According to the USL League Two website, more than 70 percent of MLS draftees since 2010 have had USL League Two experience. Mississippi Brilla FC is no different, as many Brilla players have gone on to play in the MLS, USL Championship, USL League One, and many other leagues around the world. Thomas Vancaeyezeele, a member of Brilla's 2017 USL League Two Final Four team, is one of the latest to use Brilla as a stepping stone on his Path to Pro journey.
Vancaeyezeele's career began in France, where he was a part of the SM Caen youth system. He eventually made one appearance for the team's reserve team in the French fourth-tier before moving on to Herouvillais in the French fifth-tier. He eventually found his way to CD Vitoria in the Spanish fifth division before taking the next crucial step in his journey.
Playing college soccer in the United States is a trend that more and more European soccer players are following. The chance to earn a college degree on top of playing high level soccer is an opportunity that many can't refuse. Vancaeyezeele found a home with the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia.
In two seasons, he made 43 appearances, tallied over 3,300 minutes, scored five goals, and added two assists. He was named Mountain East Defensive Player of the Year, All-Conference, All-Region, and an All-American in 2017. The crowning jewel came when he was named NCAA Division II Player of the Year.
He led the Golden Eagles to the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship just a year after finishing as the runners-up. The Golden Eagles won two Mountain East Regular Season Championships during his career as well.
Brilla: 2017 Season
Vancaeyezeele ventured to Clinton in between his first and second college seasons. The Frenchman quickly carved out a starting spot in the Brilla starting lineup and made an immediate impact on the team.
He became an ever-present influence in the base of the midfield, the fulcrum on which the team was balanced. The season became the most storied in Brilla history, as the team won the Southern Conference Championship and advanced to its first ever USL League Two Final Four. Vancaeyezeele made 14 appearances, scoring two goals and tallying three assists. Both of his goals came against the Brazos Valley Cavalry, including this goal in a 1-0 win.
After going undrafted in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Vancaeyezeele was picked up by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship. His first goal for the club came in the 73rd minute of an eventual 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati. You can see the goal at around the 1:40:40 mark.
After making 88 appearances in four seasons, Vancaeyezeele moved to fellow USL Championship club San Diego Loyal on a free transfer earlier this year. San Diego will open its season on April 30th against Phoenix Rising FC, and he will be looking to make his debut for the club that day.
Vancaeyezeele was called up to the French Guiana national team for the first time in 2019. He has made five appearances for “Les Yana Dokos” in the CONCACAF Nations League, playing all 90 minutes in each game. He tallied the game-winning assist at the 0:20 mark in French Guiana's 3-1 critical win over St. Kitts and Nevis.
The win over St. Kitts and Nevis propelled French Guiana to a second-place finish in Group B of CONCACAF Nations League B. Due to this finish, the team will be in action at the CONCACAF Gold Cup Qualifiers this summer. "Les Yana Dokos" will face Cuba on either July 2nd or 3rd, with the winner facing the winner of Trinidad and Tobago-Montserrat for a spot in the Gold Cup. Vancaeyezeele should feature in a starring role for his country this summer, just as he featured prominently for Brilla in 2017.