Maryland men’s soccer’s Luca Costabile didn’t know anything about college soccer in June.
He played for an academy in his home country of Denmark and spent a year in the fourth division of Italy before former teammates who made the switch to the United States convinced him to listen to offers from American colleges.
Costabile signed to a recruiting agency and was contacted by the Terps just more than a month before he would need to report for college soccer’s preseason training in August. After taking a call from coach Sasho Cirovski, he asked his friend what he knew about Maryland and received an enthusiastic response.
“He was over the moon, he went crazy,” Costabile said.
His friend’s excitement and his own research convinced him to make the move from Denmark to College Park.
Since then, Costabile’s been a steady presence for a Maryland team that won the Big Ten regular season championship — its first conference title since 2016. The Terps’ historical success was one of the reasons the freshman was attracted to Maryland.
“I looked it up and yeah, it was a crazy history with [Cirovski] being here 30 years, and the trophies he got here is incredible,” Costabile said. “So, one of the best opportunities for me here in the college world I’d say.”
The left back played in all 18 of Maryland’s games and started 16, earning unanimous Big Ten all-freshman team honors.
His previous experience as a midfielder helped the 20-year-old play in Cirovski’s system, one that encourages fullbacks to move forward and attack.
“[Costabile’s] brought a lot of good quality, a lot of good forward attacking skill,” senior defender Chris Rindov said. “Obviously his defensive characteristics are fantastic. He works just as hard on the ball backwards as he does going forward … he’s a very good addition now back there.”
His opportunity to join Maryland almost didn’t arise.
The Terps had secured the commitment of a different European left back that fell through over the summer after he was signed by a professional club, Cirovski said.
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The coach and his staff quickly looked for a left-footed player at the same position to replace the commit and stumbled across Costabile’s highlight video.
“We got lucky that someone like [Costabile] was available,” Cirovski said. “From the first time we talked to him, within two weeks, he was committed and within four weeks, he was on campus, so it was pretty quick.”
At the same time, Costabile hadn’t given much thought to playing college soccer in the U.S. until he heard positive things from former FC Helsingør academy teammates Alexander Stjernegaard, who moved from Denmark to play for Quinnipiac in January, and Division II Wilmington’s Marcus Hedemann.
“It was pretty late in the process, it was like a month before I had to be here, they contacted my recruiting agent in Denmark,” Costabile said. “They needed a left back really, really much [Cirovski] said to me, and they were interested in me after watching my video that my agency made for me.”
Costabile aims to play professionally after college and was sold by the fact that Maryland has produced lots of MLS talent, most recently 2022 SuperDraft No. 1 overall pick Ben Bender.
Costabile already pursued a professional career before joining the Terps, moving to Italy and joining Serie D side AC Crema in 2021.
Costabile appeared for the club 23 times in all competitions last season but moved back to Denmark over the summer to reevaluate his options. He said he faced a lot of pressure and had to adapt when he moved to live alone in a new country at just 19 years old.
“In Italy it was really tough. It was really, really tough. The thing that the coach wants and demands from you is on another level,” Costabile said. “You can feel the pressure when you play defense, everything. If you play bad, they write about it in the newspaper … the whole city knows it when you play bad, so there’s a lot of pressure. It’s another world.”
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Despite receiving offers from Italian clubs and having the opportunity to return to the country this year, Costabile opted for Maryland. His often difficult experiences in Italy helped him adjust to living in the U.S.
The year abroad helped with his homesickness, as he feels more comfortable living away from his father Pierpaolo Costabile, his mother Helle Bregninge and his twin brother, Matteo Bregninge Costabile.
“When I came to Italy, it was really, really strange for me living out of my house for the first time, and I learned a lot from that,” Costabile said. “I feel like I’m ready to come here because I’ve [already] experienced one year in another country away from home, so it’s not that big of a scare for me.”
It’s still been a hard adjustment for his parents, especially for his father, who Costabile said would attend every training session he had as a youth player in Denmark.
Due to the six-hour time difference, Pierpaolo Costabile and Bregninge have to stay awake late to track their son’s games. They try to watch him play on television but listen to the radio or follow along by looking at live box scores when the game is on an unavailable channel.
“It’s hard not to see him live. It’s very, very hard,” Pierpaolo Costabile said. “So [we are] planning to come of course next year … and he’s coming home in one month, so we’re very happy.”
Although his father had visions of him returning to Italy and eventually rising up to the professional ranks of the country’s Serie C or Serie B, he’s happy with Costabile’s quick decision to join the Terps.
“[What’s] important for me is he’s happy, that’s the most important for me and my wife, always a happy guy,” Pierpaolo Costabile. “I know he is in Maryland … I can speak with him every day about everything, and I can hear he is so happy over there.”