Kiwis Flying High with US Sports Scholarship Backing

5 min read

With FirstPoint USA’s team visiting New Zealand later this month to identify the next generation of soccer talent on behalf of some of the leading universities in the States, we take a look at some high-flying Kiwis who have graced the US collegiate sport scene and been elevated to career success in their respective fields of sport and industry.

Tim Brown: University of Cincinnati

Growing up in Wellington, Tim Brown had two ambitions, to become a professional soccer player and a designer, and thanks to becoming a student-athlete in the States, both dreams came true. As a youth he played for various teams including Miramar Rangers, and his talent earned him a scholarship at the University of Cincinnati. He studied Industrial Design and captained the successful Bearcats NCAA DI men’s soccer team.

After graduation, Brown went on to carve out a successful career in the A-League with Wellington Phoenix, making over 120 appearances and being capped by his native New Zealand national team on 30 occasions – on several occasions as captain – starring in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where the All Whites went undefeated in the group stages. After retiring from football in 2012, Tim began pursuing his passion for design and entrepreneurship, co-founding Allbirds, a sustainable global footwear brand which has now sold more than 8 million pairs of trainers since launching in 2015. As a successful entrepreneur, Brown has received numerous awards, including the Forbes 30 Under 30 and Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People – with the business having had a stock exchange valuation of more than $4 billion after a recent IPO.

Ryan Nelsen: Stanford University

A stalwart of English Premiership soccer and a star of New Zealand’s 2010 World Cup campaign, Christchurch native Ryan Nelsen reached the pinnacle of the collegiate soccer when he transferred to PAC-12 giants Stanford University, working under former New Zealand head coach Bobby Clark.

Having moved from Christchurch United to DIII Greensboro College, he enjoyed a successful start to his US career in his freshman and sophomore years, which caught the eye of Clark. Two years with the Stanford Cardinals followed, where he was named MVP and All-American, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Nelsen was then drafted fourth in the 2010 MLS Super Draft by DC United, playing four seasons and becoming club captain as his professional career flourished. His performances in the States sealed a move across the Atlantic to Blacburn Rovers, where he spent seven seasons, before signing for Tottenham Hotspur then QPR.

His international career took in two Olympic Games, but the highlight has to be the 1-1 draw with reigning champions Italy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Gabi Rennie: Arizona State University

A goalscoring debutant for the national team, Gabi Rennie has represented two of the NCAA’s leading women’s soccer teams, the University of Indiana and Arizona State University. As a talented youngster, she played for Waimakariri United and her ability saw her secure a scholarship to Indiana’s Hoosiers team. Ahead of her freshman year, she was a member of New Zealand’s Olympic Games team, scoring against Australia in a 2-1 defeat on her international debut.

A move to the collegiate sporting mecca that is the University of Arizona Sun Devils, she played for the Sun Devils for two seasons, making 28 appearances and scoring 3 goals. Earlier in her career, Gabi helped make history as New Zealand medalled for the first time in the nation’s history at the 2018 FIFA U-17s World Cup in Uruguay, and has since gone on to make more than 30 appearances for the senior team.

Jessica Glennie: University of Texas

It’s certainly not only soccer where New Zealanders have flourished and one of FirstPoint USA’s most successful alum away from the round ball is rower Jessica Glennie. Born in Auckland, Jessica secured a scholarship at one of the most prestigious schools in the States, the University of Texas.

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, she earned the distinction as one of the school’s most decorated rowing student-athletes in its long and storied history. A dedicated athlete with impressive academic prowess, Jessica was named to the Academic All Star Big-12 First Team three years in a row, a CRCA National Scholar-athlete in 2013, and in her senior year was a recipient of the renowned 2014 Rhodes Scholarship award.

This provided her with a life-changing opportunity to study at Oxford University in the UK, where after two years at the historic institute, Jessica graduated with MSc in Environmental Change and Management, as well as an MBA in Business and Administration. Returning to her adopted US homeland of Austin, Texas, where she now works as a Development Associate with leading property firm Brookfield.

Talent ID assessment trials will take place at Wellington’s Ole Academy on Wednesday 22 May Monday 27th May at Bill McKinlay Park in Auckland. You can register for the trials by clicking the links below.

Soccer Trial - Wellington - Wednesday 22nd May

Soccer Trial - Auckland - Monday 27th May






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