These days, there are plenty of open tryouts arranged by different football clubs and private companies. They allure players in with the promise that they'll get seen by pro club scouts and have a chance to realise their dreams.
Having had personal experience and even "success" (link here) in these trials as a player with many different of these companies including UK Football Trials, Football CV, PFSA and even LA Galaxy, there is a thing or two I've learned and need to share with you before you ever decide to pursue these opportunities.
These are the important things you need to know:
1) Every open tryout is incentivised by profit
First things first, you can expect to pay anywhere between $100 - $250 USD for a "scouting day" playing with the hope that a scout sees you.
Either this can be a straight up game you may be involved in for 60 minutes (LA Galaxy did this and charged 150 British Pounds) or, it could be a 1-2 hour training session followed by a 30-60 minute match.
Now that's a fair chunk of money but, you're probably thinking: "well thats just the cost to realise my dreams!".
It may be...
But when there are so many players interested and lots of money flying around, you need to think critically about why.
Especially when much of the time, the experience of the whole event is sub par.
One trial I went to (I won't mention the name), the coaches were barely paying attention to the match - huddled under the tents, seated, bored and cursed by the fact they had to watch 500+ players play in back to back consecutive matches over a matter of two days.
2) Many times, scouts are paid to come
One source tells me that scouts that are many times paid at least $100 USD to come watch a match wearing their club gear (so players can be wow'ed by the "logos" they saw). Their expenses like food are also covered for the day.
Now, that's a very a good excuse to come and hang out with other scouts for a morning.
But when 90% of the talent at an open tryout is below the level required to play at a professional level and the actual success rate of a player getting a tryout AND getting signed to a club a a result (less than 0.1%), you have to think twice about why they keep coming back.
Is it for the money or is it for the talent?
And they are looking at a lot of players. Sometimes over 100 on one day. I even a scout tell me how they don't even know where to start looking.
3) Over 18 from abroad? Think again.
If you believe that as a 20-year old, a Tottenham scout (lets just give that example) will be present and this is your chance to play professionally at Tottenham Hotspurs.. think again!
What scouts have said to me is that professional club scouts at the top will mostly look at someone under the age of 16 not signed at a professional club.
And because at age 15, 16 - 95% of those playing at professional academies get released and enter the lower league realm of the football world. They end up playing in 2nd - 6th divisions of football in their respective countries.
So even the lower divisions are mighty difficult to get an opportunity at if you don't have a big name team early on your CV.
Say an Arsenal player gets released at the age of 15 from the Arsenal Academy. Naturally they'll go to the U/18 side of a lower tier side such as Queens Park Rangers or Barnet FC.
4) There's a high chance you're legally not allowed to play.
Do you have the chance to get scouted in the UK or Europe without a European passport?
If you are planning on travelling from outside the European Union for the chance to play for the club of your dreams, think again.
Visa's. You need one! A visa for this, a visa for that. And the way to get a visa is either through signing a professional working contract with a club or another way.
So technically yes. But only a professional team could give you such a contract and if you're from abroad, FIFA regulations would allow you to obtain a visa if you've appeared in a certain % of your country's official national team games.
There are ways around it - you could, for example, get a student visa here while playing for a semi-professional club.
The point is, it is not straightforward and its important to keep this in mind.
And if you're under 18, even being based 100 miles out of the catchment zone of a clubs headquarters would be ruled as illegal.
The conclusion and the unfortunate sad truth..
I believe the concept of open tryouts started off with good intentions of giving a chance to players who wouldn't have otherwise however, over time it's become more of a profit-maximising machine.
These companies realised that this was a good way for them to make money. They realised it was quite easy for them to promote an opportunity and get 300 kids to come and pay good money.
For example, even the LA Galaxy do these open tryouts not only in Los Angeles but in London, Manchester, Dubai.. even Tokyo! But you'd be hard pressed to find many success stories or if a player is even eligible to have the legal right to play in the country.
The solution is to focus on your own region first. Be the best player where you are. Look for people with genuine intentions. Look for people who want to help without necessarily being all about profit. If you have the cash to spare, treat these open tryouts as "experiences" more than a definitive way to earn an opportunity with a professional team.