Gelsenkirchen/Dorsten.. When FC Schalke 04 won the U19 national championship four and a half years ago, Merlin Baus was in the starting lineup next to Sed Kolasinac. U19 head coach Norbert Elgert signed the defensive midfielder from Borussia Dortmund.
The then 17-year-old saw a better perspective to go pro at Schalke. But he only made it to the reserve team. Because he only played ten games during his first season of which he started only four, he transferred to Oberliga club TuS Heven (5th tier). “At some point you are simply not interesting to other clubs any more.”, he says. Merlin Baus needed a “plan B”.
Now the sun is shining for the 23-year-old, not only every day at San Diego’s beaches but also in his soccer and academic career. He is playing college soccer for the University of San Diego in California.
SOCCERSHIPS, founded by former Schalke youth goalkeeper Jan Driessen, helped Merlin get a soccer scholarship in the United States. Merlin lives in the US since 2014. Before he transferred to the University of San Diego, he studied four semesters at Virginia Tech. The total cost per year for tuition, room and board is around 48,000 US Dollar and was covered fully by a soccer scholarship. “The cost varies from school to school”, he says.
The success of their sports teams is important to every school in the US. Therefor the coaches are looking worldwide for the best possible players and offer them scholarships. Soccer is a so-called “seasonal sport”, which means the main season is only played during the fall semester.
Away game with 4000 kilometers to travel
“In average we play two games per week”, the former Schalke player says. The distance you have to travel to an away game can be as long as 4000 kilometers. Flight time: almost six hours. Travel is therefor part of a college soccer player’s routine. The champions from each conference face each other in the national playoffs.
Of course the level of the different teams varies. “In average I would say the level is similar to the German Oberliga (5th tier)”, says Merlin Baus. The style of play is generally more physical. “Tactics is not that important”, he says.
One of his new teammates, Djordje Basic, has played for Schalke as well. He was also part of the U19 championship team.
Academically he is getting along well. That is important as he needs to receive certain university credit points to still play collegiate soccer. Those rules are made up by the college sport’s governing body, the NCAA. “It can be tough at times, but that is exactly what I wanted and I am thankful for the chance I’ve been given”, says the midfielder, who was born in Bochum.
He has given up his dream to become a soccer pro. Merlin Baus has different priorities now. He wants to be successful in his future. Whether that will be in Germany or in the US has not been decided yet.