option?

This article by Bloomberg Businessweek suggests that the NWSL might actually have a chance.

This league is the U.S. soccer’s third attempt at building a women’s professional soccer league since 1999. So historically it hasn’t always been the greatest success and some major flaws have led to the league’s downfall, even with pulses of popularity that surround the Summer Olympics and FIFA Women’s World Cup. Overall, the popularity and financial support isn’t usually there, but Bloomberg thinks this new league may be a different case.

A map of the nine NWSL teams across the United States. (Graphic courtesy of Houston Dash)

A map of the nine NWSL teams across the United States. (Graphic courtesy of Houston Dash)

For years the options have been limited for female professional players in the U.S., but if the NWSL can stay afloat there is sure to be an influx of players and fans hopping on board. And there is hope as officials have learned from the missteps of past leagues, with more teams and partnerships, and are making strides of their own with a new business model, making the future of the NWSL look promising.


How much does money matter?

By Kate Murphy


What matters more? (Graphic by Kate Murphy)

The start of the new season of the NWSL is here and still many people don’t even know that a women’s professional soccer league exists in the U.S. The success of this second season of the NWSL is crucial in determining whether or not the league will survive. In order to survive there needs to be a consistent high-level of competition, which means a large number of high-quality players. The only trouble with ensuring that talent is the issue of money.

In order to keep afloat, the NWSL has to pay its players a ridiculously low salaries. According to a FiveThirtyEight article, low pay is limiting experience in the national women’s soccer league. A salary for these professional players  typically ranges from $6,000 to $30,000, with most of them seeing the lower end of that range. And who wants to play for that? Furthermore, who can afford to play for that.

Sure, girls just out of college who don’t have much if any experience outside of that and who aren’t on the national team might find it enticing, simply because they want to play the game. But, what about international players and high-level players who are trying to make a living? That $6,000 salary just isn’t going to cut it for players who are truly invested in making this a career.

Data presented by the article, concluded that the NWSL pool is dominated by players two years out college with zero years of national team experience.  And the more professional experience, especially on a national team in turn means more talent. So if you just look at the data, the NWSL is dominated by young, inexperienced players. And that fact is attributed mostly to finances rather than talent on the field. For most players you can only play the game on a $6,000 salary for so long and then you need to give up the dream.

It’s a sad fact, but for most women’s college soccer players looking to extend their career to the professional level, it simply is unrealistic. You aren’t making a living; you’re barely getting by. The love of the game is usually at its peak near the end of a college career and that willingness to let it go forever is hard to have. Most female athletes play sports because of the pride it gives them, the sense of family that comes with teammates, and because they have a passion for the game that’s been driving them to make sacrifices for a good portion of their life. They don’t do it for the money or free gear, because they don’t get it. There is no real future for a player looking to make a professional career out of it unless they are an absolute stud on the national team, which pools about 30 players.

So when it comes time to make that decision to play professionally in the U.S. or go abroad or even to play at all does money really matter? It all depends on what a player is looking for. If you want a career making a 6-figure salary, look elsewhere. But if you want to continue to play the game that you love because you just aren’t quite ready to hang up the cleats and you don’t want to give up on your dream that’s been in the back of your mind since that U-12 travel team, you have options. Don’t consider it an occupation if you want to play professional soccer in the U.S. Consider it a privilege and another chance to play the game you have an incomprehensible obsession with, and you’ll know it was the best decision you ever made.

Former UNCW player Jennifer Ludemann reflects on her journey to play professionally in Finland

By Kate Murphy

Ludemann is a captain on her HJK team. (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

Ludemann is a captain on her HJK team. (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

After a successful four years at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Jennifer Ludemann continues her soccer career playing for HJK football club in Finland. Ludemann, a UNCW defender who holds the record for career games played (81) and second for games started (80), was a key part of the back line. After her senior season, Ludemann wasn’t ready for her soccer career to end so she set out on her journey to play overseas.

Why did Ludemann made the decision to play professionally abroad instead of the United States? I talked with her to get a closer look into what went into the process and how she’s adjusting to life overseas.

Play in the Pros: What made you want to play professional soccer and how long have you known you wanted to or were going to?

Jennifer Ludemann: I was coming up on my final season at UNC Wilmington and thinking about ending my soccer career forever after college seemed too soon. I felt like I was still improving as a player and hadn’t even reached my full potential yet so I wasn’t ready to quit. And knowing that the possibility of me being able to continue to play at a high level (and get paid to do so) was becoming more and more possible for female athletes, made me want to explore the idea.
I started discussing the idea with one of my coaches my junior year in college. I had slightly talked about it some maybe my sophomore year but my junior year is when I really became interested and saw it as a serious career choice. Honestly if you had told me I would be where I was now just a few years ago, I would’ve laughed and thought you were joking because it is such a dream to be able to play soccer for my job! I never thought this would be possible for me to do. I always assumed I’d be in grad school right now or something.

