Eric Bucchere on Helping Those Off The Radar Get A Pro Contract
What is the difference between a great player on the radar and one who had the skills but not the
Eric Bucchere is the founder and CEO of Path2Pro Soccer and a former USL, PDL, and collegiate soccer coach. Bucchere also was a beloved youth soccer coach at Surf Soccer Club in San Diego. With more than 12 years of experience, Bucchere knows the player’s pathway better than most and understands the dynamics of becoming a professional player in today’s complex soccer world.
As a coach, Bucchere is highly respected. In Reno 1868 FC inaugural season as a franchise in 2017, Bucchere helped guide the team to a USL Western Conference 3rd place finish, a playoff appearance, and an overall record of 17 wins, 7 losses, and 8 ties.
Reno 1868 FC scored 75 goals in 32 games in 2017, setting a USL record for goals scored in a season. More than just leading his team to an impressive record, Bucchere focused on developing his players. Forward Dane Kelly was named 2017 USL MVP and Golden Boot, and Chris Wehan was named 2017 USL Rookie of the Year.
Three Reno 1868 FC players under Bucchere’s guidance signed MLS contracts with the San Jose Earthquakes after the 2017 USL season; defender Jimmy Ockford, and midfielders Chris Wehan and Luis Felipe Fernandes.
How is Bucchere helping players today reach their goals and what is the story behind Path2Pro Soccer — we wanted to know and so we asked!
SoccerToday Interview with Eric Bucchere
Diane Scavuzzo: What is Path2Pro Soccer?
Eric Bucchere: Path2Pro Soccer started as an elite, invite-only combine for players looking to play professional soccer.
At our first event in 2016, we had a handful of USL clubs, two MLS and one NASL club in attendance. We had six players sign pro deals after the event.
At our latest combine in San Francisco, this January we had over 25 pro clubs attend and over 20 players sign pro deals.
Diane Scavuzzo: That is a highly successful combine. What is Path2Pro Soccer doing differently?
Eric Bucchere: Path2Pro is a trusted source for quality players and we are innovative. Since the combine in January, we have expanded in a few ways, most recently adding a team we call the “P2P Squad.”
The P2P Squad is made up of players who’ve attended a Path2Pro Combine in the past and are still looking for a pro deal.
We played four matches this spring; three against Bay Area college teams – Menlo College, Dominican University, USF, and one against Reno 1868 FC of the USL Championship.
We invited scouts out to these matches and several players showed really well. One player from the P2P Squad just signed his first pro deal which will be announced soon and two more players are headed on trial with USL teams this month. And, we’ve got some pretty exciting plans for the Squad which will announce in the coming months.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspired you to do this?
Eric Bucchere: The inspiration for Path2Pro came when I was coaching the PDL team the (now USL2) Burlingame Dragons in the summer of 2016.
We were a talented squad, made up of players projected to get drafted (Corey Baird, Nick Lima, Brian Wright, Josh Smith, Kevin Partida), and others who were completely off the professional radar.
The level of difference between the players who were on the radar and those off the radar was very slim.
A great example is Jamael Cox, ourPath2Pro alum who is currently playing professionally with FC Tucson.
Lots of the less scouted, off the radar players were in quite good form and pushing the level of the group throughout the season. I wanted to get those guys, and other players throughout the league who were playing well, an opportunity to be seen and showcase in front of some professional teams.
We decided to put together the first event and Path2Pro Soccer took on a life of its own pretty quickly.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many combines have you held? How many players have gone through your system? How many players have you helped game professional contracts?
Eric Bucchere: We have our fifth annual combine coming up on January 10-11th, 2020 in San Francisco.
Roughly about 300 players, all accepted through a scouting network and application process, have come through Path2Pro over the last four years.
To date over 50 players have signed professional contracts.
Diane Scavuzzo: Specifically — how do you have the contacts to invite scouts? What level scouts attend your combines?
Eric Bucchere: The first Path2Pro Combine was very much me reaching out to my own contacts in MLS and USL and inviting them to the combine. I think there was a certain level of trust that the event would be quality based on those relationships.
So, at first, it was a small contingent of pro coaches and scouts; Steve Ralston from the San Jose Earthquakes, Ian Russell from Reno 1868 FC, Adam Smith from Sacramento Republic, Matt Martin from Portland Timers, Marc Dos Santos from the San Francisco Deltas, Jeremy Schultz from Fresno, Tony Vigil from LAFC and a few more.
Those guys making the effort to come and scout, and trusting that Path2Pro was going to be a high-quality combine and organization really made a massive difference for Path2Pro and catapulted us forward rather quickly.
These clubs have consistently returned to Path2Pro, and since then we’ve had coaches and scouts from LA Galaxy/Galaxy II, Xolos, El Paso Locomotive, Las Vegas Lights, Sporting Kansas City/Swope Park Rangers, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, FC Tucson, Louisville City FC, Oakland Roots, FC Arizona, Houston Dynamo/RGV Toros FC, Phoenix Rising, Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs, San Diego 1904 FC, Colorado Switchbacks FC, and more come through our combine. I expect that list to continue to grow as Path2Pro expands and as more professional expansion soccer clubs continue to pop up throughout the country.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you believe players get lost in this country and if yes, why? What advice can you offer a player, if they believe they still deserve it shot at becoming a professional soccer player?
Eric Bucchere: I believe that the ages of 20-25 are absolutely crucial in a players development. The reality in this country is if you’re not identified as a top player by age 20 it’s very easy to be overlooked, and potentially miss out on finding the right professional environment for you to continue to develop and improve.
My advice to the players at Path2Pro is always the same. You are not defined by your past soccer experience.
Things can change for you in an instant if you’re optimistic, driven, and you take your opportunities well.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you select players who attend your combine?
Eric Bucchere: We have a team of coaches and scouts in our Path2Pro Scouting Network to help identify top players that would be a good fit for the combine. We also have a lot of guys simply apply online and include their film. We watch every single film that comes through and,
Diane Scavuzzo: Is it possible to still become a professional soccer player, even if you go to college?
Eric Bucchere: Yes, of course. College soccer players make up a massive percentage of professional players in this country and will continue to do so. Path2Pro exists because we feel so strongly that if you’re driven enough and good enough it’s always possible.
A player’s individual journey to the professional ranks is always unique.
We’re here to provide an opportunity that they might not have had yet – to play in front of 25+ pro scouts in a high-level game. Hopefully, we can be a step along the way in their journey to playing professionally.