10 reasons why Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy should be on your UK college soccer list

Choosing where you’re going to spend 4 years of your life can be daunting, we know it’s a scary thought trying to understand which college soccer programme is best for you, that’s why we wanted to share with you the main benefits of joining RIASA.

Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy, known as RIASA, has been providing life-changing playing opportunities, a fantastic degree pathway and a culturally rewarding college soccer experience since 2010.

We offer the ultimate college soccer experience in which you can train and compete for 9-months of the calendar year – that’s on average 250 days, over 150+ training sessions and the chance of competing 30+ times per season. 

RIASA offers American and International students the chance to embark on a life-changing journey. Our UK college soccer programme is unrivalled, there isn’t any other programme that comes close to what we offer, especially for American soccer players who want to break into the professional sporting industry.  

Let’s dive straight into the top 10 reasons why RIASA should be your number 1 college soccer choice!

1. We offer a dual accredited US/UK degree

By choosing RIASA you will embark on a challenging and rewarding 4-year undergraduate degree in International Sports Management BA which is accredited both in the US and the UK.

The dual accreditation is unique. We are the world’s only college soccer programme able to offer students this, meaning especially for American students who want to play soccer in the UK, your degree is highly valuable due to the flexible liberal arts degree structure.

In a nutshell, this means American students can transfer credits into RIASA, or earned credits can be transferred back to US colleges to continue studying. So you could transfer into RIASA as a junior, or you could join RIASA, complete two years and then transfer back to the states – allowing you to experience soccer in the UK.

The degree is also superbly positioned for aspiring student-athletes. You will cover a wide variety of general studies alongside covering marketing, sports event planning and other valuable modules which will help you understand the sporting industry. 

Another reason why our degree pathway should be of interest to you is that our BA in International Sports Management is based on the American liberal arts tradition as mentioned above, which helps broaden perspective and develops practical skills which are highly appealing to future employers in a global economy.

During the early stages of the degree you can also earn credible coaching qualifications such as FA Level 1 and 2, which then leads to UEFA C, B and A. The opportunity to academically understand today’s sporting world whilst developing your game under the guidance of our extremely qualified coaches is rare – our degree sets you up for a career within the football industry, whether that be playing, coaching or working on the media side.

Here from Shane King about his RIASA experience, which includes key information about how the degree helped him understand the modern game, whilst providing opportunities to work within the professional sporting industry. 

You can find more detailed information about the unique dual US/UK accreditation and which modules you will cover during each year, by visiting our degree overview section

2. You will play a 9-month soccer season

Traditionally in the US college structure you will be lucky enough to play 3–4 months of the year. This is detrimental to your development and doesn’t give you enough time to grow on the pitch.

When you commit to our soccer academy programme, you will arrive in late August for pre-season, return home during December for Christmas and then come back early January until the middle of may.

Our UK college soccer programme allows you to grow and develop. On average, we train 4–5 times per week for 2 hours, which is roughly 150+ training sessions per season.

During that whole 9-month playing season, we compete 2–3 times per week as a programme. By the end of a full season, you could potentially have competed between 20–40 times, depending on league fixtures, friendlies and showcase games. 

There’s so much available to you at RIASA than you could imagine. We’re talking regular strength and conditioning sessions, video analysis sessions, nutritional advice and coaches who care about your development. 

Our programme gives you the opportunity to experience what it’s like playing at a high level within a professional academy set-up. We work hard, focus on technical development, and develop areas of your game you wouldn’t expect – player development is in our DNA.

On top of all the training and competitive fixtures, we also travel within the UK and Europe to compete in tours and showcase fixtures. In 2023, we travelled to Spain for a 3-day tour, in which we competed against La Liga side Real Sociedad.

The possibilities and opportunities are endless at RIASA. It’s down to you to want to take them!

3. The best coaches (Pro Licence & UEFA A&B)

The coaching staff will probably determine where you choose to play your college soccer. 

