When Matt Schmidt ’01 was growing up in Milwaukee, he would play for his 10- to 12-year-old soccer team in short contests during the halftime of Milwaukee Wave soccer games. He would get nervous before the games, but the next day at school he would make sure to tell all his friends about how he played in front of thousands of fans at a Wave game. When the games would end, Schmidt would be there waiting to get autographs of the local soccer stars he looked up to.
“When you are that age, you don’t think that it will ever be you,” Schmidt said.
Next season, that will be Matt Schmidt.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Wave of the National Professional Soccer League made Schmidt its second-round choice in the league’s annual amateur draft. Schmidt joins a rare group of Yale athletes that have had the opportunity to play professionally after college.
“He is a hard worker, has good speed, and he is very coachable,” Milwaukee head coach Keith Tozer said. “Those are attributes we hope will carry over into his professional career.”
Tozer said he first began following Schmidt while he played high school soccer at Marquette High School, one of the top soccer programs in Wisconsin. He continued to follow Schmidt’s career as a Bulldog.
After Schmidt’s senior season ended, Yale head coach Brian Tompkins — who coached at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before arriving in New Haven — called Tozer to make sure that Schmidt was on his “radar screen.”
“It is obviously a proud day for me as a coach, our soccer program and our school,” Tompkins said.
The NPSL is an indoor soccer league, which uses a smaller field than the outdoor game. Players play in shifts, whereas in the traditional game, most players play the entire 90 minutes of a game. Also, the NPSL uses a different scoring system with goals being worth one, two or three points depending on how far from the net a player is when he shoots. Tozer said it usually takes one season to adjust to this style of play, but Tompkins is confident Schmidt can make a successful transition.
“The indoor game being so small and the spaces so tight, he is really well-suited because he can get out of tight spots, and he is very clever when he is under pressure,” Tompkins said.
In joining the Milwaukee Wave, Schmidt is going to one of the top franchises in the NPSL. Although the team is only 7-11 this season, it is the reigning NPSL champion and has won two of the last three titles. In addition, Schmidt will be playing for a talented coach in Tozer, whom Tompkins said is “widely recognized as the best indoor coach in the country.”
Schmidt is “very excited” at the prospects of playing for the Wave, but he has not ruled out using this opportunity as a stepping stone to Major League Soccer, the premier professional soccer league in the country.
“Matt has the potential to play in the MLS,” Tompkins said. “There are some areas of his game that need some work and he needs some experience. The next year or two will be pivotal if he wants to play on that level.”
Schmidt said he will discuss a contract in the coming days with the team. Tozer refused to discuss possible salaries or contract terms.
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