The Curious World of the Open Tryout

I’ve just had an MLS trial

Yeah mate, we all have

In March, Sporting Kansas City will hold open tryouts. Sporting Kansas City are a team in the MLS, America’s top soccer league. Anyone can register, so maybe next season, you could be tackling Thierry Henry or David Beckham in front of thousands of fans.

The open tryouts are a regular fixture with American pro-sports teams, which is similar to Arsenal, Man Utd or Chelsea saying, ‘Fancy playing for us? Just turn up at our training ground and we’ll take a look’.

Sporting Kansas City are not the only professional team in America looking for players. NASL team, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who before this season were called Miami FC, also searched for talent in January through open tryouts.

Although it’s pretty easy to register, it costs money. Kansas are charging $200 for the privilege and Fort Lauderdale charged $99. Places are also restricted with the MLS side limiting their tryouts to 300 people. Clubs ‘hold the right to refuse and/or decline any player we feel will not benefit from the tryouts’ and most registration forms require applicants to write about their football experience either in college or professionally. So if you have no football experience whatsoever, basically, don’t bother.

In 2007, LA Galaxy received over 1000 applications from around the world for their open tryouts. The reason? The club had just announced the signing of David Beckham from Spanish giants, Real Madrid. The chance to be his team-mate attracted applications from as far as Japan, Honduras and Nigeria.

Kevin Payne, an amateur player from Devon, set up a website asking people for donations to get him to the Galaxy tryouts. Incredibly, he achieved his goal and his story can be read on his site. Needless to say, he didn’t make it past the first day, but the experience of meeting then manager Alexi Lalas and being interviewed by some of the top US TV networks is what he describes as “one of the experiences of a lifetime.”

The format has recieved mixed reactions in the past. During the 2007 Galaxy tryouts, Lalas was shocked at the people who turned up, “It’s disrespectful to soccer and disrespectful to the Galaxy. Look, I can accept if you suck. But you can control whether or not you’re in good shape.” In 2010, Kansas City Manager, Peter Vermes took a different view. “The last two years we have been pleased with the number of talented players who have taken part in our open tryouts, We are always looking to improve our roster, and these tryouts give us a chance to get a look at players who might be trying to take a less conventional route to MLS.”

Below – MLS hopeful, Eric Azeredo, attends the 2006 open tryouts for Toronto FC

Are there any success stories? Yes, only a few, the most prominent being Marvin Quijano, a Honduran who took part in the 1998 open tryouts for the Galaxy and ended up staying for four seasons, winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the US Open Cup and the MLS Supporter’s Shield.

Since the Miami FC birth in 2006, the club have signed over a dozen players who have turned up for open tryouts. One of them, J. P. Rodrigues, went on to make 75 appearances for them, played in the MLS for DC United and also won 15 international caps for Guyana.

The open tryouts are not to be taken lightly, it’s serious business for clubs in the MLS who are on the lookout for serious talent. So if you have a bit about you and feel like you’ve slipped through the net, the tryouts may be your ticket to fame and glory. Fat lads need not apply.

3 thoughts on “The Curious World of the Open Tryout

  1. Whilst working in the US with a friend we went a long to one of these trials – he was taking it fairly seriously, I was taking the piss knowing that I wouldn’t get past the trial.

    My friend is a former Sheffield United goalkeeper who has played regularly in the non-league game since graduating from University, where he was the best student player in his position in the country.

    Needless to say, he was the best goalkeeper there by a mile, but was passed over in favour of an american kid because the club “could not justify signing a foreign keeper when there was American talent available”.

    They signed no goalkeepers. Or players in any position.

    The open trial was basically a money-making scheme, with attitude that if they find a player, great, and if not, then it’s free money.

    I have no doubt that if Leo Messi showed up, he’d make the team, but anyone else? Don’t bet on it.

Leave a Reply