Forgive us for saying, across the globe, especially at US colleges, there’s an abundance of coaches with good qualifications who lack knowledge of the elite game, furthermore they don’t know what it takes to be successful within the English game. 

The coaches play a HUGE role in your college soccer. Our coaches are at the top of their game, they’ve either coached, played or been a part of winning formulas within the modern professional game.

Coach Gareth Prendergast (UEFA A & B)

Our head coach Gareth Prendergast has worked at numerous professional clubs. He is also the perfect leader, with a strong background in football education and developing youth players.

Coach Martin Hunter (Pro Licence & UEFA A)

Think of the biggest stage in English football. Martin Hunter has incredible coaching and managing experience from Southampton FC to the England National team where he developed players such as Michael Owen & Wes Brown.

Coach John McCombe (Ex Pro & UEFA B)

John played over 400+ professional matches for a number of well established English clubs such as Port Vale, York City and Macclesfield Town. Licensed to UEFA B, John has experienced professional football for over 25+ years.

Coach Jamie McCombe (Ex Pro & UEFA B)

Jamie needs no introduction, he has spent his entire life playing professionally across England’s second and third divisions, racking up over 31,000 minutes of professional football and 400 senior appearances – he knows what’s needed to make it pro.

Coach Jack Salvatore (UEFA B)

Jack brings a wealth of experience to the RIASA coaching team, having spent several years coaching at Premier League’s Liverpool FC. Educated to Masters level, and with experience across all grassroots level, Jack knows how to develop and coach players to help them succeed.

Coach Jack Thompson (UEFA B)

Jack is a versatile coach who has spent over two decades coaching in the UK and USA. Jack has some prestigious coaching positions under his belt, such as New York Red bulls and South Carolina Untied FC. He understands college soccer and pro soccer, brining his experiences to his everyday sessions.

Michal Korbel (UEFA B + 10 years coaching pro players)

Michal has been involved with football for over 20 years. He has coached at all different levels including helping players develop into the pro game. Qualified to UEFA B, Michal always brings excitement to his training sessions.

Our programme and coaching staff are committed to player development. We have amazing connections with pro clubs, grassroots clubs and links abroad which allow RIASA to offer a superior playing experience.

4. Leeds is a fantastic student city with lots of soccer clubs

We like to think our academy is the home of soccer. By this, we simply mean, you’ll be thrown into a culturally passionate environment where soccer comes first.

The city where we are located is home to once Premier League Leeds United. Within 1 hour’s commute of our location, there are roughly 50 professional clubs and hundreds of semi-professional teams to compete against.

You’ll find Manchester United and Manchester City just over 1 hour 30 minutes drive or roughly 1 hour’s journey on the train from our base. The potential to watch football at all level is open to whoever wants to take it.

The city of Leeds is where we are based. Our campus is located on the outskirts of the city centre, but close enough for you to easily commute into the hustle and bustle. Leeds is located in West Yorkshire and has a total student population of over 250,000 every year.

Leeds is vibrant and youthful. Outside of London & Manchester, it’s one of the largest cities offering fantastic student living. It has never ending opportunities to explore across many sectors which are important to students: retail, leisure, culture, sport and education.

We recently went out to Leeds to film a city guide, you’ll notice the vibrancy, you’ll see the history within the buildings, and you’ll instantly fall in love with your new home.

5. We play in pro stadiums & pro training grounds

We’ve just hosted our annual ‘RIASA Cuptournament at professional football club Bradford City’s Valley parade 25,000+ seater stadium. This is an example of how our programme offers fantastic playing opportunities which replicate a pro club setting.

Through-out the season we travel to professional stadiums, use training facilities which are second to none as we look to provide you with unbelievable playing opportunities.

Our soccer academy programme will test your playing ability across a mixture of 3G, 4G and grass pitches as we train and play in the UK.

6. Your pathway into European football #finland

We know that every single student-athlete that joins RIASA wants to be a professional soccer player.

