Even though we are far, far into the off-season, hopefully there will be some good discussion about the All-America selections once fans realize the teams have been posted. We at D3soccer.com enjoy the reactions and feedback. We feel very good about the teams we put out each year, but please know that no one person on our staff (nor any of the coaches or SIDs that participate in our process) agrees with all the selections and can personally defend why each player was (or wasn't) selected and which team they were placed on. So don't expect myself or anyone else to officially make the case for or against any players. However, we may carefully chime in with either (a) our personal opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of a given player's case for selection or (b) guesses as to why a player found favor (or not) with our panel of voters.
Naturally, the D3soccer.com All-America teams will get compared the NSCAA's teams. Our process is certainly quite different from theirs, and there are probably also some other differences in philosophy and expectations for the awards. With a different process, maybe even a different philosophy, and a different set of coaches, SIDs, and staff members contributing, it's unrealistic to expect the two sets of All-America teams to match. And the fact that our process starts after the NCAA tournament (more by necessity than by choice) and takes into consideration the teams' results and players' performances in the tournament, further increases the probability of differences between the two sets of All-America teams.
There are some specific, basic things to keep in mind if comparing the D3Soccer.com All-American selections to the NSCAA's teams. First, as is tradition, D3soccer.com holds its honors to a strict eleven players per team and 33 players overall. So keep that in mind when comparing the D3Soccer.com teams to the NSCAA teams which typically include +/- 15 players per team for a grand total of approx. 45 honorees (i.e. a whole extra team's worth of players). So it's a fairer comparison to only consider the NSCAA's first and second teams against D3Soccer.com's three teams.
Second, D3soccer.com's ratio of forwards, midfielders, and defenders is intentionally kept reasonably close to the ratio typically fielded in actual games. The NSCAA teams tend to include a rather high percentage of forwards. For example, this year their first team has eight forwards out of a total of 16 first team selections, or 50%. D3soccer.com only has eight forwards selected total for all three teams this year (24%) as has been the case most every year, with just two or three forwards on each team of eleven players.
We have no quotas or minimums and maximums for regional distribution/representation. We want the teams to represent the best players across the country and if some regions seem to be have more top level players than some other regions in a given year, then those regions will have more representatives on the teams. We do work as best we can to root out any regional bias in our final selections. We are realistic and expect that most coaches and SIDs exhibit some natural, unintentional bias for players they have faced and/or know about from their conference or region. It's much easier to feel strongly about and vote for a top player you've seen play than a supposed top player from another region that you only know from a stat sheet. Through both a diverse panel of voters and by being conscientious and on the lookout for bias that favors or disadvantages any region, we hope that all regions, conferences, and teams have been given a fair shot at having their top players selected for our All-America teams.
That said, the selections ultimately come down to the opinions of our panelists and D3soccer.com staff. All involved are human and are just a small sub-set of D-III soccer fans, each with his/her own limited perspective and exposure to players across the nation. There is no genius super-fan on our staff who's watched several hundred matches throughout the season and can rely on first-hand observation to compare all candidates. Nor is there a sophisticated algorithm or computer program to scientifically compare players' performances and identify the most deserving honorees. No, this is a very subjective (and imperfect) endeavor. As such, do some deserving players get left out and/or overlooked? Sure, . . . for all sorts of reasons.
We take the task of naming All-Americans very seriously and go about it as diligently as we know how and are able (given a whole host of limiting factors). But we don't take ourselves too seriously, i.e. we don't think we or our process yields perfect, indisputable, infallible results. We do not think in terms of being the final authority on these matters. We only want to promote Division III soccer and do our best to recognize and honor the top student-athletes in Division III menís and womenís soccer each year, meaning absolutely no disrespect to all the other talented, hard-working players who we do not select, some of whom very well may be as good and as deserving as some of those we did select. These are our All-America teams, the D3soccer.com All-America teamsónothing more, nothing less.
And it's exactly because we take the task seriously without taking ourselves too seriously that we welcome and encourage fans to critique our selections and to voice their agreements and disagreements with the reasoning behind those opinions. It's all good as long as the promotion of certain players is not advanced by bashing and disparaging other players, which is unnecessary, disrespectful, and simply not cool. So have at it. Tell us and each other what you think. What did we get right and what did we get wrong, in your opinion? Who would you have included that we did not, and why?