Jay Vega, a UDA NMSU student-athlete will be furthering his education in a PhD Program, working towards a degree in School Psychology while continuing to represent UDA NMSU on the field.
We sat down with Jay to learn more about his experience
At UDA, our commitment to student success goes beyond the pitch. To help our students develop personal and professional growth during their university experience and beyond, we developed the Dream Maker Program alongside the UDA SUCCESS Foundation.
The Dream Maker Program is dedicated to fostering the personal and professional growth of our student-athletes, helping them collaborate with their universities’ career and employability resources so they can grow their employability opportunities post graduation.
Developed and led by Dr. Scott Johnson, in alignment with the visionary goals set by UDA founder Dr. Brian Haley, this program aims to equip UDA students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their chosen fields.
THE UDA CIRCLE OF SUCCESS
The Dream Maker Program is designed to provide UDA students with a holistic approach to personal and professional development. By offering mentorship, guidance, and resources, the program sets UDA students on a path to success. From their university studies to post-graduation, students benefit from the expertise and support provided by the program
SUPPORTING CAREER DEVELOPMENT
The Dream Maker Program collaborates closely with the Careers Offices and Employability Resources of universities our students attend. This collaboration offers our students ongoing individual student relationships, group conversations, presentations, support building a portfolio, application guidance, job search tools, and advice and insight from alumni and industry experts.
With these resources, our students are prepared with the necessary tools to navigate the job market successfully.
MEET DR. SCOTT JOHNSON, CEO OF THE UDA SUCCESS FOUNDATION
Heading the Dream Maker Program is Dr. Scott Johnson. Holding a Ph.D. in management and marketing from Arizona State University, an MBA in international business from the University of San Francisco, and a BS in business administration-marketing from California State University, Fresno, Dr. Johnson brings a diverse range of knowledge to the program.
Having taught at the University of Greenwich in the UK, Dr. Johnson has a deep understanding of the European academic landscape. His experience in designing professional development and leadership courses, building external partnerships, and conducting assessment centers and team-building activities for students has equipped him with invaluable insights into employability.
Dr. Johnson's extensive background as a marketing executive and his three-decade-long tenure as a professor, program director, and business school Dean have allowed him to advise hundreds of students on career preparation and oversee their internships. By leveraging each student's unique experiences and strengths, Dr. Johnson fosters their career readiness competencies through supportive feedback and networking opportunities.
Our Dream Maker Program demonstrates our commitment to the comprehensive development of our student-athletes. Through close collaboration with universities, personalized mentorship, and access to industry insights, the program equips UDA students with the skills and knowledge necessary for success.
Under the guidance of Dr. Scott Johnson, the Dream Maker Program has become a cornerstone of UDA's commitment to empowering its students both during their university journey and beyond.
For more information about the Dream Maker Program, please reach out to Dr. Scott Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are thrilled to announce the inaugural First Annual UDA All-Star Iceland Showcase! In January 2024, top players from UDA Soccer Academies in the USA and UK will gather in the land of ice and fire for an extraordinary display of talent and sportsmanship.
Taking place in Iceland, renowned for its rich football culture and breathtaking landscapes, this event promises to be a true celebration of UDA Soccer excellence. From captivating matches against elite Icelandic U19 teams to immersive training sessions with esteemed Icelandic coaches, our players will have the opportunity to shine on a global stage.
But the UDA All-Star Iceland Showcase isn't just about the competition. It's a journey of cultural exploration and personal growth. Participants will embark on the unforgettable "Golden Circle Tour," visiting iconic natural wonders such as Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss. They will also indulge in relaxation and rejuvenation at The Sky Lagoon, a remarkable geothermal pool and spa.
UDA Soccer is proud to provide this incredible opportunity for our talented returning athletes to showcase their skills, gain exposure, and create lasting memories.
We can't wait to witness the magic unfold on the pitches of Iceland!
UDA Soccer - Pathway to the Professional Game.
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Sunday January 7 –
Monday January 8 –
More than 500 fans came out to support UDA Soccer at New Mexico State University to see them play the Park City Red Wolves. It was the largest crowd the team has ever had for a game. Photo: UDA Soccer
UDA at New Mexico State University made history Wednesday night beating Park City Red Wolves 1-0 in the First Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Jose Puente calmly slotted home a 78th minute penalty kick to put UDA through to the Second Round where they will face New Mexico United (USL Championship) on the road.
