ONE DREAM AT A TIME

Lukas Aeberli

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Lukas Aeberli came to the United States with a dream; to play professional soccer.

A talented soccer player in his native Switzerland; achieving his athletic goals was the primary reason he moved halfway across the world.

While Aeberli has accomplished that goal of furthering his soccer career, a different opportunity has opened up for him, on social media.

Just a few years ago, Aeberli would have never guessed where his time in the United States would take him on the pitch and online.

Finding a new direction

After learning to walk as a young child, it wasn’t long before Aeberli began living life with a ball at his feet.

Whether it was simply dribbling a soccer ball around his backyard or playing with friends, Aeberli began to show his talent.

Up until the age of 10, Aeberli’s competitive soccer experience consisted of playing for the local club team in his village. But, when an opportunity arose to try out for one of the biggest soccer clubs in Switzerland, Aeberli’s life forever changed.

After landing a spot in FC Zurich’s youth academy, the next few years were filled with training and learning for the young Aeberli. In particular, the chance to play for Switzerland’s U-15 and U-16 youth national teams stands out as a highlight of his time in the Swiss youth ranks.

But, while Aeberli had dreams of playing for FC Zurich’s senior team, a lack of playing time from the U-18 to U-21 level meant Aeberli had to chase his professional soccer dreams elsewhere.

“I had to find a new direction and reorient myself,” Aeberli said. “I always wanted to study and I still wanted to play competitive soccer, so that opened up the way to go to the United States, get a scholarship and hopefully play for a DI program.”

While Aeberli’s father had suggested that he should play soccer in a foreign country, perhaps the United States, the young player wasn’t so sure. As an only child who relied much on his family, could he really stand the thought of being thousands of miles from home?

After getting in touch with a management company that helped Aeberli find opportunities to play soccer in the US, his dream finally started to take shape.

“I started to research college sports in the United States because, in the first place, I wasn’t really sure about it,” Aeberli said. “But the stars started to align, and it more and more seemed like an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass up on.”

Making it big

But, even when he stepped foot on American soil, Aeberli’s Division I dreams couldn’t come to fruition.

That’s because his schooling in Switzerland consisted of more business classes than general education courses such as chemistry or physics. Aeberli spent two years at Grand View University in Iowa, competing at the NAIA level before he could make the move to Division I.

And when that time came, University of the Pacific turned his dream into reality.

Given that Aeberli still has the goal of becoming a professional soccer player, training and competing at the highest NCAA level will help him further pursue that path.

But, if he can’t secure a professional contract, Aeberli still has another avenue where his soccer skills are helping him progress – social media.

Aeberli has a following of just under 150,000 on TikTok, while his Instagram account is closing in on the 100,000-follower mark. And despite all that social media success, Aeberli never saw himself making it big online.

While at Grand View, Aeberli met a couple of friends who had started their own businesses. Given that he always enjoyed the concept of building a brand, too, he worked on growing his audience on social media.

“When I started, I thought it would take at least 2-3 years for my following to grow,” Aeberli said. “However, through the new algorithm of social media apps, my profile grew pretty quickly, all based on organic content.”

While Aeberli admits his early videos were a bit ‘cringe,’ he soon found a niche of content that allowed his following to grow over time.

“The first few months were pretty hard because we didn’t really get any views, and it wasn’t growing that quickly,” Aeberli said. “Suddenly, there were a few viral videos with over one or two million views, which gave me a pretty good base of followers on TikTok.”

I always wanted to study and I still wanted to play competitive soccer, so that opened up the way to go to the United States, get a scholarship and hopefully play for a DI program.

Accomplishing more

Just over a year into his social media aspirations, Aeberli has made tremendous strides in a short amount of time.

While there’s plenty more work to be done, there are only so many hours in a day – and Aeberli has his soccer dreams to worry about, too.

His future isn’t set in stone, but whether it’s his status as a Division I soccer player or his efforts on social media — none of this would have been possible without a big leap of faith.

“It made me kind of nervous to leave my comfort zone and move away from my family at the time,” Aeberli said. “I had never been to the United States before, so it was basically like jumping into cold water for me.”

If that was the case, the cold water certainly woke up something in Aeberli.

He might be far from home, but he’s not far from accomplishing all of his aspirations.

“It was a big step, and it certainly took some time to work out the way I wanted it to,” Aeberli said. “Today, I’m just very happy with how everything evolved so far.”