After a successful four-year career with UCLA men’s soccer, defender Joe Sofia hung up the blue and gold jersey and graduated last December. Not only did he prove his value on the field as he helped anchor the Bruins’ defense, Sofia made sure that academics remained as much of a priority as soccer.
Along with a lengthy list of All-Pac-12 selections that extends back to his sophomore year reads an even longer list of his academic accomplishments at UCLA. Sofia was named first-team Pac-12 All-Academic for the past three seasons. Last year, he earned Pac-12 Men’s Soccer Scholar Athlete of the Year and UCLA Scholar Athlete of the Year.
In January, he was selected by the San Jose Earthquakes in the second round of the MLS Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing professional soccer. It came to an end, however, quicker than Sofia had expected; he was cut last month from the Earthquakes and decided to retire. Even without soccer, Sofia isn’t worrying about life after college. The Daily Bruin’s Derrek Li interviewed Sofia as he reflects on his time at UCLA and talks about plans for his post-soccer career.
Daily Bruin: After you graduated, you went to the MLS Draft and got into the Earthquakes. Tell me about that experience.
Joe Sofia: It was January, and I was watching ESPN. Here comes San Jose, and they called my name. It was a surreal feeling. I was really excited to have the opportunity to potentially make the team.
After a few weeks, we had a few preseason trips to Arizona and Portland. After the Portland trip, I was offered a contract to play with the San Jose Earthquakes, and it was an amazing experience to have that opportunity. Unfortunately, June 30 was the last date they could cut you and I got released. But I’m really excited for my next opportunity ahead, and I’m really thankful for my time at San Jose because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience.
Daily Bruin: After leaving for a bit, what’s it like looking back at UCLA and your time here?
Joe Sofia: I think there are two main things I will always look back on and cherish, the first thing being soccer. It was great being on a team at UCLA.
Going into every single year was exciting because we always had a really good team. Some of the experiences like going to the College Cup, winning the Pac-12 and just playing in Drake Stadium in front of a lot of our family and friends are all going to be things I’m going to look back on and cherish.
The second thing I think I’m always going to remember and value a lot are the friends I made. With my roommates, it (was) great being with them for two or three years, and they were a few of my teammates as well. We had a great time and we’re all still best friends and keep in touch.
Daily Bruin: Any regrets whatsoever for not winning a national championship during your four years here, even though you guys have been so close in so many years?
Joe Sofia: No, it’s not really a regret. It’s kind of a reality that it’s really tough to make it to the national championships. I think each year we had the potential and the team to make it to the championships but you know, that’s how sports goes – some games fall your way and some games don’t. Unfortunately, we always fell short. But you look back and you enjoy all the moments and experiences throughout the season. I wouldn’t say it’s a regret. It’s just kind of how sports go.
Daily Bruin: Now after the MLS and retiring from soccer, what’s next for you?
Joe Sofia: Prior to my graduation, getting drafted was always uncertain and you have to kind of hedge your bet against being drafted. I knew that a career in soccer isn’t a lifetime career.
Something I do want to do is (management) consulting. I looked into it and learned more about it my junior and senior year, and then went through the interview process, met some great people and ultimately had an offer to work at Deloitte in the strategy and operations practice. While I took it prior to playing professional soccer, I always knew this was what I wanted to do when I was done with soccer and Deloitte was very accommodating and courteous about me going to pursue a professional soccer career.
Unfortunately, my career lasted a little shorter than I had hoped but I have a great opportunity at Deloitte that I’m really looking forward to and I’m really excited to start that up as a new chapter, a new career.
Compiled by Derrek Li, Bruin Sports senior staff