“That was such a tight, incredibly hard-fought game, we knew it was going to come down to one mistake either way,” said UDA head coach Blake Ordell. “We were able to take advantage and we did a good job keeping the shutout. I’m incredibly proud of everyone. We made history tonight.”
More than 500 vocal fans—the largest in the program’s two-year history—packed the New Mexico State University Soccer Complex to cheer UDA on to its first tournament win in its Open Cup debut. With the win, UDA becomes the first team affiliated with a college or university to advance out of the First Round in the Modern Era (1995-present). The only college team to even qualify since 1995 was BYU of USL League Two (then known as the PDL). They qualified three times in 2006, 2007 and 2015 but failed to reach the Second Round.
It was clear the game was going to be a test of wills from the opening whistle. The two youth-filled amateur teams took turns running at the other without creating any real chances on goal.
Thirty minutes in, the visitors called for a penalty when UDA goalkeeper made contact with Park City forward Zachary Lifferth as he went to goal. The speedy Lifferth gave UDA defenders fits all night, but was unable to get anything threatening on goal.
The second half started as the first ended, with both teams looking for some modicum of control, which neither team was willing to concede.
“They made things incredibly difficult for us,” Ordell said. “Credit to them. They would not let us play the way we like to play.”
It wasn’t until the 70th minute of the match that UDA was able to string multiple passes together in their attacking third. Attacking down the left flank, that sent Selah Alyones in on goal in the 78th minute. Alyones was unceremoniously chopped down from behind for a clear penalty.
Up stepped Puente while Park City did everything they could to get into his head. Multiple players had words with him while Ronaldo Onu kicked the turf at the penalty spot away. Onu received a caution for his efforts.
“They were doing everything to get in my head,” Puente said. “I just tried to focus on making the shot, not what they were doing.”
Puente paused during his approach, making the goalkeeper move early. He calmly put the ball the other way and took off to celebrate in front of the standing-room-only crowd.
The final 10 minutes was hectic and chippy as Park City threw everything they had forward, missing two opportunities and forcing UDA goalkeeper Mario Castillo to make several important saves to keep the clean sheet.
With the win, UDA advances to face a pro team for the first time in Round 2. They will take on New Mexico United who had an impressive Open Cup debut of their own back in 2019, reaching the Quarterfinals. The game will take place in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico Soccer Complex on April 4.
“Tactically, I expect things to be very different in the next round,” Ordell said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we can keep making history.”
UDA Soccer celebrates after defeating Azteca FC 4-1 (after a 4-4 draw) in a PK shootout to qualify for the 2023 US Open Cup. Photo: Andrew MosierIt’s been three months since UDA’s epic 2023 US Open Cup qualifying win over three-time Open Cup qualifier, Azteca FC 5280. But even now, UDA technical director and coach Tahlon Drake has a hard time containing his emotions when he talks about it.
“It’s games like that that remind us why we do this in the first place. To qualify our first time out, on the road, in the cold at altitude, to come back and tie the game twice after going down a man, it was truly something special,” Drake said of the 4-4 heavyweight slugfest that was ultimately decided at the penalty spot. “And then for our ‘keeper to step up and make three saves in the shootout. The whole thing was just incredible.”
Photo: Casey Morris | UDA Soccer
Drake leads the University Degrees Abroad men’s soccer academy program at New Mexico State University. UDA operates as New Mexico State University’s men’s soccer program, wearing both the UDA and NMSU crests when they play. But it is more than just a university club team. Based on the three UDA academies in England, UDA at NMSU is a European-style academy, training and playing year-round. It is the only one of its kind in the United States. The club currently fields three teams competing in the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL), college club leagues, elite youth leagues, the US Open Cup, and other competitions. Because UDA is a de facto college team, the team’s average age hovers around 20-years-old.
“All of our kids have to be enrolled in school,” Drake said. “We want to make sure we are changing lives through education. We’re not just a vessel on the football field. Ultimately, we want them to get an education, because the ball stops rolling for everybody at some point.”
UDA opens the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at home versus 2022 USL League Two Mountain Conference champions, Park City Red Wolves, on Wednesday, March 22 at the NMSU Soccer Athletic Complex.