Our programme provides a life-changing experience in which we mirror every step of how a professional club runs, and we promise that you will reach your maximum playing potential by joining our soccer academy, however, we recognise that aspiring student-athletes demand more and want to see a clear progressive pathway, and that’s where Finland comes in.

Recently Mark Ellis, who is the RIASA Academy Director, acquired a majority shareholding in PS Kemi Kings who are a professional football club in Finland. This now provides a clear pathway into the modern professional game for graduated RIASA student-athletes – it’s an extension of your game, allowing individuals to experience a real club environment.

Three recently graduated RIASA students have already signed pro contracts with PS Kemi Kings off the back of spending 4 years developing their games with RIASA in Leeds. The potential and opportunity here is never ending.

7. Earn your coaching badges

As part of the programme structure, by joining our unique soccer programme, you will be able to work towards earning your FA Level 1 & 2 coaching qualifications. Furthermore, if you complete your undergraduate degree alongside these coaching badges, these then lead onto UEFA C.

So, our programme not only provides playing opportunities, but it also gives students the ideal starting position they need to pursue a career in coaching. It’s always great to work towards earning coaching qualifications, even if you only want to play, because in the future you can fall back on these to pursue a different career.

8. You’ll enjoy the lifestyle at RIASA

At any college soccer programme in the UK, in the states or anywhere else in fact you’ll find the lifestyle element of being a part of the programme can be fun, challenging and rewarding

The whole lifestyle element that is attached to being a student-athlete can help one’s confidence, growth, personality and self-esteem. By lifestyle, we mean, how you conduct yourself on the pitch, the memories that you will have on your adventure and how being a part of a special programme can help you achieve your success. 

Looking professional, acting professional, playing professionally and feeling at the height of your game all comes part of the package, and we’re sure you will enjoy ‘basking in the glory’ of what it’s really like being part of a college soccer roster.

9. You’ll live, study, train and develop on our community campus

RIASA is located in the idyllic neighbourhood of Weetwood, which is 4 miles north-east of Leeds city centre. The RIASA campus is located in the grounds of Weetwood Hall Estate and Bodington Football Hub.

Weetwood Hall Estate – Academic facilities partner

Weetwood Hall Estate is set within nine acres of beautiful woodlands and gardens, offering peace and tranquillity from the near-by hustle and bustle of Leeds student scene. On the estate you will find a breathtaking 17th Century Jacobean Manor House – this is the location of our academic delivery.

Oxley Residence – Accommodation facilities partner 

Oxley Residence offers comfortable and modern all-inclusive student living. Located in Weetwood, just minutes from Weetwood Hall Estate and the student neighbourhood of Headingley, this private complex allows ease of living. You’ll find more stunning architecture on the grounds of Oxley, plus it has a wide variety of on site facilities for students.

Bodington Football Hub – Soccer facilities partner 

Bodington Football Hub is the new home of RIASA. This recently developed complex costed in the region of £8.4m and received partial funding from The Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation. These bodies strive for the absolute best, we know that we are lucky to be able to develop in such a professional setting.

10. With our help, you’ll reach your maximum playing potential

Number 10 is what we live by at RIASA. This is our clear mission statement, it’s our ethos, everything we do for you as players relates to this.

By committing to RIASA and choosing our unique college soccer academy programme, you will be giving yourself the best chance of reaching your maximum playing potential

Every single RIASA staff member from our coaches, all the way to our marketing & media team are routing for your success. We pride ourselves on being available, present and committed to achieving excellence together.

So there you have it!

We’ve listed 10 amazing reasons why you should be listing RIASA as one of your options for college soccer in the UK. We could write 50 reasons, but we know that all of the above are the most important factors involved in the decision-making process when selecting where you will play your soccer.

Don’t forget that we seek hard-working, technically gifted players who are focused on exploding their soccer development. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start your RIASA journey.

We are still accepting applications for Fall 24 for both Male and Female student-athletes. Apply today!

See Men’s Undergraduate Soccer programme

See Women’s Undergraduate Soccer programme

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