By DAN KARELL
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a player in the lower divisions of soccer in the United States and Canada?
One player who knows exactly what life is like is current Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin. The 24-year-old Major League Soccer rookie spent a season in 2011 in Canada with Capital City F.C. in Ottawa and spent last season in USL Pro with the Charlotte Eagles, making just three appearances as the team’s backup.
The Elon University product chronicles his time down in the depths of North American professional soccer, revealing how exceedingly difficult it is to improve, develop, and even keep a good standard of living outside of MLS.
“Then there’s the off-season, when your contract doesn’t pay,” Irwin wrote in Pacific Standard. “Most guys coach. At the same time, if you want to move up to the next level, you need to put in the off-season work (hashtag “grind”). In the lower leagues, your season starts in April and is over in September or October. In MLS however, the season begins in January and continues until the end November.
“Players in the minor leagues are perpetually three months behind in development just based on this wrinkle.”
Now making the MLS league minimum, Irwin is more than happy with his situation as a starting goalkeeper. Since replacing the injured Matt Pickens on opening day, Irwin has started each of the Rapids next 21 matches. The Rapids currently sit in second place in the Western Conference, and picked up the Rocky Mountain Cup last Saturday.
What do you think of this story? Did you realize life was this tough for lower-level players? Do you see any changes being made to increase professionalism in all pro leagues?
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