Where a typical Division III soccer team would have 11 starters with an additional 12 players for substitutions, UTD’s team includes over 40 members on its roster.
According to Division III regulations, the UTD athletics department is not allowed to hold any official tryouts nor offer any athletic scholarships. Additionally, new members of the team also compete against far more players than normal to gain a spot in the starting line-up. For players such as Christian Vieria, a junior midfielder, however, these unconventional aspects are not viewed as a detriment but rather as motivation to play at the best possible level.
“The fact that none of us are here on scholarship kind of makes it more of a fair game, more of a free-for-all,” Vieria said. “The best players are going to play and that’s what coach always tells us.”
Freshman midfielder Jesse Ardila said his desire to gain a spot out on the field drives his performance at every practice. He said he felt athletic scholarships did not equate better skill, but detracted from the experience of the game.
“A lot of times, with these scholarships, there’s a little bit of added pressure,” Ardila said. “Knowing that you’re pretty much getting paid to perform takes away from the experience and without that pressure, you’re able to just really focus on the basics.”
Though no athletic scholarships are offered at UTD, all players are eligible for academic-based awards, something that Vieria and his teammate, junior defender Kasden Williams, said they believe to be far a greater priority. Both players said that although soccer was a passion for them, it comes secondary to their pursuit of mechanical engineering careers.
“For me personally, the primary reason I came (to UTD) was to get an education and the fact that I get to play soccer while doing that is just the icing on the cake,” Williams said. “I feel like that’s the case for a lot of guys around here.”
Williams said that UTD’s academic foundation does not take away from the game day experience and they still see a great level of support from friends and family who come out to cheer them on.
“We’re not just athletes, we’re students too,” he said. “We’re the ones sitting next to you in all your classes and we appreciate all the support we can get, so come out and watch us play.”