Ludemann was an essential component to the UNCW Seahawk defense.  (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

Ludemann was an essential component to the UNCW Seahawk defense. (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

Play in the Pros: How did you prepare for the step up to the professional lever?

Jennifer Ludemann: Once I decided I was serious about this, I began watching most of my college game films and clipping together my own highlight video. Sounds easy but this took a lot of time to watch the film, find good clips, get the clips, organize the clips, and put it all together in a video format. Once that was done, I also made a “soccer resume” with stats, awards and accomplishments. Then one of my coaches took it from their and sent off my info to people he knew. Once I heard back from HJK, I had to begin physically preparing and that all took place spring of my senior year. I ran, lifted and played as much as possible to be sure I was in shape and technically ready to go.

Play in the Pros: Did you ever consider playing in the states? Why or why not?

Jennifer Ludemann: Yes that would’ve been awesome to be able to play in the states straight from college. But the fact is coming from a smaller school and not having amazing stats to back me up, which is hard to have as a defender, breaking into NWSL, especially when it was their first season in the league would’ve been nearly impossible. I did try to contact some coaches but it didn’t turn into anything. I also tried out for the Charlotte Eagles but that was after I was already set on Finland. I am interested in one day trying to play in the NWSL but I want to develop a bit more and I’m happy where I am now.


Play in the Pros: What made you decide to play abroad? How did you get a contract?

Jennifer Ludemann: I knew it would be nearly impossible to play in the states and I knew one of my coaches had connections abroad so it made my decision pretty easy. Plus thinking about getting to play and travel to another country, which I had never really gotten to do, it was hard to ignore. My old assistant coach from UNC Wilmington, Mika Elovaara, is from Finland and had many connections abroad so he sent my highlight video and soccer resume to people he knew. HJK, a football club in Helsinki, Finland, came back interested and the contract discussions began with the help of Mika all the way through.

Play in the Pros: What was the transition like going from college to the professional level?

Ludemann playing for HJK football club in Finland (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

Ludemann playing for HJK football club in Finland (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Ludemann)

Jennifer Ludemann: The biggest change was their style of play, especially for my position as a center back. Overall the game and players are much more technical and they build up their attacks from the back line. In the states I feel like the center backs were responsible for defending and making good passes when possible, but here they start the attack from the back. The goalie will rarely punt the ball or send a long ball from a goal kick; whenever possible they will distribute the ball to one of the center backs and then the attack begins. It was quite a challenge for me to get used to my first season, but now I think it has become a little easier.

Play in the Pros: What’s been the best part of the experience playing professional soccer in Finland?

Ludemann and teammates celebrate a goal together. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ludeman)

Ludemann and teammates celebrate a goal together. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ludeman)

Jennifer Ludemann: Other than improving as a player, I think this whole experience has simply made me a better person. I’ve been launched outside of my comfort zone and it’s made me grow up. It has also made me a better leader. I’ve been a captain both of my professional seasons here, which has been a huge honor. I’ve also made amazing new friends and I know these are friendships that will last. I’ve been amazed how quickly I’ve bonded with my coaches and teammates and how easy they made my big transition. It just proves that although the language and culture may be different in other countries, people are the same!


Ludeman has her own blog to keep in touch with friends and family and keep them up to date on her journey and experience playing professional soccer overseas in Finland. Check it out for more of her story.


Former Blue Devil Mollie Pathman takes on professional career in Boston

By Kate Murphy

Mollie Pathman has two goals and two assists in three preseason games for Boston (Photo By Mike Gridley)

Mollie Pathman has two goals and two assists in three preseason games for Boston (Photo By Mike Gridley)

After a successful career at Duke University, Mollie Pathman signed with the Boston Breakers when selected in the third round of the NWSL 2014 College Draft. As a member of the U.S. U-20 team that won the U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Japan in 2012 and experience with the U.S. U-23 team, Pathman has seen the international stage as well.

To get an inside look into how she made this decision and the process of getting the opportunity I talked with Pathman about her experience.

Play in the Pros: What made you want to play professional soccer and how long have you known that you wanted to or were going to?
Pathman: I have always wanted to play professional soccer. I could not imagine stopping once I was done with college. I want to play as long as I still love the game. When I was young I always said I wanted to play pro soccer when I grew up, but I considered it seriously junior year when the league in the states came back and my college career was coming to an end.

Play in the Pros: How did you prepare for this transition to this professional level?
Pathman: From January through the start of preseason (March 10th) I was very focused on soccer training. I am part-time in school this semester so I had a lot of time to practice. I would train with the Duke team when they would train and I ran 3-4 times a week on my own. I also trained individually or in small groups with my assistant coach at Duke. I felt like I was in great shape and prepared coming into preseason. I tailored my training so that I was not over working and I was fresh going in.

