Because there are so few men’s soccer programs in the NCAA’s Power 5 athletic conferences, scholarship opportunities are greatly coveted.
The demand for scholarships — a foot in the door of big-time college soccer — far exceeds the supply.
Tucson orthodontist Larry Leber was fully aware of this in 1997 when his son, Salpointe Catholic High School senior Scott Leber, was the leading boys soccer player in Arizona. Scott scored a state-record 100 goals in his Salpointe career and led the Lancers to the 1996 state championship.
Larry Leber filmed many of his son’s Salpointe games for three years, created a highlight video and sent it to about 20 of the nation’s soccer powers, including Stanford. After all, Scott Leber compiled a 4.96 GPA in high school.
“Soon after my dad sent the video, we got a call from Bobby Clark, the Stanford soccer coach,” Scott Leber says now. “He flew to Arizona and watched me play in a four-game tournament. I was super nervous.”
Four years later, nerves settled, Scott Leber was a first-team All-Pac-10 player, one of the keystones of a 67-14-7 period of Stanford soccer success that twice reached his sport’s equivalent of the Final Four.
Maybe there has been a better boys soccer player in Tucson history. Or maybe not. That’s a debate that’ll never be settled.
In the end, what mattered more than Leber’s 100 Salpointe goals — or his Stanford-leading 13 goals on a 2001 team that finished third in the nation — was what Leber did with that 4.96 GPA.
Leber earned an industrial engineering degree in four years, was drafted by the MLS’ Columbus Crew, and after his soccer days, started two robustly successful companies — Coastal Soccer and iSoccer. He has sold both to corporations involved in the national growth of youth soccer.
Today, Leber lives on Bainbridge Island near Seattle with his wife Christine and three young children. He is the chief strategy officer of Brighton Jones, a prominent wealth management firm.
“I started playing soccer in the backyard when I was 3 years old,” Leber says. “It has taken me to places I couldn’t have expected.”
This type of success didn’t just fall into place. It didn’t happen because Leber was blessed with talent. He has made the most of opportunities in sports and business thanks to an unusual drive to succeed that started when he played for the Fort Lowell Attack AYSO team 35 years ago.
Here’s some perspective on Leber’s soccer career at Stanford and the challenges he faced:
The Cardinal produced 42 first-team All-Pac-12 players from 2000-19, including Leber in 2000. In the same period, Arizona’s basketball team had 33 first-team selections.
Stanford had 43 players chosen in the MLS draft in those 20 years, including Leber in 2001. The NBA drafted 23 Arizona basketball players in the same period.
What’s more, Leber has been as accomplished in the business world as he was as a soccer player.
“When I was at Stanford I was surrounded by a level of excellence that forces you to raise your level,” he says. “Gold medal swimmers, national championship golfers. You have to be at the top of your game there, academically and athletically.
“I got my degree in industrial engineering because it led me to think about finding the optimum solutions and different variables for any equation. How can you do something cheaper, faster and more efficiently? It applies to everything in life.”
After Leber left Stanford, his brother, former Salpointe all-city soccer player Todd Leber, played for the Cardinal for four years. He, too, lives in Seattle, allowing the Leber brothers to play in adult soccer leagues together. Todd, who later earned a masters degree at Arizona, is part of a real estate group that has developed more than 4 million square feet for Amazon and the Bill Gates Foundation.
“Soccer’s still in my blood,” Scott says. “I’m a season ticket holder to the Seattle Sounders. My boys, 7 and 5, play soccer and I coach, too. This is a strong town for soccer. It really supports the Sounders and the youth organizations are outstanding.”
Leber’s initial plan to play pro soccer was highlighted by a two-year stint with the Long Island Roughriders, a minor-league operation near New York City. That was the first time he put his education to work, founding Coastal Soccer in 2002. The company grew so quickly that it was training 5,000 kids with 50 coaches within two years.
He sold the business in 2007 and moved back to the Bay Area to start iSoccer, which he would sell to a Denver firm. Then came Part III of his career, in Seattle.
“My heart is in Tucson, it’ll always be home to me,” he says.
“I get back every year and visit my family. The success I’ve had is a testament to my parents. Once they saw I loved soccer, they supported me to the fullest. It’s been a great ride.”