In qualifying, UDA is only the second team in the Modern Era of the Open Cup (1995-present) directly affiliated with a college or university to qualify for the tournament proper. Teams from the University of Florida, Oklahoma University, Louisiana-Lafayette, and the University of Southern California have entered qualification in the past, but only Brigham Young University, which competed in the PDL—now USL League Two—from 2003-2017, qualifying for the Open Cup in 2006, 2007, and 2015.
What is UDA?
University Degrees Abroad was founded in 2018 at the University of Cheshire and has since expanded to eight universities in England and Wales offering foreign students a pathway to degrees from those institutions, with the University of Chester and University of Gloucestershire offering soccer academies through the universities. The initial success of the program UDA Program Director and former NMSW assistant woman’s basketball coach, Jeff Thompson, floated the idea of incorporating the UDA soccer academy model with an American university. NMSU seemed like the perfect partner, with first-class facilities in place for its NCAA Division I women’s program, a climate conducive to year-round play, and lots of local talent to help build the program.
“Because NMSU only had a woman’s program, we were able to go to them and say, ‘We want to be your men’s division one program, just not under NCAA rules,’” Drake said.
Photo: Casey Morris | UDA Soccer
With the agreement with NMSU in place in 2019, Drake, Ordel, and a support staff began to build the program. Then COVID-19 hit.
“We didn’t even get to have a proper training session until 2021,” Drake said. “It wasn’t until then things really got started.”
In the spring of 2021, the club entered the first UDA team into competition, finishing a respectable 5-1-2, good for second place in the seven-team West Texas-New Mexico division of the UPSL. For the fall 2021 season, the club moved to the intensely competitive UPSL Arizona Division. UDA won the ten-team division, winning eight and drawing two. In the spring of 2022 UDA moved back to the West Texas-New Mexico division, going 6-2-2 to win the division and earn a berth in the UPSL post season tournament. They beat the San Antonio Surf in penalty kicks and the Arizona-based River Valley Bully’s 1-0 before falling to the Dodge City Toros 4-1 in the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal appearance qualified UDA to play in the inaugural UPSL Champions Cup, featuring four of the top UPSL teams from the United States versus four top teams from the UPSL Mexican divisions. UDA finished winless in its group versus Mexican sides Deportivo Teziutlan and Altiplano FC, and Chicago Nation FC from the U.S.
“It was a learning experience for all of us,” Drake said. “We grew a lot as a team and as an organization during that time. Our program is about so much more than just getting the immediate result.”
Entering the fall 2022 UPSL season, UDA moved back to the West Texas-New Mexico division. For the first time the club fielded two teams. UDA Crimson finished second in the division going 5-3-0. UDA White finished at the bottom of the five-team table going 1-7-0.
“We put a lot of energy and effort into qualifying for the Open Cup,” Drake said. “Maybe at the expense of league play. But it paid off in the end.”
How They Got Here
With first round byes for both clubs, UDA opened 2023 Open Cup qualifying at home versus UPSL side Coronado Athletic from Sierra Vista, Ariz. UDA had little trouble, cruising to a 4-0 win over the Coronado club that finished in the middle of the table for the fall 2022 UPSL Arizona division. Mattias Cavallo put UDA up in the 15th minute followed by a second-half brace by captain Eric Gomez-Silva the capper by Marco Millan with fifteen minutes to play. Next up was fall 2022 Arizona division and UPSL national champion Olympians FC.
Photo: Casey Morris | UDA Soccer
“We had played Olympians before,” Drake said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game. “They made it incredibly tough for us to play. I was incredibly proud of the way our boys handled themselves. Of the 18 cards shown in that game, we only received four of them.”
UDA played much of the game down a goal after 19-year-old goalkeeper Mario Castillo was caught off his line with a ball hit from near midfield. The game became a chippy, choppy affair. The tide turned in the 75th minute when Olympians were reduced to 10 men. UDA’s Jay Mustielis leveled the score in with just three minutes to play in regulation. In the second period of extra time Olympians went down another player making way for Keane Garcia to get on the end of Will Hanes cross to put UDA up 2-1. Alan Gudino put the game out of reach at 3-1 just before the final whistle.
The Fourth Round draw sent UDA to face Denver-based Azteca FC 5280, on one of the surrounding fields of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids (MLS). A massive storm had blown through earlier in the week dumping more than a foot of snow that had been plowed into piles at each end of the synthetic field.
Going into the match, Drake said the conditions were going to be a factor.
“Some of our guys have never even seen snow before,” he said before the match. “The cold and altitude are going to make things interesting for us.”
