Armada FC Standout Discusses the State of the Game in North America
Drew Beckie is a veteran in the professional game, having played for some of the biggest names in North American sports. He’s seen and experienced many things in the beautiful game in the U.S. and Canada.
Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Beckie played for the Canadian U-17, U-20, and U-23 National Teams. He was a prized college recruit with offers from top programs all over the U.S. after a decorated high school career that included being named Colorado First Team All-State, All-Centennial League, and the Centennial League Player of the Year. He would go on to play for the University of Denver, where he earned a number of major awards including All-MPSF First Team, All-MPSF Second Team, All-MPSF honorable mention, and Duke Nike Classic All-Tournament Team honors.
He would then be selected 28th overall by the Columbus Crew in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and spent that season in Columbus. He would go on to play for the Ottawa Fury, Carolina RailHawks, and Jacksonville Armada, spending time in both the NASL and NPSL. He would even head to Finland for a successful trial with a First Division team there.
Drew is not the only soccer star in his family. His sister, Janine, plays for NWSL side Sky Blue FC and the Canadian National Team.
Beckie has been many places, but has many great memories of his time in the NASL.
“My time in Ottawa was really special. Loved the guys and playing for Marc Dos Santos, Martin Nash and having someone like Bruce Grobbelaar on staff was an honour due to their experience. I learned a lot. We went from an expansion team in 2014 to the final in 2015 and won a piece of hardware in that time. That is what soccer is all about, winning trophies, and winning the second part of the NASL season was special.”
However, Beckie believes that the loss of the NASL will cause significant issues for American and Canadian players alike.
“Well of course whenever there is a loss of a whole league that means less jobs for us professionals at all levels. As for the development of young players, it hurts. After my time is Columbus, going to Ottawa was the best situation for me because I was able to start getting good level professional games week in and week out at 22 years old and as anyone will tell you, your experience comes from playing ‘in’ games. I am a firm believer that you cannot just train everyday and develop, it just doesn’t happen.”
Beckie was pleased with what the NASL had to offer. The NASL offered something that is currently missing from the soccer pyramid.
“It is disappointing the see the NASL go as well because the overall quality of the league was better than the USL and it was another league with teams that could compete with the quality of MLS. Development without a tiered system or loss of a league kills competition and ultimately competition breeds development. Younger players won’t have the same opportunities because older, more experienced players have taken those jobs.”
Beckie also discussed the USL and promotion/relegation.
“With the USL, you see quite a range of quality between top and bottom, budgets and travel arrangements. I think there has to be a stepping stone sort of mentality when it comes to not only development but quality like we see in other countries with promotion and relegation. In the NASL, teams flew everywhere and the league was competitive every year. So with the NASL not being able to bridge the gap per say between USL and MLS in terms of overall quality, guys who were used to having insurance for their families and good salaries to live on, are out of the game in some instances. It’s disappointing to see and makes it tough for the future of American and Canadian players.”
Beckie recognized that there are issues that need to be addressed in order for the sport to grow and succeed.
“Losing the NASL is a loss for everyone involved in North American soccer but ultimately professional sports is a business and until there is some cooperation and transparency as to which way the climate of how professional soccer is going to be run and a consensus on that, then we will continue to have the same problems.”
Not having the NASL has made things much more difficult from Beckie’s perspective.
“Development suffers because there are less jobs available and those who have more experience take the available jobs. There is an interesting dynamic in the states that I haven’t seen in other parts of the world when it comes to soccer or any other sport, the American fan is possessed by the aspect of supporting a winning team. I am no different in a lot of respects but I never saw that when I was in other parts of the world. People support their hometown team and we need to be better with that if soccer is going to flourish.”
He was quick to mention that he felt that the Commisso proposal was a step in the right direction.
“It is a generous offer from the New York Cosmos owner and I hope that U.S. Soccer gives it a considerable look. Ultimately, U.S. Soccer has the say on what is and what isn’t a professional league and that is frustrating to those who want an open competitive market for professional soccer. That is also what made the NASL great.”
Beckie was very supportive of the NPSL and what it offers now that the Armada FC are part of the league. The team and league are certainly very lucky to have a player with Beckie’s experience and skill set.
“I think some of the positives are that it gives young players a place to get games and keep their amateurism. For the guys who have signed on professionally with the Armada and are 19, 20, 21 years old, it provides games right away where they can measure themselves versus people of their age and notice the improvement that is needed going forward to be able to have a long career as a pro.”
Beckie has personally seen the importance of the Armada FC in the Jacksonville sports community.
“Having Robert Palmer take over and provide consistency to the community is a great plus after a time where some didn’t know if the team would survive. I think he has a good vision for what he wants to do and I hope it all comes to fruition because Jacksonville is a nice city for this team and there a lot of room for growth.”
Soccer fans and supporters should head out to Sunshine Conference games this season to see the world-class play of Drew Beckie. There aren’t many players with his talent, experience, and passion in North America and to see it firsthand is something very special indeed.
Photo Credit: Armada FC