How We Started
For several years, I always wondered why there wasn't an all-american game for soccer players like there is for so many other sports. Every year I said I was going to change that and every year it never happened. So finally, after the 2010 season completed, I decided I wasn't going to wait anymore and it was time to start the process.
Starting an All-American game in soccer is unique to any other sport because high school soccer isn't played all at the same time. Some states play in the fall, some the spring and some in the winter. I decided that in order to get the foundation set, I would focus on having a game for fall playing states only and start with just a boys game in 2011. We chose Birmingham, AL. because it was where the men's NCAA Division I college cup was being played. We chose it for a couple reasons. 1) The natural progression for most players in our game was to play Division I soccer and this allowed them to see what they had to look forward to. 2) A lot of college coaches attend the college cup, and if we had unsigned players, this would be a great way to showcase them.
Year one was a struggle because it was also the start of the Development Academy era and the US Soccer Federation didn't support our game. "We didn't meet their technical standards," I was told. They told the academies that any player who played in the All-American game would incur a minimum two game suspension. This happened after we had selected our teams, so once this was made known, we endured mass defections. Rather than accept defeat, we decided that we would focus on the kids we had, not the kids we didn't have and we would make it great.
Shane O'Neill was a young man from Colorado who was not originally chosen in the top 40, but when kids started to back out, Shane moved up the list. Shane played DA soccer and was also a star basketball player at Fairview High. With little interest from colleges up to that point, Shane took a leap of faith and came to the All-American game. It was a decision that would change his life. Shane played great and college coaches who had never seen or heard of him started calling me wanting his info. Shane went from nothing to an offer from defending NCAA champion Virginia. Ultimately Shane used the All-American game to propel him to signing a homegrown contract with the Rapids as well as several appearances with the U20 National team and even a call up to the big club for two games. He is currently playing for the Seattle Sounders
While year one was a struggle to get enough money to cover expenses, I knew we had to make a go of it for other kids like Shane. The last nine years we have had players come to the All-American game with nothing and leave ultimately getting offers from schools such as Virginia, Penn St., Uconn, Liberty and Kentucky to name a few.
After two years of the boys game, we started a fall girls game. We spent one year doing the games on different weekends, before realizing that we were better off doing the games on the same weekend. Since that time, watching the games has become easier thanks to Continental Tire and Topdrawer Soccer. In 2015 and 2016, we were able to stream the games live and both years saw over 11,000 people tune in.
Adidas has stepped up huge for us providing the players and coaches with full uniforms and warm-ups and in 2016 each player also received a pair of shoes.
In 2018 we welcomed Bimbo Bakeries as a title sponsor and it has been a difference maker. We can now offer an even better experience for our players and coaches.
We continue to try to make it an affordable and unique experience for the players and coaches. For those chosen, we cover all of their uniform expense, meals, and provide them with lodging if they do not want to stay with family. We are always looking for sponsors to help us offset our expenses. Myself and co-director Matt Longo do not accept pay for this and volunteer our time because we have a passion for it and because it is the right thing to do for kids. If you ever like to assist with sponsorship or be a part of the game, we would always welcome that.
All-American Game Founder and Director
Eric Stratman and 2015 participant
Assistant Director Matt Longo
Girl's Coordinator Tara Madigan
Boys Coordinator Mike McLaughlin