Alum Caccavale opts out of MLS play
AU alumni Sal Caccavale, a former member of the men's soccer team, always dreamt of playing soccer for a living.
However, after a year on MLS' Red Bull New York team, Caccavale has learned that playing professionally is not always all it is cracked up to be. He asked to be released from his contract this spring.
Caccavale said he was living the life he had always imagined but had to pick up a coaching job and a part-time job in order to make ends meet. According to MLS' league regulations, players under 25 must be on a developmental contract, which pays between $12,000 or $17,000 a season.
"It is embarrassing to tell people that," Caccavale said. "Yet each year, players just like myself continue to leave school early to sign these contracts to get the chance to play at the highest level in the country."
Although Caccavale said it broke his heart to leave the team, realizing he wasn't able to pay rent and car insurance was something that forced him to walk away from the professional team.
"To walk away from Major League Soccer, the lifestyle of a professional athlete or lack thereof and the one thing I loved more than anything in the world, was something that I thought long and hard about," Caccavale said.
The West Islip, N.Y., native developed his passion for soccer at an early age, playing travel soccer at the U.S. Youth Regional and then National Team programs. He never imagined that the years of hard work he had given to the sport of soccer would pay off in the form of a chance to play for Major League Soccer.
On the first day of the spring semester his senior year, Caccavale received a phone call that would forever change his life and his soccer career. Jeff Agoos, general manager and technical director of the New York Red Bulls MLS team, offered Caccavale the chance to play soccer for a living.
"I couldn't have been happier," Caccavale said. "I told them that if they wanted me, then I would love to play for them."
Later that same day, Caccavale found himself drafted into the second round of the supplemental draft, the sixth round overall. Although he had a rigorous amount of training ahead of him, he knew he would have a chance to play for a contract and live his dream of becoming a professional soccer player, he said.
Although playing soccer for the Red Bulls meant leaving the last semester of his senior year, Caccavale had already gained much from playing for the Eagles.
"Grueling track workouts, shuttle sprints in Bender Arena and countless hours of training out [on] Reeves Field all helped me prepare to play at the professional level," said Caccavale. "If it wasn't for college soccer and my coaches here at American University, things may have been a little different."
Caccavale had a successful three-and-a-half years at AU, during which he was the team's leading scorer with 12 assists and seven goals his senior year. He was also named All-Patriot League First Team honor for all three years and named to the NSCAA Second Team All-Mid-Atlantic squad his senior year.
His success at AU showed during his first few days on the professional side. Pre-season for MLS was eight weeks long, but Caccavale was offered a contract with the team after only two weeks.
"The training sessions were very similar to how we did things in training at AU, so I was able to get comfortable right away," he said.
For the next year, Caccavale did everything soccer. In the heart of the season, the team was training once a day for two hours. He also had to attend team meetings, weight training and practice.
His finest memory during his time in the professional league was during the seventh game of the season in the 88th minute when his coach decided to put him in the game. After feeling his way through the field and the opposing team, Columbus Crew, Caccavale made his move from an assist and put the ball through the goalkeeper's legs and into the back of the net.
"I was ecstatic. I took off running after I scored just like I had done numerous times out on Reeves Field at AU," Caccavale said.
Despite his success on the field, Caccavale dressed for only three more games in the season and never actually got a chance to step foot on the field again. At the end of the season in November, the league told Caccavale that MLS was no longer paying him and that he would have to come into preseason and try out for the team again, with no guarantee that he would make it. At that moment, Caccavale said he was forced to make the hardest decision of his life - stop playing soccer.
Currently, Caccavale works for Zimmer New England, a sales and distribution company for instruments necessary during hip and knee replacement surgery.
At the time of publication, Red Bull New York had not returned any phone calls for comment.
Correction: In "Alum Caccavale opts out of MLS play," it was reported that players under 25 years old must be on a developmental contract. In fact, anyone signed to a developmental contract must be under the age of 25.