Play in the Pros: Did you ever consider playing abroad? What made you want to stay in the States?
Pathman: I did think about it, but I wanted to try playing in the states first. It is an amazing league with some of the top players in the world. I would consider going abroad in the off-season, but I’m undecided as of now. I always wanted to play in the states. As soon as the NWSL announced they were coming back for another year, I knew I wanted to try to play in the states if I had the opportunity to.

Play in the Pros: What was the process of getting drafted? What your reaction when you heard you had been selected by the Breakers?
Pathman: I registered for the draft in December/January and then pretty much just waited. I had no idea if I would get drafted or to where. Our Duke coach sent out a highlight video of all of the duke players who had entered the draft to all the teams. On the draft day I followed the draft on twitter. I was so excited when I saw my name, and a few minutes later I got a call from the team manager to welcome me. It was a pretty cool day, and I am glad I was able to celebrate that night with my friends and family

Play in the Pros: What was the transition like going to the professional level?
Pathman: There is definitely a big jump going from college to professional level. IT is a much quicker speed of play, and you go from being on of the most experienced players on your college team to the youngest, least experienced player. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful. I can already see that i have improved a lot in the month that i have been here.

Play in the Pros: What are you most looking forward to about playing professional soccer in the U.S.?
Pathman: I am excited to play with and against the top players in the world and continue to improve my game. It is also nice that i can have friends and family come to some of my games.


Research presents 5 lessons that will save U.S. professional soccer

Players for the Seattle Reign FC seek a 2014 championship in the NSWL

Players for the Seattle Reign FC seek a 2014 championship in the NSWL

The success of the National Women’s Soccer League is an important factor for women’s soccer players when considering where to extend their careers. With two failed attempts in the past, the new league hopes to maintain popular support and stay afloat financially in order to keep professional play in the states a viable option for women’s players. This weekend the league’s nine women’s teams will took the pitch to compete in the second season of the recently established NWSL.

In an article published in the Seattle Times, Caitlin DeRuiter offers five lessons to save U.S. women’s professional soccer, via the Seattle Reign FC. After conducting a yearlong independent research project on the NWSL and its prospects for success here are the lessons presented.

  • Establish a loyal fan base
  • Don’t move too fast
  • Find an inexpensive way to market the league
  • Partner with MLS teams
  • Alternative sources of revenue
Goalkeeper Hope Solo of Seattle Reign FC fights through players to snag a cross.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo of Seattle Reign FC fights through players to snag a cross.

The success of this league isn’t going to depend entirely on the popularity of women’s soccer because it will never compete with the established men’s professional sports in the U.S. However, if the NWSL follows it’s carefully constructed business plan, it can stay afloat and ensure a permanent opportunity for college players to play professional soccer in America.

Former Elon soccer player Jen McGorty considers Finland for professional career

Jenn McGorty, former Elon soccer player, considering playing professionally in Finland. photo courtesy of Jen McGorty

Jenn McGorty, former Elon soccer player, considering playing professionally in Finland. Photo courtesy of Jen McGorty

By Kate Murphy

Jennifer McGorty, a four-year starter for the Elon women’s soccer team is looking to continue her soccer career at the professional level.

“Having the opportunity to play professional soccer is just another way for me to keep playing,” Mcgorty said. “After playing for 19 years and having a great senior year with my Elon team it’s hard to give it up and I never thought the end would be here so quickly.”

McGorty realized that these opportunities don’t come around everyday and when they do you have to consider the options. It’s about making the most out of everything.

“For me, it wasn’t “I want to play professionally,” it was more I just don’t want soccer to end,” McGorty said. “I know there are adult leagues available but it’s just not the same feeling when you’re coming out of a Division I environment.”

It would be a major adjustment making the transition from competing at the collegiate level to the professional level.

“I’m still deciding if playing abroad is something I definitely would like to do,” McGorty said, “so most of my current preparation deals with retaining my fitness levels for soccer and making sure my touch on the ball stays familiar.”

Mcgorty never really considered playing soccer after college at all. For her it’s always been the plan to play as long as she could, which for most athletes is at the collegiate level. The plan was was once her senior season was over, her focus would switch to pursuing a career in sports medicine as a way to stay connected to the athletic world.

However McGorty wasn’t sure if she was ready to walk off the field forever, so she looked into playing overseas for a different experience after college.

“I chose to focus on going abroad because I had connections out there through an old teammate, but also because it was something different,” McGorty said.

“Going abroad gives me the opportunity to visit other countries and learn about other cultures. I think it will allow me to see a new side of soccer as well, which I ‘m looking forward to if I do end up playing abroad.”

A friend and former teammate, Jennifer Ludemann, who is currently playing for a professional club in Finland, sparked McGorty’s interest.

