His father holds a racquetball national championship in his age group and his two older brothers, Andrew and Reid, both played soccer collegiately and Reid played professionally for Phoenix FC in the United Soccer League. Now, after leading the Louisville men’s soccer team in both goals and points in his junior season, Ahwatukee native Tate Schmitt is creating his own legacy on the soccer field.
It started when Schmitt was young, in the backyard of their house in Ahwatukee, where Tate used to battle with his older brothers, always striving to be just as good, or better than what they were. This is where he picked up his competitive nature and his desire to give his best.
After his sophomore season at Desert Vista High School, a season in which they made a run to the state championship, his ability on the pitch was undeniable. Schmitt decided to take the next step by joining the Real Salt Lake academy in Casa Grande.
“A couple other families had taken their kids down there the year before and they strongly recommended taking him down,” said Tate’s father, Gil.
Soccer academies are made up of the top players around the country, and some are associated with MLS soccer teams. They play against the top competition, preparing players for the next step and even grooming them for the professional level. Joining Real Salt Lake’s program was one major step in Schmitt’s development that allowed him to earn key opportunities.
“Being able to play under coaches that had played and coached at the professional level and just that MLS environment of the academies and all of them competing against each other, that helped grow me into being able to play Division I soccer,” Schmitt said.
His time spent at academy, traveling around the country and playing against top competition, allowed Schmitt to develop his game enough to contribute at the Division I level, and it paid off almost immediately.
As a freshman, the 5-foot-11 forward led the Cardinals with a team-high seven goals and dished out three assists. He appeared in all 19 matches and started 13 of them. He also excelled in key moments, scoring four game-winning goals, including the final tally against Duke in the ACC Championship game.
To cap off his successful first year in Louisville, Schmitt was named to the ACC All-Freshman team and was also named to the TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshman Best XI second team. It didn’t come easy, and Schmitt said he didn’t expect to have such an impact so early in his career.
“I thought that I was going to be able to work my way in and get some minutes my freshman year,” Schmitt said. “But after being at the level of my academy team, it was just as competitive as what it was at Louisville. And with the position I was in, some of the players weren’t the top players on the team at the time, so I was able to get some minutes and prove myself. From then on, I have been an integral part of the team.”
That’s exactly what Schmitt has been in his three years at Louisville. After his successful freshman year, Tate went on to score five goals and added two assists while starting all 22 games in his sophomore year. But his biggest contributions came at the end of the season.
In their NCAA championship tournament run, Schmitt delivered game-winning goals in back-to-back games against UCLA and No. 13 Notre Dame. His ability to perform in clutch situations carried over into his junior season as well.
This past season, Schmitt earned All-ACC second team honors and was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Third team. He started all 20 matches, led the team in goals and points, and also dished out three assists as the No. 7 Cardinals earned a NCAA Championship berth. Once again, Tate showed his ability to perform in clutch situations, scoring clinching goals in wins over San Francisco and Colgate.
“I just feel like the big moments are where people need to show up, and I like to take advantage of those situations, when people are tired,” Schmitt said of his ability to perform in clutch situations. “I always have the chip on my shoulder and go after it, and I just feel like I am very confident in my abilities, and I like to prove it in those situations.”
While Schmitt has been successful through his first three seasons at Louisville, he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. With one season remaining, he hopes to prove himself even more and earn a spot on a professional soccer team, but he also plans on finishing his degree as well.
With the MLS draft taking place in December, Schmitt has been taking extra classes in the summer in order to speed up his degree so he can graduate in December. This will allow him to earn his degree while still being able to pursue his dream of playing professionally.
Schmitt plans to train with the Real Salt Lake MLS team over the summer and allow as many teams as possible to see him play before heading back to Louisville for his senior season. If anything is guaranteed, it’s the fact that Schmitt has already begun to establish his own legacy.
Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at email@example.com or by phone at 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee and the Sports Department at @TMG__sports.