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Notre Dame’s Bobby Clark Discusses the Exposure Level of Soccer in the United States

Notred Dame soccer coach Bobby Clark joined Jeff Thurn on Monday’s edition of Overtime. 

Clark is Notre Dame’s soccer team and is a former member of the Scottish national team.

What does Clark feel about soccer at the collegiate level?

“I think it’s unbelievably good right now as it stands. I don’t think people that usually make these comments have not really been involved in it. I think that would be the one thing I would see. Anybody that actually comes out and makes a statement similar to what you just came away with, and I have held it. I would like them to come and spend a week with us. They will always tell me you only work hard in the Fall, a three-month season. They should come and see how hard our players come and work in January, February, March and April. Then, the main thing I would see anytime I’ve taken teams abroad and have come back from Africa from a three-week trip to Zimbabwe and we were playing them tough. As a college team, we didn’t have any seniors with us. We were playing their national, premier teams, and men. We would go 1-1-1 against the top league and teams in Zimbabwe. We’ve played every year for the last nine years, Mexico’s U-20 national team, and if you follow youth and youth national teams, Mexico has some of top national teams in the world. Nine years they’ve come here and I think they’ve only won twice.”

If Americans were exposed to soccer in the States, would they have a better perspective on the game? 

“Exposure? I think people need to know, you know Maryland, who we played in the final and just came back from playing Manchester United U-21′s…These are top, top EPL (English Premier League) teams and I think we went 1-1-1 and won there as well. So, I think and I played for 21 years in Scotland. I’ve run the youth programs the last five years of my playing career in Aberdeen when Alex Ferguson was the coach. I feel like I’m a good judge on where this country is compared to where other countries are. I think were very, very close and the big thing about college is it gives players the opportunity to compete and play at a high level and also get a degree. It’s not the only thing where can go into the pros. But you look at the players that are playing there and this World Cup, obviously Matt Besler’s there, and in the last World Cup where I had two of my Stanford team had played in the EPL and were playing for New Zealand and they had come to college and played. Ryan Nelson, who is now a manager of Toronto and he had about a nine-year EPL career after he played college soccer for four years. So, I don’t think it’s hard for any of these guys, Dylan Paul was the rookie of the year coming straight out of Notre Dame after three and a half years with a degree in his back pocket. I can give you a lot of examples, but look at these central examples playing for the United States tomorrow night and they both went to university. I think not quite sure. Maybe there’s five or six starters in the last game caught with collegiate playing time..I’m not saying going to college is the only route to the pros, but it’s a very, very good one.”

Will the youth in the U.S. watching the World Cup be more apt to play soccer down the road in the future?

“I know one of these guys only thinks we are the only sport in the World. I think it’s one of the nice things in America where kids can find their own sport. I think the big thing is there is a lot of youngsters that will play basketball, football and hit baseballs. I know Jamie, my youngest who came over to play baseball and also liked to play basketball and liked to play soccer. But eventually the sport choose him and kids will gravitate to what sport is best for them. I think there is going to be a lot of interest and very aware of soccer and when I would come here to Dartmouth in 1985, I remember Scotland, my old country was playing in Mexico in the World Cup in 1986, and I couldn’t get a game and eventually had to go to someone’s house who had a dish and we got it through a Canadian channel and that was how you were getting your soccer back in 1986. Things have changed; I think the World Cup here in 1994 made a huge, huge difference and got people aware of the game and realized it was a fun game. Obviously, it will continue to grow and got people aware of the game and realize it is fun and will get to that level. The nice thing about the U.S. is we are producing players. I look at our team, Notre Dame, we have an All American team and have no foreign players and obviously you win the national championship and I think the year before Indiana won the national championship, there was no foreign players and were playing against Georgetown and their was no foreign players on Georgetown. So, the other team’s in 2012, there wasn’t a foreign player. I think Maryland had a Zimbabwe boy, and I’m not sure they had any other ones. But there wasn’t a foreign player playing in the last two finals, and so I think this country is really producing players nowadays. I feel if we can get the best American players, we can compete with anyone.”

To hear more of Clark’s interview with Thurn, listen below:

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Thurn can be heard daily on ESPN 99.1 from 3 to 6 p.m.

*For comments and story ideas, email Sam at tastadsam@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @samtastad.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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