Twelve years ago when Bronil Koochoie graduated from Turlock High his future was uncertain. His passion was soccer but after three years at the varsity level with the Bulldogs the high cost of tuition made it nearly impossible to continue on to the collegiate level. It was a hard blow for the young man who had played the game since the age of seven but it was reality, and he dealt with it the best he could.
“I had to work; I had to make money. It was tough for me to go to college and get financial help,” Koochoie said.
He never gave up the sport; instead he split time between playing in an amateur soccer league and working on a milk truck. After three years of amateur play, Koochoie got his first break when he was approached by and signed with Modesto’s California Gold, a member of the United Soccer Leagues First Division.
He had taken the first step towards living his dream.
“I didn’t even know we had a pro team in Modesto at that time,” Koochoie said. “It was a surprise because at that time I wasn’t really educated about the leagues we had here and how they were structured. The MLS was still growing and coming out of high school in 2001, when I graduated, the USL (United Soccer Leagues) wasn’t established as well as it is now.”
But Koochoie hadn’t necessarily found the promise land just yet. He still ran his milk truck route with a friend in the mornings before afternoon practices with the California Gold to make ends meet.
“I worked with him four days a week and played with the California Gold, and I could only do that because it was convenient and I was able to work that around my work schedule,” Koochoie said.
At the time soccer in the United States wasn’t what it is today. Major League Soccer existed but it wasn’t very well established and its scouts were on the lookout for collegiate players, leaving Koochoie in soccer limbo. After spending three years with the now defunct California Gold and one season with Fresno Fuego FC, Koochoie continued his career climb by heading overseas to Sweden in 2008 where he signed with Assyriska FF in the country’s second highest league, Superettan.
For the first time he was on his own in the world and making substantial money from the sport he loved.
But life as a professional athlete can be tough. Players come and go and there’s always a fresh crop of athletes eager to earn a spot on a team. During the next three years he played for Manteca FC and Saba Khom FC Reserves in Iran’s Super League before signing with Chon Buri FC in Thailand.
“If you sign for more than one year you’re kind of safe, but if not you’re looking for a job every year,” Koochoie said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. I started at the bottom of the ladder because I never even had intentions of playing pro.”
After establishing himself in Iran, Koochoie learned a life lesson about the politics and business side of soccer. His contract was terminated by Chon Buri FC due to a dispute over contract negotiations which led to his former club of only three months to ruin an opportunity to play for the Los Angeles Blues by withholding his International Players Card.
Chon Buri FC finally released Koochoie’s IPC but by that time it was too late, LA’s roster freeze had already been implemented. That’s when he came back to Turlock and was introduced to the Professional Arena Soccer League and the Turlock Express.
Koochoie played in the final four games of the regular season and in one playoff game for the Express before he got his biggest break to date.
El Farolito of the San Francisco Soccer Football League—the country’s oldest league 110 years and running—enlisted his services for the 2012 season, but they weren’t the only team interested. Real San Jose of the National Premier Soccer League had also caught wind of Koochoie’s talent and they wanted him to join them too.
“After three games one of my teammates approached me and said the coaches and management at Real San Jose liked me and wanted to sign me,” Koochoie said. “They told me if I could do both and stay healthy I could go for it.”
And that’s just what he did.
Koochoie played in all but one game with both teams—he was unable to compete in one match with San Jose due to a red card—and finished the season as the leading scorer in the SFSFL and the second highest scorer on his San Jose team. His efforts helped lead San Francisco to its first league championship since 2007 and San Jose to a third place finish in its division, a team best.
Koochoie rejoined the Express in his first full season in the PASL in 2012, helped take them back to the playoffs, and finished as the team’s third highest scorer with 37 points.
Even though his PASL season has just ended, Koochoie is already being courted by teams in the MLS, USL, and NPSL. Where he’ll end up is unknown as of yet but that hasn’t stopped him from preparing. He is currently working out and staying in shape with the professional Portuguese club, Academica, until the next stop of his soccer journey is revealed.
“At this point I’m teamless and waiting,” Koochoie said. “I’m just focusing on staying fit and ready so when I’m called upon I can make an impact right away.”
“I’m still climbing the ladder. I don’t know what’s next for me but I know it’s going to be great.”