For the better part of the last decade, Azteca FC 5280 has reigned as one of Colorado’s top amateur sides, playing in the incredibly competitive Colorado Super League, qualifying for the Open Cup three times (2017, 2018, 2022). Azteca failed to advance beyond the first round in all three Open Cup appearances.
“We knew Azteca was going to be good,” Drake said. “They qualified for the Open Cup in 2022. We knew they were very dynamic up front. But we have never been the kind of team to change the way we did things based on an opponent. That is one of the things we try to instill from the beginning. We play the way we play. Let everyone else adapt to us, not the other way around. We want to play thorough our attacking mids, with our number 10 stepping high and go at ‘em.
‘Go at ‘em’ is exactly what UDA did in what would become a qualifying match for the ages. UDA landed the first punch in the 14th minute when Gudino combined with Jose Rivan down the left flank resulting in an easy tap in from close range to put the visitors up 1-0.
Azteca responded immediately, leveling the score in the 20th minute, then smashing in a second at the 36th minute mark to go up 2-1. Then Daniel Ruiz Galan pulled UDA level just before the halftime whistle, slotting a Lucas Burch cross to the far post from close range.
After a hectic start to the second half, Azteca took the lead for a second time, going up 3-2, when a controversial penalty was given in the 63rd minute. Drake was shown a red card for his vociferous protests of the penalty call from the bench and will watch his club’s inaugural Open Cup match from the stands.
More importantly, UDA will also be without midfield lynchpin and captain, Gomez-Silva, who was shown a second yellow card with less than ten minutes to play in the Azteca match. Gomez-Silva was one of UDA’s top recruits, having spent time in the system of La Liga club Real Sociedad.
Photo: Casey Morris | UDA Soccer
“Eric is tough to replace. He sees the game so well; he is so good on the ball. He is the leader,” Drake said. “We are going to miss his presence, his experience, everything a player of his quality brings. But we have someone we believe can step up do all the things Eric does so well.”
With time running out UDA began to throw numbers forward, almost making it look like Azteca was the team playing short-handed. Then Alfredo Villescas got on the end of a corner kick to pull the game level again, at 3-3, forcing extra time.
Azteca took firm control of the first overtime period, scoring on a recycled set piece in the 107th minute after UDA failed to clear the ball. After the goal, UDA threw everything they had forward. Just moments before the final whistle Garcia found himself inside the Azteca six-yard box with the ball at his feet. He slotted home the equalizer sending the game to penalty kicks, where UDA’s 19-year-old goalkeeper stole the show.
UDA’s Garcia shot first, making his attempt. Castillo then saved Azteca’s first shot to his left, but was ruled to have left his line before the ball was kicked. He saved the re-take, this time to his right. Blake Bastain put UDA up 2-0 in the shootout. Azteca then converted their second kick making it 2-1. Villescas converted his kick to make it 3-1, then Castillo made a one-handed save to his left, leaving it up to Gudino, who calmy put the ball straight down the middle to put UDA into the tournament proper.
“I think it says so much about what we are doing, how far we have come in such a short period of time,” Drake said. “Qualifying for the Open Cup was one of our goals when we started. To do it the first time out, the way we did it, is just incredible.”
US Open Cup Round One
With the 2023 Spring UPSL season not yet underway, UDA has been playing regional professional teams, and competing against college club teams to prepare for its Open Cup debut versus Park City Red Wolves, winners of the USL League Two Mountain Division for the past two seasons. This is the second consecutive Open Cup appearance. They list 3-2 at Las Vegas Legends (NPSL) last year. Like UDA, Park City are out of season. Park City kicks off its 2023 USL League Two season May 27.
“Honestly, we don’t know a lot about them,” Drake said. “The best we can do is go out and play the way we want to play and see what happens.”
2023 US Open Cup Qualifying: UDA Soccer First Local College Affiliate to Qualify After Wild Shootout
Reposted from TheCup.us
UDA Soccer came out on top of an epic battle of wills, toppling US Open Cup mainstays Azteca FC 4-1 from the penalty mark after trading walloping blows in a 4-4 slugfest.
Keane Garcia pulled UDA level at four in the 113th minute from inside the six-yard box sending the game to kicks from the mark. But the hero of the match was 19-year-old UDA goalkeeper, Mario Castillo, who saved the first (twice) and third of Azteca’s spot kicks to put UDA Soccer through to the tournament proper in its first qualifying attempt.
