Soccer virtuoso Billings eyeing MLS
Apple Valley native one of the top keepers in college
Apple Valley’s Brian Billings has been the custodian, the last line of defense for some of the top club, high school and college soccer programs around.
He’s hoping it will take him to the top league in the country.
Billings attended an invitation-only camp for Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders last week with 15-20 of the top underclassmen in college soccer.
“Basically they just rolled the ball out and let us play,” he said. “It was an impressive group. A lot of those guys, if they keep going, will get drafted in the next year or two.”
That includes Billings. If he’s invited back to the MLS Combine in January, he could go in the 2013 MLS Draft.
“If I have a good year (at college) again, there’s a good chance,” Billings said.
If he attends the MLS Combine, he’ll forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility, but “if I get invited I’ll go,” he said.
This wasn’t the first time he’s been courted by a professional team.
In high school he went to Turkey, trained with multiple teams, and was offered a spot with a Division II program. He turned it down feeling he was missing a step.
“I needed a high school education first,” Billings said. “I was again offered another nice contract (after he graduated) but felt it wasn’t enough to leave because if that didn’t go well then I couldn’t go back and play Division I (college).”
Last winter a Premier division team offered him a contract, but he sensed the MLS on the horizon.
He got his start with the Dakota Rev club program, where he grew into a goalkeeper as the tallest player on the team.
“My team was not the best,” he said. “I feel it helped me the most because that’s how I received a lot of shots and crosses.”
He earned a spot with the Bangu soccer club, an elite club program that’s now part of the Minnesota Thunder Academy, before attending Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault.
He led the team to titles at the 2010 Disney Showcase, the 2010 CASL College Showcase and two second-place finishes at national championships.
At the time Shattuck was an up-and-coming soccer program being built by Tim Cater, former Illinois State University men’s soccer head coach. It was a long, daily drive to Faribault and the homework was staggering.
“I wouldn’t have changed my decision in a heartbeat,” he said.
With that success he earned a Division I soccer scholarship at Bradley University in Illinois where he took on the starting goalkeeper spot early in his freshman year.
Billings has helped Bradley to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in program history and he ranks third in Bradley history with a .797 save percentage and 1.12 goals-against average.
His favorite memories so far are stopping a penalty kick to clinch the Missouri Valley Conference title, and the fact his father Brad has been able to attend every single college game.
“He’s got a great job, so he takes a lot of time off,” Brian Billings said. “Minus a spring game or two and a trip down to Barbados, he’s been there. We went to a game in Texas, he came down to that. He’s pushed me to be what I am.”
To get this far, he admits he had to make sacrifices.
“I gave up a regular high school experience, going out with my childhood friends all the time, and going to parties,” he said. “You have to train every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and absolutely love the game. Eat, sleep, school and soccer was my childhood.”
It’s been worth it. If all goes well at the next MLS Draft in January, Billings will be blocking shots from some of the best professional soccer players the United States has to offer.