HAMISH BIDWELL
If the photograph of the University of California, Santa Barbara campus on their website is anything to go by, then Sam Jenkins won't face too big a decision.
The Hawke's Bay United and New Zealand under-20 star heads to the United States on Saturday, to tour the facilities at the University of California and Rutgers, in New Jersey.
Both schools have offered him full scholarships for the next academic year, starting in August, but it will be hard to go past Santa Barbara.
Set on a peninsula, with views over the ocean, it's about as picture-postcard as you can get. They play a bit there too, having won the NCAA National Championship division one title in 2006, under the tutelage of two-time national coach of the year Tim Vom Steeg.
"Their second assistant coach, Neil Jones, is from New Zealand and he e-mailed me last April, after our Australian trip with the under-20s, and asked if I was keen," Jenkins said of the approach from the UCSB Gauchos.
"I was going to be too busy with the under-20 qualifiers to go over last August, but I'm definitely looking at going over this August after the under-20 World Cup in Canada in June and July. I'm away for about two weeks and it's all paid for by the schools.
"Rutgers is 30 minutes outside of New York and I'll head there for a few days and then fly back to LA. Basically I'll just be going over there to decide which one I prefer and to check out the facilities and the climate.
"Both schools have given me an 'out' clause, because there's always an outside chance that I'll have a couple of great games at the World Cup and that a European club might offer me a contract. But at the end of each season, in the spring, you can go to Europe anyway and trial with clubs, so that opportunity will still be there."
The trip means Jenkins will miss this weekend's New Zealand Football Championship match against YoungHeart Manawatu and the following away trip to Otago United. Originally scheduled for Palmerston North, the Manawatu game will now be played at Bluewater Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
"That's a shame, because we're playing well at the moment, but I think it's time for me to go and play overseas," he said.
"I'm quite ambitious and it's going to be good to finally go and test my ability."