It’s over 5,000 miles from Montrose to Los Angeles but as he sits in the Californian sunshine overlooking the Pacific Ocean while another snowstorm sweeps over the Angus coastline back home in Scotland, the long journey has been a good one for FirstPoint alum Kyle McLeod.
The University of West Alabama graduate is now making big strides in the coaching world of his new homeland, helping to develop the next generation of youngsters at the Los Angeles Bulls Soccer Club as their MLS Next coach. A keen interest in coaching as a promising youngster at Montrose FC has complemented the insights gleaned as a talented college soccer player, and with a little help from his Scottish friends in the States, he now finds himself on a pathway many former FirstPoint athletes have followed.
US College Facilities
“The big difference over here is the facilities, and the investment in pitches and training rooms is incredible compared to back home. That was what really struck me when I first came over to West Alabama as a freshman and it’s the same now since I have been coaching. Although everything shuts down with a hint of bad weather whereas we’d be training in all sorts in Scotland!”
Kyle was playing in the youth team at Scottish League One club Montrose and progressed onto the fringes of the first team Montrose FC under the watchful eye of Dundee United legend Paul Hegarty. Weighing up his options beyond life in his hometown, he was persuaded by one of his teammates Dylan Cooke to drive down with him to a US soccer scholarship trial in Edinburgh, which he successfully passed and earned himself a spot at the FirstPoint USA showcase event at St. George’s Park.
St George’s Park Showcase
“It was actually after the third game of the showcase that I got recruited, when the West Alabama coach spoke to me after the game and said I had real potential. I probably had my best game after that, knowing I had impressed someone, and was kind of buzzing on the pitch.”
He was quickly recruited by UWA Tigers head coach Matthew Thorne and four successful seasons followed in the Gulf South Conference, winning the regular season championship and play-offs in his freshman year, and picking up the Player of the Year award as a senior.
“You probably don’t fully appreciate it at the time as you’re so busy playing and studying, but it was a fantastic experience. You’re treated like a professional off the pitch too and it really makes you want to put everything into it. I made a lot of good friends and great connections playing and that’s something I would advise any young player to do, as it really helped me further down the line when I wanted to get into coaching.”
Those connections proved invaluable as he stayed on in the States, having graduated with a degree in sports management and a master’s in physical education. He played in the NPSL during his student summers with Midland Odessa Sockers under Scotsman Johnny Clifford (St Mary’s University head coach) – where they played at the stadium where the hit TV series Friday Night Lights was filmed - and then onto the USL2 with East Atlanta, reaching the national playoffs.
North American Scottish Coaches Association
Another fellow Scot, Graeme Orr, then the women’s soccer coach at West Alabama and now at Southern Illinois University, became his mentor and was the man who introduced him to the North American Scottish Coaches Association, a network that has been invaluable on McLeod’s coaching journey.
“The guys at NASCA have been fantastic and you get access to some of the top coaches in the game who you can learn from. We had different webinar speakers during lockdown with guys like Walter Smith, Craig Brown and Gordon Strachan, and it’s also been inspiring to speak to so many other Scottish coaches who have come over here and done so well. It’s a great family to be a part of and there are so many different brains you can pick from.”
First Step into Coaching
A graduate coaching position at the University of West Alabama was Kyle’s next move while studying for his Masters, and his first club coaching role followed with a move to South Carolina United Bantams FC during the summer of 2023. Continuing to pick up coaching qualifications and expand his network, he secured a position with Los Angeles Bulls, under the leadership of former Canadian Women’s international Kelly Parker and co-founder Mele French.
“They’ve done a great job building the club over the last 11 years and I have learned a lot from them both, not just on the soccer side but on the business front. I want to be part of the club’s growth and we’re continuing to expand the number of players and teams we work with. It’s brilliant to be involved in developing the club’s satellite program and get more kids playing, and with the World Cup coming to the States in 2026, the sport is only going to get bigger with even more opportunities.”
Advice to Young Players
So what would Kyle’s advice be for aspiring players thinking about a move to the States, not only for their degree but life beyond university.
“There are so many incredible opportunities within the game over here and there are jobs in the States that don’t exist back home. The clubs are huge and you’re getting paid to do a job you can put your heart and soul into, whereas most youth development coaches in Scotland below the top league would be volunteers. I would encourage any player coming over to the US to make the most of your opportunities, make as many connections as you can, get your education, get your coaching badges and put yourself in the situations that can get you a foot in the door. It might feel uncomfortable at the start, but it can lead to a great lifestyle, the weather is good, and the facilities you work in are fantastic.”
Hard work and commitment have also clearly played its part and the Scot has ambitions to continue his progression in the game at a high level.
“I’m really enjoying working at the top tier of youth soccer in North America. The standard is really high and we’re giving young players the chance to compete and train in a professional environment, and the club has invested in superb facilities. It’s amazing to see how the women’s game is developing too and it’s great to be part of the long-term development plan here and opening up opportunities for more kids to play soccer. Eventually I’d love to become a Director of Coaching and work for one of the top MLS clubs, like an LA Galaxy or Los Angeles FC, but for now I’m focused on doing the best I can with LA Bulls.”
As much as he might miss his family at home, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be swapping the beaches of Los Angeles for the sands of Montrose anytime soon.
To find out more about taking the first steps on your own US college soccer journey, click here.