Soccer Combine – What to Expect When You Attend

AX Soccer Tours event - Coaches speaking to players

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A soccer combine is an event that allow athletes to showcase their skills and abilities in front of coaches, scouts and agents.  Depending on the event, there may be representatives from college or professional clubs present.  Professionals evaluate players during a soccer combine. It also allows them to see how they compare with the other competing players.  

Performing well and standing out may lead to an invitation for a trial with a club.  For college combines, it may assist in securing an athletic scholarship.

There are several companies in the US that offer soccer combines.  Following, is a very general overview of what to expect from a combine, followed by some suggestions.  I am ending this post with my thoughts regarding my son’s experience with two separate combines that he attended.

What to Expect Before a Soccer Combine

Player emails:  About a week before the event, players should receive a welcome email with some general information and reminders about the event.  Players are split into two or three groups.  The groups will meet during different times of the day.  The night before the combine begins, players should receive an email telling them which group they will be in as well as what time they should plan to report.  

Time:  Sometimes a combine will advertise a lengthy time period, ie:  9 – 3.  This does not mean that the player will need to be there from 9 – 3.  Players just need to be present while their group is being evaluated.  Each session will typically last about three hours.  For many combines, the top players are in the first group of the day.  At any event, most places try to group players according to ability.  During the course of the combine, players have opportunities to change groups.  The groups are led by “coaches”.  

If you are able to go early, or stay late, it will allow you to see how the other players perform.  You can have an idea what to expect if you go early and watch the other groups.

Multi-day event:  The player should receive an email each evening letting them know if their meeting time has changed. The email will usually also give them the time and place to show up.

Player Registration and Check-In:  Once the participants arrive, they check in and usually attend an orientation schedule.  Event details and relevant information will be shared with the players at this time.  It is important that players bring photo ID.  They usually also need to provide something showing date of birth.  Numbers are assigned to players. This is how the scouts and other observers will identify them.  

The number may be on a printed pinney.  The number may be on a sheet of stock paper that is affixed to their clothing or leg.

What to Expect at the Soccer Combine

Fitness and Conditioning Testing:  While American football combines include fitness and conditioning assessments, soccer combines most often do not.  There is a degree of this built into the warmup and perhaps the first day’s activities, but most soccer combines do not specifically take measurements of a players speed or reaction time.  

Technical Skills Stations:  Players rotate through stations that focus on fundamental soccer skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, and ball control.  These drills assess a player’s technical proficiency and touch on the ball.  Usually there is a coach for each of these groups leading them.  Other scouts and coaches may be on the side observing and taking notes.

Small-Sided Games:  Combines typically include small-sided games (3v3, 5v5, etc.) . They also hold full-sided matches to assess players’ decision-making, positioning, teamwork, and overall soccer IQ. This provides scouts and coaches with a chance to see players in game-like situations.

Position-Specific Drills:  Depending on the player’s position (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, forward), there may be specialized drills to assess role-specific skills.  For example, goalkeepers might undergo shot-stopping and distribution drills, while defenders might focus on positioning and tackling.

Feedback and Evaluations:  Some combines provide feedback to the players from the various evaluators, including coaches or scouts.  This might address the player’s strengths or areas in which they could improve.  

Before You Attend a Soccer Combine

Make certain you read all the instructions.  Be aware that combines do not provide food or drink.  You need to bring your own water.  I would recommend you bring a cooling towel if it is summertime, depending on the location.  Wear sunscreen, and if you can bring a backup pair of cleats, it is a good idea to do so.

Most combines do not give written evaluations; however, if a player stops to speak with the coach or other staff after a combine, they can receive feedback on their play.  

Networking Opportunities:  You’ll meet other players while you are at combines.  Try and get their instagram or phone numbers.  They may be from different parts of the country and it may be helpful to speak with them about different opportunities.  

Make certain you are polite to everyone you meet at a combine.  Most coaches will wear identifying kits, but you never know who might be watching.  If you have an opportunity to speak to coaches to others, take it.  

It’s important to research and prepare in advance for a soccer combine. This may involve training, conditioning, and familiarizing yourself with the specific tests and drills that will be conducted. Remember that combines are competitive events, so putting your best effort forward and showcasing your skills with confidence can increase your chances of making a positive impression.