“I am so proud of the guys for battling through all the adversity they faced today, between the travel and the cold and the altitude and then going down a man, they did not give up, they kept coming back, they kept fighting,” said UDA head coach Blake Ordell. “Then for Mario to make the saves he did in the shootout, it was incredible.”
With the win, UDA Socccer makes some modern US Open Cup history. UDA is a soccer academy at New Mexico State University that allows players to receive year-round training while enrolled at New Mexico State. They become the first Open Division Local team affiliated with a college or university to qualify for the Open Cup in the Modern Era (1995-present). Brigham Young University (BYU) qualified three times as a member of the Premier Development League (now USL League Two) in 2006, 2007 and 2015. Despite past attempts by teams from the University of Florida, Oklahoma University, Louisiana Lafayette, and this year with the University of Southern California (USC), no college-affiliated team has qualified through Open Division Local qualifying.
Support TheCup.us and its coverage of the US Open Cup by purchasing a “We Want The Cup” shirt in your team’s colors. Visit THECUP.US SHO
Despite the unfavorable conditions for the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based UPSL side, and the host’s Open Cup pedigree, having qualified for the tournament proper in 2017, 2018, and 2022, UDA Soccer came out on the front foot, forcing Azteca goalkeeper Gerardo Agular to save brilliantly to his right just four minutes into the match.
Ten minutes later UDA landed the first punch of the day when Jose Luis Puente Rivas spun his defender and played the ball across the top of the six-yard box finding Alan Mose Gudino for an easy tap-in past a helpless Agular.
The lead didn’t last long. Azteca pulled level in the 20th minute when Oscar Montoya tapped Jovany Herrera’s driven cross from just outside the six-yard box.
Azteca took the lead in the 36th minute when Herrera ran onto a ball in the penalty area played by Freddy Fregozo, slotting home his fifth 2023 Open Cup qualifying goal.
UDA clawed back to level just before the halftime whistle when Daniel Ruiz Galan got on the end of a Lucas Burch cross ten yards from the goal as the three minutes of added time expired.
Azteca took the lead in the 63rd minute off a Samual Hallam spot kick after UDA’s Mattias Cavallo was whistled for a tackle at the edge of the penalty area. Hallam calmly slotted the ball to his right past Castillo.
The penalty call, heavily protested by the UDA bench, led to the dismissal of an assistant coach, followed twenty minutes later by the dismissal of captain Eric Gomez-Silva, who was shown his second yellow card of the match, forcing UDA to play a man down for the remainder.
UDA fought back six minutes after going down a man, drawing level at three in the 82nd minute when Alfredo Villescas got on the end of Gudina’s corner, outjumping his marker to put the ball past a stranded Gerardo sending the game to extra time.
Azteca took the lead again in the 107th minute off a spectacular volley from Anthony Miranda after UDA failed to properly clear a corner kick. Azteca recycled the set piece out to Saul Garcia on the left flank whose weighted cross fell into Miranda’s stride.
“We put another forward up top after their fourth goal,” Ordell said. “All we could do was get as many people forward and hope for something.”
That something came when Azteca failed to clear the ball from inside the six-yard box. Garcia slammed the ball home to send the game to kicks.
“Oh man, I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the ball pop out there like that,” Garcia said. “I just hit it as hard as I could. I didn’t want anything to stop it.”
UDA’s Garcia made his attempt. Then Castillo saved Herrera’s attempt to the left, but it was ruled he had left his line early. He then saved Herrera’s second attempt, this time to his right. UDA’s Blake Bastian made his attempt to the right, followed by Azteca’s Miranda.
UDA’s Villescas then made his attempt to the left, followed by Azteca’s Hallam, who had scored from the penalty spot earlier in the match. This time Castillo was up to the task against Hallam, going correctly to his right, leaving it up to Gudina, who calmly put the ball down the middle of the goal to put UDA through to the tournament proper.
Miami, Florida – The United Premier Soccer League is proud to announce the inaugural UPSL Champions Cup set to take place in Querétaro, Mexico on November 3 – 6. With teams from both the U.S. and Mexico competing, the tournament will be the first of its kind at the semi-pro level in North America.
The UPSL Champions Cup features four of the best UPSL teams competing against four of the best UPSL MX teams. The eight teams will be divided into two groups with each group including two teams from Mexico and two teams from the US. The winners of each group will face off in the tournament final to be held on Sunday, November 6th.
