The latest guest on New England Soccer Journal’s “The Goal” podcast is longtime NESJ contributor Jonathan Sigal.
Sigal has covered soccer in New England since the mid 2010s, and now oversees editorial content for MLSsoccer.com. A former Division 3 player himself at Clark University, he transferred to Boston University to begin his career in journalism.
With one month remaining in the 2022 Division 3 college soccer regular season in New England, Sigal joined host Matt Langone to discuss the region’s D3 landscape. The conversation touched on what makes Division 3 soccer so excellent in New England, and which men’s and women’s teams could be making some noise this fall.
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Here are some highlights from our discussion with Sigal.
On making the choice to play Division 3 soccer:
Sigal: “I think it’s different on the men’s and women’s sides, and I could talk about this for hours, but I’ll try to give a short version. I think on the men’s side, what’s unique is, first off, there are fewer D1 programs on the men’s side than on the women’s side for college soccer. So, there are fewer opportunities to play D1 men’s soccer, especially here in New England. I think there’s a really heightened appreciation for the level of play and also, more importantly perhaps, what that D3 experience entails, meaning the academic platform it provides at some fantastic schools. Frankly, the opportunity to study abroad, the opportunity to not have your entire year defined by being on a college team and exploring some different things.”
On how the NESCAC has become the strongest D3 league in the country:
Sigal: “There are multiple layers, one of which is the academic profile of the players they tend to recruit. It’s very common for those players to be weighing an Ivy League decision alongside a NESCAC decision. I remember talking with players with great frequency and they’d rattle off, ‘Hey, here’s who I was considering,’ and you can fill in the gaps with what those schools will likely be. There’s just a lot of carryover there. So, I think the type of player, the type of person, the type of student that goes to those schools are very, very similar. Yes, there’s going to be a difference in terms of who is going to be an All-Ivy League player versus an All-NESCAC player.”
On Division 3 men’s teams who have been impressive so far in 2022:
Sigal: “Wesleyan had a really strong year last year. I don’t remember the exact number of best records since Year X — that number that year escapes me. But they’re building off it right now. We’ll see. I mean, there’s always that, ‘Hey, you have your toughest part of the schedule coming up,’ etc. You and I both know how that narrative can go around teams, but that’s notable to me. Bowdoin as well on the men’s side. They’re coming off of a win at Connecticut College. That’s huge. I mean, if you’re able to beat the defending national champions on their own turf, that doesn’t happen every day. You don’t need to dominate that game. All that matters is the result at the end. I think also what’s interesting is Tufts, Amherst — these are schools that are finding their way for different reasons. Some huge players have graduated from those sides. They’ve been synonymous with the upper echelon of D3 soccer in New England for so long. I don’t think they’re going to go anywhere. I think that’d be naive and unfair to say that their days are behind them.”
On Division 3 women’s teams who have been impressive so far in 2022:
Sigal: “I would say that what’s interesting is I think the word is parity in NESCAC soccer. Tufts is starting out strong. Middlebury is starting out strong. There’s nothing weird about that. Williams has bounced back after a couple tough losses, but I don’t quite see a powerhouse team in either respect, and I think that’s notable. It’s a little bit hard to forecast at this moment in time, but at the same time, I do think that it’s an open field. We’re going to learn a lot more.”
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