“Beyond just that connection, though, I would like to think I would have explored the option to play aboard anyways,” McGorty said. “I’m young with no obligations and everyone always tells me that now is the time in your life to really go out and see the world. It may be cliché but in a sense they’re right.”

The likelihood of McGorty visiting countries overseas drastically decreases as time goes on, however if she were to stay and play in the U.S. there’d be a good probability that she would visit different states.

“It’s just an opportunity I would be less likely to embark on had it not been for soccer,” McGorty said. “It’s up in the air whether I will be playing, but if I do end up going I would look forward to learning about a new culture and learning another style of play that will hopefully make me a better all around player and person.”


USWNT players experience professional play overseas and in the U.S.

Whitney Engen plays for NWSL Houston Dash and U.S. women's national team and has also played professionally in Liverpool and Sweden.

Whitney Engen plays for NWSL Houston Dash and U.S. women’s national team and has also played professionally in Liverpool and Sweden. Photo courtesy of US Soccer.

An interesting article published by ESPNW last year discusses the experiences of U.S. players overseas. American soccer players based professionally in European leagues have a global commute to and from work, but to many having the opportunity to have that career is worth it.

“It’s all part of the job — one of the best jobs in the world,” said Whitney Engen, who’s played in Liverpool, Sweden and the U.S.

U.S. national team players, Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Christen Press are also teammates in Sweden for the club Tyresö. Because these players are based overseas, U.S. national team coach Tom Sermanni didn’t have a lot of opportunity to see them play up close, but he still believes European influence has its plusses.

“I think that the benefit that a lot of our players have had from going overseas has been both a soccer benefit and, if you like, a life benefit,” Sermanni said. “They’ve had to go into an environment that’s a little bit different, a culture that’s a little bit different. They’ve then had to play a kind of soccer that’s a little bit different. Coaching is a little bit different. So they’ve had to improve in a lot of skills both on and off the field, and I think that’s really benefited them.”

From the players perspective, Press said she doesn’t think playing on either continent is so much better than the other being exposed to both sides has improved her understanding of the game.

Playing professionally in Sweden has given American Christen Press a different perspective of soccer and life.

Playing professionally in Sweden has given American Christen Press a different perspective of soccer and life. Photo by Niklas Larsson/Bildbyran.

“I think that just the style I’m exposed to and the team that I’m on, it’s so different from the American soccer I was raised with,” Press said of the Swedish league. “Just stylistically and the priorities and how the pace of the game, everything, is so different that I think it has been such a great learning experience for me to have had one experience and then see a different side of it.”

More of Press’s experiences playing professionally can be found on her blog, “The Endless Search for the Perfect Pitch.”

As more and more women’s college players make the transition into the professional soccer world, the decision will continue to come with drawbacks and benefits on both ends. And it sounds like Sweden is a good place to be a young professional soccer player, even if the commute is less than convenient.

Women’s National Team players consider making the jump over the Atlantic

Tobin Heath signed a 6-month contract with a French team to then return to play with the U.S. women’s national team.

Tobin Heath signed a 6-month contract with a French team to then return to play with the U.S. women’s national team. Photo by Scott Bales/Icon SMI

A 2013 American Soccer Now article, highlights chatter among women’s national team players extending their careers to European platforms. While that bold move to play soccer professionally in Europe hasn’t been the most high-traffic route for women in the United States, recent developments suggest that the jump overseas is increasing in popularity.

There are more than American 30 players currently playing in European leagues, with 13 in the Bundesliga, and the rest scattered around France, Sweden, Norway, and England. It’s a big deal in the U.S. when women make that trip and they do it for multiple reasons. Whether it’s to add other element to their game benefiting from the European emphasis on technique and tactics, as in the cases for Tobin Heath and Meghan Rapinoe, or for an opportunity for the strongest start possible to a career, which was the case for Lindsay Horan who signed an overseas contract at 18, passing up a scholarship to play at UNC Chapel Hill.

Two U.S. women's national team stars Tobin Heath (left) and Meghan Rapinoe (right) take the field as opponents in France.

Two U.S. women’s national team stars Tobin Heath (left) and Meghan Rapinoe (right) take the field as opponents in France. Photo courtesy of Portland Timbers

“Unlike the men’s game, where earning a ticket to Europe is a mark of a player’s rising stock, making the jump across the pond for women is a little more murky. Despite the inconsistent status of a U.S. women’s league, not many U.S. players historically played overseas. However, thanks to Heath, Rapinoe, and a solid group of players already overseas, it’s increasingly clear that the women’s European leagues might offer opportunities for American women not found in the United States or NWSL.”

With the NWSL, the new professional women’s league, getting started up again there is a question of whether or not this American wave of players going overseas will become a real trend, but that’s going to depend largely on if the NSWl can stay afloat.