UPSL Founder and President, Leonel Lopez explains “The UPSL has a long history of players, coaches and owners with Mexican origins. It has always been a goal of the UPSL to expand further into Mexico and provide additional opportunities for players competing in Latin America. In addition to the launch of UPSL MX in 2020, the UPSL Champions Cup will help build this bridge and create an international platform for these athletes to compete on. The clubs in Mexico are very well-organized and have been playing at a very high level, the Champions Cup will provide a unique opportunity for them.”
Graphics created by UPSL
Representing the United States:
The tournament will feature 2021 UPSL Fall Season National Champions Foro 360 from Dallas, Texas as well newly-crowned UPSL MX National Champions, Deportivo Teziutlan from Teziutlan, Puebla.
Foro Sports Club owner, Bob Peinado explains the anticipation surrounding the first-ever Champions Cup event. “It’s great opportunity for our talented young players and is in line with our goal of developing top-level pros. What the UPSL is doing is providing an opportunity for teams at this level to not just compete for a national title, but for the first-time ever, play for an international title as well. With many of our staff and players of Mexican-descent, including myself, the Champions Cup provides a special opportunity for a lot of these first and second generation Mexican-Americans. It legitimizes the hard work we do over in the States and a meaningful experience to come down and compete against these top teams in Mexico.”
UPSL MX provides a highly competitive platform for soccer clubs seeking an alternative to the current lower-tier structure in Mexico. This past season 40 clubs competed across two divisions. The UPSL MX operates under the umbrella of the UPSL brand, and is led by UPSL MX Commissioner Israel Valenciano.
Commissioner Israel Valenciano explains “It is a great honor to have a tournament of this level in Mexico. We welcome everyone with open arms and great anticipation for this inaugural Champions Cup event. We can’t wait to see who will be crowned the first-ever UPSL Champions Cup winners.
The first match-day of the Champions Cup is scheduled for Thursday, November 3rd. Three days later, on Sunday, November 6th, the Champions Cup Final will be played. Games will be broadcasted live with commentary in both English and Spanish through VYRE Network. You can find VYRE on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Android, iPhone, or your Smart TV by downloading the VYRE Network app for free or on their website at www.vyre.tv.
About the UPSL
The UPSL was formed in 2011 and occupies the unofficial fourth tier of US Soccer. Across its Premier, Division 1 and Womens leagues there are more than 400 teams competing nationwide. The UPSL is now the largest Pro Development League in North America and is a National Affiliate member of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). Each UPSL team is individually owned and operated. UPSL teams are eligible to participate in the U.S. Open Cup Qualifying Rounds through the league’s affiliation with USSF.
More information about UPSL can be found at www.upsl.com or by following the league on Facebook (facebook.com/upslsoccer), Instagram (@upslsoccer) and Twitter (@upslsoccer). Contact UPSL: email@example.com / Media: firstname.lastname@example.org
UDA NMSU Goalie Goes Pro
For UDA NMSU Goalie, JD Meyers, his dreams are now in reach. This week the all-star goalie who lead the NMSU team to the UPSL Elite Eight Tournament signed his first professional contract with the Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club in Tennessee.
"I moved out to Tennessee the same day I signed on August 17th. Everything happened so fast" Meyers stated.
"UDA and Coach Tahlon helped prepare me for the next level by providing great opportunities that I was able to take advantage of. I felt that I was constantly supported and pushed in my pursuit of becoming a professional footballer and was setup to be a leader of the NMSU program. Due to this I was able to find success reaching the next level" Meyers continued.
To keep up with JD and his new squad, view the Red Wolves' schedule.
UDA NMSU Soccer Makes a national name for themselves
So far in the program's history, the NMSU team has made it one step farther in their season every year. Coach Drake claims that it all comes back to having goals and starting the season with intentionality. "At the beginning of every season, the boys and I sit down and set TEAM goals. In the last two seasons in the UPSL, the team has progressed one game further. For example in the Spring of 2021 (Season 1) the boys lost in the first round of playoffs, while in the Fall of 2021 (Season 2) the boys lost in the Championship match of the Arizona Division. This past season, the boys set a team goal of reaching the round of 32 and getting one game better every year. [This season] I was expecting the student-athletes to improve one step at a time through experience and hard work."