Make certain you read all the instructions.  Be aware that combines do not provide food or drink.  You need to bring your own water.  I would recommend you bring a cooling towel if it is summertime, depending on the location.  Wear sunscreen, and if you can bring a backup pair of cleats, it is a good idea to do so.

My Son’s Experience

My son attended two combines in the US.  One was with PSC.  The other was with AX Soccer Tours.  I attended both events with him and observed from the sidelines where I took photos and video. I also spoke with a few players and parents at each.

Professional Soccer Combine (PSC)

It was well-organized.  The staff stayed on the far side of the field from the players.  They addressed the young men prior to the event beginning and at the start of each day.  I had reached out to the organizers a few times before the event hoping to have a chance to interview them.  They did not respond to my requests.

I spoke with several players and parents.  They were from all over the world.  One young man I spoke with was from Africa; he was only sixteen years old.  I spoke with a few parents who were from various countries in South America.  Players were present from several states.

The boys were addressed as a whole at the conclusion of the event. They videotaped the games. PSC gave the option of purchasing the video for an additional fee.  They provided evaluations to each player.

They offer a “showcase” event in Europe. Selected players are invited to attend. There was an additional fee for the event.  Those going would also be responsible for the costs of travel.  

I have been told that those players that are placed by PSC are mainly ones who attend the showcase events.  I have not researched this. You can contact them here.

My Son’s Experience

This was his first experience with a professional soccer combine. He enjoyed the games. Because of player injuries, he was able to play full games both the second and third day. Otherwise, it seemed as if the players were rotated out for half a game each.

He felt there were some solid players present and enjoyed meeting them.

The soccer combine itself was held on an open field.  There was a small building with bathrooms.  Parents and friends sat on one side of the field, the staff stayed on the other side.  The event we attended was in Florida – in the summer.  It was brutally hot!   

AX Soccer Tours

The staff and coaches were friendly.  Staff members were stopping and interacting with the young men. They seemed to be on familiar terms.

I interviewed the owner, Michael Palacio and the Director of Player Development, Brian Shriver. I had lovely conversations with each of them.  

Michael is an ex-professional player.  He played attacking mid for several professional clubs, both here in the US and abroad, including:  The Long Island Rough Riders, New York Red Bulls, Radnicki Obrenovac, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Carolina Railhawks.

Michael still plays for pleasure.  He also likes to give back to to community.  He created AX Soccer because he knew how difficult it is for young players to make connections, be seen and actually have REAL opportunities to play professionally. Michael created AX Soccer to help players.  He and his partners do not run the company for making money.  Fortunately, they are in a position to offer the combines and their services at highly discounted rates.  Because they are not trying to get rich from their events, they are able to invest the fees into the quality of scouts, agent and coaches who attend their events.  

Historically, they have covered the attendance fee for some invite only events.  (Players are responsible for travel, room and board).   Coaches and scouts for several US and foreign clubs are in attendance.  AX absorbs the costs of inviting these club representatives and hosting them as a way to give back to players and the soccer community.   They have also helped with “scholarships” for some players who may not otherwise have been able to travel for events.

My Son’s Experience

The soccer combine was well-organized. We arrived about half an hour before the event the first day and staff already had cones out on the fields to start the day.  The soccer combine was in a small stadium. Parents and friends were able to sit comfortably and observe the event.  Parents, friends and family took photographs and video. AX itself did not videotape the games to sell.  They had several coaches working with the young men.

I spoke with a handful of players and a few parents.  The ones I spoke with had travelled from all over the US.  A couple of the young men I talked to had participated in other combines as well.  They felt AX Soccer Tours was legitimate and that the staff really tried to work with the players.  

My son enjoyed his experience with AX.  An agent he had met offered him a chance to participate at no charge. Our costs were travel, hotel and food.  My son thought the competition among the players was good and felt like the coaches and staff were friendly. He had trained with a Serie D club in Italy, and felt some of the players were at a similar level.

I would recommend participating in one of the AX Soccer Tour events. You can learn more about them here.

The Captain’s Agency

This group had a different name before; they were the MJ90 Football agency. They provide assistance as intermediaries, brokers and with player marketing.

I have not met the people who run this agency. Most of their events seem to be in the Eastern US. I had seen one listed for Slidell, Louisiana and another for Fort Lauderdale Florida. The combine I had heard about had scouts from Spain, USA, Portugal and Cyprus in attendance. You can learn more about them here.

Path 2 Pro

I have never spoken to them. You can learn about them here.

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