As the season progressed, success came with it but so did the growth of the players. One of the biggest changes seen among the team was culture, taking ownership, and coming together as a family. "The biggest improvement I have seen within this group is a sense of belief within the team, the 'we versus me' mentality, and the boys attitude to fight for each other on and off the field" Drake stated.
In addition to the success of the season, the NMSU team gained a brand new home field on campus "[With] a field to call their own, the boys feel like they have a sense of belonging now" Drake continued. The team certainly leaned on home-field advantage by never dropping a game on their new pitch.
The NMSU team's success wouldn't have been as sweet without a community of encouragement, "The support from the UDA families has been amazing! Traveling from all over the country and some families from outside the country, we couldn't ask for a better group of parents to cheer on the team!" Drake said. Outside of the UDA families' continued support, the local community has helped spread the word about supporting the NMSU squad.
As we reflect on this past season, we can't help but get excited for what's to come this fall and the chance to welcome in a new group of players and their families. "As Coaches, we're so looking forward to welcoming the incoming class of student-athletes. Coach Blake and I are excited about what we feel this group can be in the coming years. With all that being said, we can't wait to create relationships and help these young men achieve success on and off the field." Stated Drake.
Three years after forming at New Mexico State University, the men’s University Degrees Abroad soccer academy program finally has a dedicated practice and playing field on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus – a major milestone for the players, coaches and support staff.
Blake Ordell, center, associate technical director and co-head coach for the men’s University Degrees Abroad soccer academy program at New Mexico State University, speaks to the team during a recent practice. The team will unveil its new field Saturday, May 14, during a ribbon-cutting event. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
“To be honest, it feels like we’re now legitimate collegiate soccer program,” said Jeff Thompson, UDA program director.
To celebrate the new soccer pitch – located on the lower deck of NMSU’s intramural fields – UDA will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, May 14. The event, which is free and open to the public, will also include youth activities, food trucks, a 50-50 raffle and a match between UDA and El Paso’s Sun City AFC.
“Having a pitch like this means everything to the team,” UDA head coach Tahlon Drake said. “It’s about pride, passion, playing for your heart, playing for your club – and everything comes down to the field.”
The team worked with NMSU’s Facilities and Services, an outside contractor and a turfgrass expert at NMSU to transform what was once an unremarkable open field into a pristine soccer pitch that closely meets professional standards.
The project started in November 2020 and included a complete overhaul of the irrigation system. When it came time to select and plant grass, the team sought help from Bernd Leinauer, Regents professor and Extension turfgrass specialist from NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
“When problems started to pop up, Dr. Leinauer and others from turfgrass management were brought in to help solve the issues,” Thompson said. “It took us almost three months to eradicate all of the weeds in the soil. After that, we stripped the area, added a nice layer of sand and put in the sod, which came from a local sod farm.”
To complete the project, crews installed fencing around the perimeter of the field.
“It’s more like a true football pitch – we’re 75 yards wide, 110 yards long,” Thompson said.
Before having its own field at NMSU, UDA practiced and played in several locations. Now that the team has a “home,” Thompson hopes it’ll be easier for the NMSU and Las Cruces communities to support the team.
The men’s University Degrees Abroad soccer academy program at New Mexico State University has 30 players, all of whom are seeking degrees at NMSU or Doña Ana Community College. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
“We want soccer fans from NMSU, Las Cruces and beyond to come out to our new pitch and experience what UDA is all about, starting with our ribbon-cutting event,” he said.
The festivities will start at 2 p.m. with youth activities. The ribbon-cutting will take place at 3:30 p.m., and the match against Sun City AFC will kick off at 4 p.m.
Free parking will be available at Rentfrow Hall. Visitors should bring chairs and blankets.
“Las Cruces is a big soccer community, and now is the time to support our team,” said Blake Ordell, UDA associate technical director and co-head coach.
NMSU and UDA teamed up in 2019 to create a developmental men’s soccer program. The program – UDA’s first in the U.S. – has 30 students, all of whom are seeking degrees at NMSU or Doña Ana Community College.
UDA’s mission is to provide student-athletes with an internationally recognized university degree, a developmental soccer experience and an opportunity for multiple pathways in their chosen career within a fully integrated university experience.
“The addition of men’s club soccer at NMSU is a wonderful opportunity for students who wish to continue playing soccer while attending NMSU,” said Renay Scott, vice president of Student Success.
UDA will continue to play matches through June. For a schedule, visit https://www.udaus.org.
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